By Jenny Hamby
If you’re promoting a seminar that focuses on a soft-skills or “alternative” topic, you may find that it’s difficult to fill event seats. Not only do you face the usual challenges that go hand-in-hand with filling seminar seats, but you also often must overcome prospects’ skepticism about the value and even validity of your subject matter.
Soft skills are personal habits, qualities and attitudes that make people effective, easy to work with, and generally nice to be around. Examples include communication skills, maintaining a positive attitude, problem-solving, having self-confidence, and being flexible.
Topics that are considered “alternative” by some people include transformational work, alternative healing, and other personal growth events that focus on emotional healing. As with soft skills, many prospects have a hard time grasping the value of these events.
When training budgets are tight, soft-skills seminar often suffer. Many companies give preference to seminars that teach hard skills – the technical things individuals must do to perform their jobs. The reason is that it’s easier to observe and measure the impact of hard-skills training.
For example, if I take class on building presentations with PowerPoint, it’s easy to observe what I learned at the course. It’s also easy to measure how the training investment will impact my business: I’ll now be able to create slides for webinars, sales presentations and live speaking engagements.
The benefits of attending a seminar that promises to help me become a more conscious communicator might be less clear. First, it’s more difficult to evaluate whether or not one is consciously communicating. Second, it can be more complicated to measure the return on investment. Because the payoff might be something amorphous like “less conflict” or “more confidence,” it’s easier for prospects to dismiss soft skills as a “feel good” luxury, not a necessity.
Tips for Selling “Soft”
Here are 5 tips for helping prospects understand the value of your soft-skills seminars:
- Meet prospects where they are. Before you can convince prospects that your seminar can help them, they need reassurance that you understand where they are now. Try incorporating a list of challenges they may be facing or incorporate copy that demonstrates that you know what they’re trying to accomplish. A list of challenges also helps prospects recognize their need for your training.
- Spell out the benefits. Present a detailed list of the many ways that prospects’ lives will change once they’ve attended your seminar. For example, rather than saying that “you’ll be a more effective communicator,” offer specific examples of that that might look like, such as “reach agreements more quickly,” “reduced conflict,” and “fewer misunderstandings.” Whenever possible, connect the benefits of your training to the bottom line. For example, how will more effective communication help you increase sales and revenue, reduce employee turnover, and/or boost productivity?
- Use social proof. Use testimonials, case studies and videos to demonstrate that people just like them have attended your seminar and benefited. Incorporate comments from a variety of people – different ages, both genders, various industries, etc. – to cover a broad spectrum of prospects.
- Provide background. As a practitioner, it’s easy to forget that not everyone knows what you know. For example, if you are offering a Reiki seminar, you would explain that Reiki is a form of channeled healing. This might be adequate for people who are somewhat familiar with energy healing. However, you might also want to back up even further, explaining that we are alive because life force is flowing through us and then continuing with a brief discussion of how Reiki works.
- Offer a clear satisfaction guarantee. The purpose of a satisfaction guarantee is to remove risk. Prospects, particularly those working with a tight budget, are worried about making a mistake that will cost them and their company money. By offering a satisfaction guarantee, you remove the risk, making it easier to say yes.
The primary reason people don’t sign up for soft-skills seminars is that they don’t understand the true benefit of the training. The better you’re able to paint a picture of how prospects’ lives will change as a result of your training, the more clearly they’ll recognize their need for what you offer.