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Six Conversation Examples For Selling Performance-Changing Learning

Let’s get real-world.

Creating compelling and pragmatic learning experiences can require a financial investment. Yet, getting stakeholder buy-in can be a huge challenge! It may not be intuitively within the wheelhouse of L&D Professionals to be as compelling and pragmatic when making a business case for resources, technology, and investment.

Here are three key things to keep in mind for a successful conversation with Executive Sponsors and Influencers to address these difficult situations:

  1. Learn and understand key business drivers and metrics that matter most to Executive Sponsors and Influencers
  2. Prepare to demonstrate how your contributions as an L&D professional ladder up to impact business outcomes.
  3. Have a performance consulting mindset.

What is a Performance Consulting Mindset?

We know that having a Growth Mindset helps with effective communication and supports the development of empathy. A Growth Mindset is a key component of Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology is a human-centered approach that emphasizes individuals over tasks and processes. In the workplace, that human-centered approach helps with connection, fostering a sense of belonging improving employee engagement. Significant research exists stating when employees feel valued, they give more of their energy and attention, resulting in increased productivity, service, and innovation.

Easy and Natural 4-Step Conversation Plan

1. Opportunity 

Leverage your experience to offer business-impacting recommendations.

You're at the table to help your organization successfully change workforce behavior to drive business outcomes. You know what will and won't change behavior to enable success. 

2. Reframe

Focus on possibilities for the listener. 

Use a few strategic statements to prepare the stakeholder to think about your ask before posing the open-ended question. Stakeholder face-time is valuable. They'll check out if you take a long runway getting to your ask. So lay groundwork succinctly. Shift your stakeholder from a fixed mindset to one of possibility. 

3. Connection

Utilize open-ended questions about the business challenge. 

This technique leads beyond a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer. Open-ended questions require a more thoughtful answer and will invoke more meaningful dialogue that will give you useful insights. 

4. Actively Listen

Practice silence to allow others to process the ask. 

Pausing for strategic moments of silence after key thoughts or questions can feel awkward, especially with Senior Leaders. However, it's invaluable to let them process with space to formulate responses. Avoid going into presentation mode. Your goal is active dialogue, not filling time with words.


Conversation #1

Our legal department is satisfied that we've adequately communicated our policies in our compliance training. We should be in good shape.


You know that compliance is all about good behaviors. You also know the financial and human capital cost of wrong behavior can be high. The goal is creating training that allows your workforce to experience consequences in a safe environment to boost adherence in real life, which involves investment. It can be frustrating to hear these “check the box” conversations. Remember, you are the expert in learning and behavioral change.


Compliance training for regulatory reasons impacts our bottom line. For example, auditing agencies are beginning to look at actual learning that is taking place and not just completion indicators. Data from our learner evaluations and LMS completion times tell us learners are bored and rushing through the learning modules.


If our employees are clicking through courses and not engaged during training, at what level are we really mitigating the risk of non-compliance behavior and a potentially costly scenario.

Conversation #2

We have lots of business initiatives to accomplish, but budgets are tight. We'll keep training to a minimum to save budget and rely on a solid communication plan to get our initiatives off the ground.


You recognize that the cost of failed business initiatives can far outweigh the cost of effective training solutions. All the communication in the world can fail to get the right people doing the right things. The goal is to get a seat at the table to recognize tradeoffs and advocate rightsized training solutions for success. Seek to build a bridge with how effective change management planning includes communication plan, cohesive training to impact desired behaviors, and leadership development to sustain the changes.


We are measured by how our learners perform from our training. The application of the same process to all levels of learning may not produce maximum results with our limited resources. Just as we do in production, we can deliver the right thing, in the right way, to the right people.


There are so many ways to deliver and experience learning. What value do you see in varying the types of learning delivery methods for different outcomes?

Conversation #3

In support of our business transformation, we need our L&D team to incorporate new business process slides across existing learning modules to deploy the new strategy to our global workforce.


Value your instinct as an L&D professional. Experience tells you that simply patching up existing bland learning modules with slides from a corporate transformation deck won’t change behavior. You know an interactive approach is needed and will require investment.


From what I’ve understood, it’s sounding like the changes could impact how our company earns revenue. This feels like it could be a significant change in how our team members engage with customers and contribute to our success going forward.


What new skills will team members need to be successful in the new processes? What are some of the key business drivers that led to our new strategies? Can you tell me more about how the changes impact revenue streams for our company?

Conversation #4

I don't understand how things like gamification or VR (virtual reality) would be effective. People should be learning not playing.


If done correctly, serious learning game elements can make a huge impact when it comes to adult learning. Games energize us with their rules that put us at risk and provide rewards for winning and success.


Of course, we aren’t talking about Call of Duty. We are talking game-based design driven by a compelling context and rules that inspire motivation, competition, challenge, risk, and that produce consequences and results. Virtual reality has many different levels of fidelity. Advances in hardware and software now allow augmented reality (AR) and VR experiences to be developed in a budget-friendly manner with a trackable ROI.


What are your thoughts about approving budget-friendly funding for an immersive learning experience? It would place our employees in simulated customer service conversations and reduce downtime for upskilling. They could experience the training on their desktop or mobile phone. In six months, what type of performance indicators like revenue growth, lower attrition, and employee engagement would you be interested in?

Conversation #5

I know what is best. I'm the Subject Matter Expert (SME). Here is the slide deck; make it into a PDF, add a quiz, and upload it to the LMS.


You have extensive knowledge and expertise to identify the most critical things that the learners must KNOW to demonstrate they understand the content. The key is making sure employees know what to do. What performance needs to change? That should be the focus.


Research shows that a simple quiz only illustrates the completion of the learning, not actual knowledge acquisition. Our employees deserve learning that focuses on what we need them to DO to improve performance and move the needle.


I am wondering what a poorly trained employee would do to indicate they don’t know what to do, how to do it, or even when to do the right thing?

Conversation #6

The software solution we're implementing comes with off-the-shelf learning. Although it doesn't exactly fit our audiences and workflows, we can supplement it with documentation.


You’ve seen this story before and know that new major platforms have to become part of the culture for your workforce. Beyond the button-pushing, there are often day-in-the-life user stories that are at the heart of adoption. Millions of dollars of an investment may be on the line. Investment in effective learning is the best way to protect the overall investment.


Consider how the new platform can be transformational in how our teams share business intelligence, collaborate, and function as part of a globally unified process. Change management best practices demonstrate that engaging, fine-tuned e-learning can be a capstone in enabling our global remote workforce to support our company’s goals for this new platform. Interactive e-learning allows for experiential learning that can truly tap into the “what’s in it for me” and can connect dots for our workforce in ways that generic off-the-shelf learning would miss entirely.


How could we support you in creating a compelling business case for Executive Sponsors and equip you to demonstrate the potential ROI of investing in a better learning solution upfront that is more likely to drive adoption?



Value yourself as an L&D professional so that others see your value. Be apologetically confident in your approach. Do your homework. Understand the book of business to frame your asks and demonstrate your strategic potential. Be an active listener. Practice a growth mindset and help your instructional designers, developers, and learning practitioners effectively consult and influence their managers, directors, and CLOs. #togetherwearebetter


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Dr. Christina Coidakis-Barss and Donny Ponder

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