5 Differences Between a Meeting and a Training

Is there a difference between having a training session and having a meeting? Do bears bear? Do bees be? Of course there is a difference. Too many times I have attended sessions titled a training session in a retail store only to actually attend a meeting. Meetings can hijack a training session faster than you think.

So what is the difference between a meeting and a training session? I’m glad you asked. Here are the five differences between a meeting and a training session:

1. Purpose. Meetings are about disseminating information. Training is about disseminating behavior. In order to have an effective meeting, you simply need to get the information from your notes to their notes. In order for training to take place, you still need the information to get from your notes to their notes – but you need it to touch their hearts and hands on the way.

You are aiming for a change in behavior. You want the employee to do act differently as a result of your training. You don’t want them to take notes, you want them to take action.

2. Setup. The way you prepare your people has a lot to do with whether you will be training them or meeting with them. Before they even enter the room, they need to know this is a training session. Since you need both sales meetings and sales training it’s important to make a clear distinction between the two with your people. For example, a meeting would have an agenda whereas a training session would have learning objectives. An agenda lists the topics to be discussed. Learning objectives establish what the people will be able to do as a result of your training.

The other thing to consider here is your scheduling. It’s typical for a retailer to plan a Saturday morning meeting with all the team since Saturday is the biggest sales day and you usually need the entire team. While this makes sense on paper, the problem is when we try to combine a meeting with training and you simply cannot do that. If you try to combine the two ideas – one will eat the other. And meetings always eat training. They are the T-Rexs of the world. I would suggest setting a rhythm of sales meetings and sales trainings on alternate weeks. For example, the first and third Saturdays are meetings and the second and fourth Saturdays are trainings. Everyone on your team is aware of this and knows the difference it goes a long way to helping you stay committed to training.

3. Role-play. The most powerful and effective tool in your disposal is role-play. The least favorite activity of your people is role-play. But there is no better method for you to measure that they are learning from you than to watch them do the behavior you are training. You will commonly hear them say “I hate role-play. It’s so much easier with the customer.” Of course it is! The customer has no idea if what you’re doing is right or wrong, good or bad. In fact, the customer really has no idea if all the information you’re giving them is true or not. Your peers, on the other hand, know if what you’re telling is the truth. And they know by watching you role-play if what you are doing is good or bad. The reason we hate role-play is that it truly shows our weaknesses and there’s no way to cover them up or hide them with your peers the way there is with a customer. Meetings do not involve role-play; training sessions always do.

4. Scope. A meeting can cover a variety of topics. For example, you can talk about this weekend’s ad or a new store policy or the new products that just came in. Your goal in a meeting is to communicate a large amount of information on a broad range of topics. Your goal in a training session is to be narrow and focused. If you’re doing sales training never tackle the entire process at once. Pick one tool or one phase of your sales process and focus on just that. For example, you may want to work on ways for your team to add-on sales. So your entire training session focuses on just that part of the sales process.

5. Measurement. In the sales meeting, you measure success based on the completion of your agenda. You’re focused on the here and now. In a sales training, you measure your success based on a change in behavior. Remember, sales training without a change in behavior is about as useless as a parachute that opens on the first bounce.

Since sales training is not one of the favorite activities of your team, they will tend to want to distract you from your mission. The best weapon a salesperson has against training is a meeting. They can easily distract you from your purpose by changing the subject and converting your training into a meeting.

Truth be told, I’ve been to hundreds of training sessions where a meeting broke out. And why this is so dangerous? Because the store manager had no idea what happened. They thought they did a training session and therefore their expectation is that they will see a change in the employees’ behavior and when they don’t they’re extremely frustrated and blame the employee.

If you take nothing else from this article but this remember the success or failure of your training session is entirely in your hands. Don’t make the mistake of giving it to your employees by letting your training session become a meeting or by trying to combine the two into one session. I hear more store owners complain about their employees not doing what they want them to do and their frustration comes from the fact that they tell me they “trained” them. Yet when I witness one of their “training sessions”, I can see why the employees are not doing what they’re supposed too.

Follow these five tips and you will see results on your front line and your bottom line.

Copyright 2016, Matthew Hudson is an award-winning retailer, keynote speaker, master sales trainer and author of over 4 books on selling, corporate culture, retail, and sales and marketing.

Matt Hudson

Master Sales Trainer with 31 years of sales & marketing experience. Author of 4 books including Advisor Selling and the Retail Sales Bible.