Insight for Performance

ILT during “the transitional normal” Converting ILT to Virtual Training BRAVE NEW WORLD QB4R: Crack the code to understanding your clients

Instructor-Led Training During “the transitional normal”

The Long Road Back from Isolation

Not long ago, airplanes, hotel shuttles, classrooms and restaurant tables were packed with learners, trainers and logistical support staffs delivering instructor-led training (ILT) programs from coast to coast. Over the course of just a few weeks, five letters—COVID—changed all that.  

Once the “curve is flattened” and the stay-at-home orders are lifted, it won’t be like a switch gets flipped, transforming business back to the way it was. From a public health standpoint, behavioral practices like social distancing and other protective measures—in some form or another—will probably remain in place until effective treatments and/or a vaccine for the novel coronavirus are widely available. The “new normal” won’t happen all at once.

This is the likely scenario for the retail automotive industry, as for most businesses. That will make for a lengthy transitional period, well into 2021 that we’ll refer to as “the transitional normal” for the sake of this discussion. Air travel, side-by-side classroom seating, shared meals and extracurricular group gatherings—all common elements of ILT—will likely be a cause for concern during this time, especially for those who don’t travel regularly.

Questions and Considerations

This article poses questions and provides considerations related to non-technical Instructor-Led Training, for automotive OEMs and importers to consider and plan for during this upcoming transitional time.

1. Will dealership personnel be willing to board airplanes and fly to instructor-led training classes? Will dealership management permit them to do so?

– Ensure that all aspects of the training venues meet/exceed the latest public health standards for safety and hygiene. Communicate that clearly to trainees and dealership management ahead of training classes.
– Offer training “in-market” rather than centralized, at locations to which a majority of dealer personnel can drive rather than fly.
– Develop a strategy to deliver training virtually, via Virtual Classroom, WBT, or a blended learning strategy. Have contingency plans in place to address different scenarios.
– Consult and converse regularly with Dealer Councils to help ensure unified planning and decision-making.
– Consider shortening multi-day programs to shorter durations to decrease (real or perceived) “exposure time” for participants.
– Provide “virus-safe flying” tips for participants
– Consider creating a two-phased certification process, where trainees could complete a portion of training topics online/virtually in 2020, and then complete their certification by attending reduced-length classroom sessions for the remaining topics/skills in late 2020/early 2021.

2. How can/should the ILT venue and classroom environment be adapted to help ensure hygiene, safety, and a sense of security for trainees and staff?

– Hotels have already established processes and practices to address this, and are sure to develop more. Work with hotel facilities to determine and develop best practices (for receptions, meals, and the like).
– Adapt classroom space and seating to effect social distancing. Plan for additional meeting space as needed.
– Provide hygiene amenities in the classroom and/or for participants (hand sanitizer/gloves on tables, branded facemasks, personal “amenity kit” for participants, etc.)
– Consider temporarily halting organized group dinners (i.e., in favor of prepaid debit cards, hotel F&B credits, per diem expense allowances, etc.), allowing participants to make their own decisions on after-hours social gatherings.

3. How does instruction need to be adapted to accommodate the classroom environment changes?

– Adapt curriculum/learning activities as needed to be effective in a “socially distanced” environment.
– Mark areas on the floor with tape and provide other “nudges” for social distancing.
– Ensure facilitators and staff model appropriate behaviors.
– Establish areas for breakout/small group discussions to accommodate social distancing.
– Adapt common “active engagement” activities to the new awareness (e.g., ball tosses, pass the charts, group puzzles and other tactile exercises).
– Incorporate more 1:1 coaching (in-person or virtual) post-training to help participants reinforce and apply knowledge/skills learned.

4. How does the curriculum/ content need to be adapted?

– Review all ILT curriculum for relevance.
– Add context, scenarios, and examples that reflect the “transitional normal” retail environment.
– Consult with Dealer Council and dealerships to understand and provide training on the emerging/evolving best practices.
– Add/emphasize content on digital-based communications skills. Provide opportunities in class to develop digital messaging and skills that can be immediately applied on the job.
– Teach skills that help participants successfully conduct their business with clients in customer-centric, yet less personalized business environment (e.g., larger circle of “personal space,” no handshakes, potential concern with simple amenities like handing over a bottle of water, etc.)

5. How do we best communicate all aspects of our strategy, plans, and tactics?

– Identify all stakeholders (trainees, dealership management, field teams, executive management, etc.).
– Develop a communications plan—and be prepared to continuously update/ adapt it to changing conditions.
– Begin with general announcement to the entire “learning network” (e.g., “As life begins returning to normal and BigCo University resumes classroom training, here’s what we’re doing to keep everyone safe and healthy...”),
– Prepare program-specific messages as needed (“Regrettably, we have temporarily suspended the Celebration Barbeque at the end of Day 3. We know this is a highlight of Training Program X, however your health and well-being is our primary concern. In its place, we will...”)
– Produce a promotional/explanatory video to inform participants and their managers of what they can expect from the training experience.

