Scheduling training classes sound easy: put the class on the schedule and the seats will fill themselves, right? If this is your method, you probably find that more often than not classes cancel, or that you have more demand than you can handle and struggle to meet customer needs. The most common question I get from partners, instructors, and potential training partners is: what courses are in demand to avoid cancelled classes? What kind of volume can we expect should we ramp up our instructors? It’s a tough question to ask, and can have different answers based on each location. Fortunately demand is pretty easy to estimate, if you have all the right data. It all comes down to the product being sold, and how many folks need to be trained per purchase.
You start by looking at potential sales. The Sales team will generally break down their sales opportunities, or All-Commodity Volume (ACV), using the following stages with a fiscal quarter:
- Lead – usually a potential contact from a cold-call or other marketing outreach project.
- Opportunity – initial conversation with the lead was positive
- Discovery – Customer is interested, and is willing to explore the product solution
- Business Issue – Identifying the customer’s business issues and addressing their needs
- Power Partnership – Someone high enough to influence the sale has been identified and is willing to back the sale
- Present Solution – Sales team is on site presenting a solid pitch for the sale
- Power Validation – Customer is reviewing the solution (and deciding against other potential solutions)
- Validation Completed – Deliberations on which solution is the best are underway
- Deal Imminent – Decision has been made, waiting for key decision makers (usually CFO and CEO) to give the green light
- Closed – Won – We sold it!
The most common stages that produce results, and would need to be looked at from a planning point of view, are stages 3 through 10. The closer to Closed – Won, the more likely it will actually close that quarter. Sales pipeline will indicate how likely a sales opportunity will be closed in the quarter. Early on, there will be a lot of Upsides floating out there, which then translate to Closed once it works through the pipeline. Any Upside accounts near the end of the quarter will likely be moved to the next. That’s how sales generally works, which means now we just have to find out how that translates to training.
Some assumptions I’m making, which may or may not apply in your business situation:
- One product sold means one person will be in charge of it, and will need to be trained. 1 product = 1 seat in class needs to be sold.
- Sales data and delivery data remain pretty consistent. This can be a challenge if you have a sales team that doesn’t follow through with necessary sales, or deliveries that are not fulfilled predictably.
- A sale in one quarter means training in the next. If your delivery model provides for a more lengthy implementation or fulfillment, this may not be the case. If you don’t have to worry about a lengthy implementation (Out of the Box deployments) or have immediate fulfillment, then you could be looking at a shorter turn-around. A quick historical analysis of your sales vs. training delivery numbers should give you a clearer picture of the relationship between the two.
Once you know how your data get’s broken down, you just need to run the numbers. I’ve worked with a couple equations to predict this, but the easiest one is really simple:
- Sum the total number of products sold over a span of time (month works for me)
- Divide that number by the average number of seats in a class (10 is generally good).
Now you have the maximum expected number of potential classes you would need to run based on projected ACV. For a Training Delivery Manager, this is ideal. You know the number of classes you could expect to run if every customer were to schedule training on time, at the same time. If you are looking to know, for instance, how many trainers you should have ramped up at a given time, this would give you that number.
At this point you just need to shift the dates to meet your deployment schedule and you are gold, right? Well, not quite. Not all sold products will equal trained folks, nor would that training be taken on schedule as expected. There will be some exceptions. That margin of error can be predicted over time, but a safe number I’ve found that works for me in my industry is 66.7%. That means that two thirds of all training seats expected for the quarter are realized as actual seats in class.
You multiply your maximum expected number by the percentage that tend to run, and you get a pretty accurate number of seats you can count on to fill. With that number you can schedule classes, either quarterly or annually, train instructors to cover those classes, and even book contract instructors ahead of time for coverage.
Now, I know this method may not work for everyone and for every circumstance, but it gives you a starting point. Working this part of the business can be a challenge. You may not always have access to the ACV from sales (it’s pretty important company info, after all!), and even then you may find the numbers don’t quite work. But the better you understand your Sales process and structure, the more likely you are to understand how you can train folks on what was sold.