6. How do we prepare our training staff/ team?

– Engage with, and seek input from trainers and support teams as part of the communications plan.
– Train-the-Trainers on best practices (for safety/hygiene as well as curriculum/ content), and share insights/updates among the group regularly.

Curriculum for the Transitional Normal

During challenging times, automotive retailers are often leaders when it comes to innovation. This video from Porsche Exchange illustrates some of the practices that most dealers will need to implement during a “transitional normal” period. These include:
– Statement of management commitment to customer relationship
– Disinfecting of all vehicles (for sale and service)
– Customer touch-points in dealership disinfected regularly
– Whole-facility disinfecting treatments
– Remote delivery and associated processes, options for customer
– Vehicle pick-up/drop-off for service

Customers need to feel confident that they can do business with their dealer safely and comfortably. Once a baseline of safety/hygiene is established, customers will likely seek “amenities” to go along with the experience—and those are sure to evolve and be adopted over time. Training will need to stay abreast if not ahead of these practices, and build skills around them to support a premium customer experience during this time.

  • Transition Planning
  • Safety
  • ILT

Converting Instructor-Led Training to Virtual Training

By Jennifer Newton, Dan Regan, and Jim Shute.

Moving from ILT to VC

Instructor-Led Training (ILT) programs have proven highly effective in providing and sustaining knowledge and skills among retail personnel. The challenge is to deliver a Virtual Classroom (VC) program that is just as effective, but in a virtual environment. Here’s what we need to consider.

Intimacy. Large face to face sessions allow a lot of time for smaller interactions to get to know other participants and the facilitators. How can we maintain and grow the connections of participants when we eliminate the F2F and networking time between modules?

Active Participation. In a personal setting, we can control and manage access to the training and the completion of the program. How do we ensure successful completion of the modules when participants are on their own to consume the learning? Specifically, how do we ensure they are the ones behind the screen and that they are actually engaged?

Engagement. Pro-Active has designed ILT programs with performance objectives in mind and created the components to achieve those goals. Many times, these face to face programs have a physical activity component. How can that be replicated in a virtual classroom?

This article explores ways to address the above issues through the curriculum conversion and delivery process.


The ideal approach is to create a blended training program using virtual classrooms, videos, WBTs and a variety of participant engagement tools to give the virtual program similar learning value to the face to face program.

Using a platform like Zoom, most of the facilitated learning portions of an ILT program can be replicated online. It is recommended that the class size remain small enough to allow all participants to interact with the facilitator and each other.

Further, it is best to divide learning content into 90- to 120-minute modules that are delivered over time. This spaced learning will help participants reflect on (and apply) content between sessions. Participants can join sessions via computer, tablet, or smart phone.

Finally, presentations must be modified to help ensure participant engagement by using the tools within the classroom and external to the classroom. The best practice for virtual classes is to offer some form of constructive engagement every 5 minutes or so.

Virtual Classroom Tools

Here are some examples of virtual classroom tools.




Ideally, both the facilitator and participants should use their webcams. While they do not need to be on each moment of the program, this best practice increases engagement and participation.


The chat feature allows participants to respond to a question or brainstorm ideas. Additionally, they can ask questions and interact with the producer as needed. The host can save the chat history to create a FAQ document as required. The chat feature can also be done privately between participants for an activity that would require partners to share details or brainstorm. Using chat will allow engagement points throughout the facilitated sessions. Finally, chat activities break up the presentations to keep the audience engaged.

On-Screen Animation

The whiteboard (annotation) feature replaces the classroom flip chart. Each slide in a PowerPoint can be written on by the facilitator and participants. A blank slide would allow participants to brainstorm ideas on potential risks when talking about competitors. A slide that has details would allow participants to claim one of the topics (with their initials) to explain that topic further.


Multiple-choice polls can be built into the platform to test knowledge or start a conversation on a topic. (NOTE: Results are anonymous.)

Breakout Rooms

The breakout room replaces a small group/table discussion. Participants can be divided into small groups to have a conversation or create content that can then be reported in the main room discussion later. For example, in product training each group could be given one competitive brand and assigned to create a whiteboard or slide with the discussed challenges and opportunities. Each group would then present findings back in the main room.


The facilitator can engage learners verbally as well. Using the raised hand to respond to a question (or ask a question) encourages participant input, ideas, and engagement.

Feedback Tools

The platform allows for other feedback tools like a green check or red X for informal voting or responding to questions.

Attention Tracking

When enabled, the room host can see if participants have the classroom as their active screen. This is only an indicator of engagement, as a participant could be taking notes or looking at documents for the program on another screen. Between the attention-tracking and seeing who is using the various tools to participate in the activities, the producer can get a picture of attendees who are actively participating in the webinar.


External programs such as these can be used in the F2F program and could carry over to the virtual classroom as well.


Knowledge-based content can be converted into short Rise (WBT) modules. These would be used with independent work time to mimic the self-exploration activity.

Pre-Recorded Video Segments

Pre-recorded segments allow participants to watch, comment and chat live with all the others involved. While a bit more complex, video can be recorded in front of a live audience to increase the “you are there” feel.

  • Remote
  • ILT
  • Virtual Training

Other Considerations for Course Conversion/Development

Below are a number of key considerations to take into account when planning, budgeting, scheduling, and executing course conversion from ILT to Virtual Classroom.

Program Length/Class Size. It is recommended to keep each virtual class to no more than 2 hours, and each class size to not more than 30 participants. While that may be infeasible in some cases (e.g., where very large numbers of people must be trained) the point is to keep class size small to increase active engagement—just like in instructor-led training.

Session Prep. The Facilitator and Producer should be in the virtual classroom 15-30 minutes early so that they can discuss any personalization needed and handle any technical issues. The participants should join 5-10 minutes early to allow them to handle any technical issues. A “soft start” (video, quiz, reading activity, etc.) is often used at the opening to facilitate this.

Facilitator Training. Classroom trainers may need to learn how to deliver and facilitate in the virtual classroom. The skills are similar but have enough differences that completing a T3/program (virtually) will give the required skills as well as allows them to experience what it feels like to be a virtual student.

Scheduling and Facilitator Time. This decision impacts how quickly participants move through a program. Time and/or cost efficiencies can be gained by raising per session participant count, deploying multiple facilitators (i.e., parallel classes) and/or combining shorter modules into single sessions.

Virtual Producers. A virtual producer allows facilitators to focus on the content and the participants in the program and not the technology. With a well-designed facilitation guide, the producer will be able to support the facilitator’s content as well as manage the technology for the participants. This person does not need to be an expert in the material. Their focus is purely to manage the technology and be the eyes of the facilitator. The producer can also take attendance, watch for activity/participation, and address any participant questions/concerns.

Content Conversion. Typically, it can take 10-20 hours of development time to convert one hour of face to face content to virtual. For parts of an ILT class requiring only minimal content changes (such as activity changes and the addition of more virtual engagement), this estimate would reduce to the lower end of the scale.

Virtual Platform. Pro-Active has experience working with WebEx, GoToTraining, and AdobeConnect for virtual classroom programs. Zoom offers the tools mentioned earlier to create the engagement and has proven to be the most stable and intuitive platform we have used. That said, Pro-Active is “platform-agnostic” and can use any platform requested by a client’s IT department, provided it includes the virtual classroom features/tools outlined above.

Train-the-Trainer. All facilitators should go through a T3 for each training module, to understand the format and tools as well as learn how they will work with the producers.

Missed Session Management. There needs to be the ability to manage for when a participant misses a live module session. Our recommendation is to record the actual sessions, and any participants who miss the live session can watch the archived recording within a limited time period. Once they have watched the recording, a quiz or makeup work can solidify that they have completed the task to a level equivalent to having attended the live virtual session.


Jennifer Newton Jennifer Newton is fortunate to have experienced many areas of Learning & Development from design through delivery and management. Her roles over the years have spanned many L&D specialties for global brands and bring a unique view to her work [read more...]
Dan Regan
With one leg in sales and marketing and the other planted in communications, Dan is a true multi-tasker. A salesman who can teach. An idea guy who can execute [ Read more... ]
Jim Shute
Jim began his career in the corporate communications field, producing corporate presentations, meetings, and videos for the automotive, financial services, and pharmaceutical industries [ Read more... ]

A Brave New World

By Michael D. Schmidt

With apologies to Aldous Huxley, author of that title, the automotive industry—like all industries in these unprecedented days of “distancing,” has changed. I can still only speculate on the full nature of those changes, their permanence (or not), and how we’ll respond as an industry.

Several takeaways from March/April2020:

Blinding flash of the obvious: The automotive business will come back. Many of the new (and pre-owned) vehicle sales "lost" to COVID-19 will prove to only be deferred due to the outbreak. Better days are coming again for the auto industry and once most consumers are again fully employed and feel secure in their jobs, there will be a surge in sales and service business.

Maybe not so obvious: It will not be business as usual. The nature of the business will be fundamentally changed. There will be a marked shift to digital retailing in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic. The move to digital retailing, that has been developing at a glacial pace, is here, driven, as is so often the case, by events beyond the control of the established manufacturer and dealership power/ownership structure. Progressive dealership groups are currently implementing digital sales protocols as a means of survival, including online car-buying platforms, virtual financing tools, and remote delivery. Consumers of all ages are demanding it as a condition of doing business. (Even “latent digital adopters” like me are ordering groceries online!)

What: The move to digital retailing for sales and service will require fundamental changes in how dealerships are structured, staffed, and operated.For example, online pricing transparency will have to become standard practice, sales consultants will need to become proficient helping customers work with online car-buying platforms, staffing will have to be shifted to perform remote sales deliveries and service pick-up and delivery.

So what: Now is the time for dealerships to be preparing to go digital in a comprehensive manner. That means now is the time for manufacturers to identify best practices and develop protocols and training to help their dealerships make the transition in an efficient and brand-centric way.

What it means for us: We need to develop approaches and tools to deliver digital training and sales support that is quick, efficient, and comprehensive. We need to begin doing it now—preferably with the full engagement and support of progressive manufacturers and importers.

Pro-ActivePerformance has deep and varied experience in helping our clients to effectively communicate and build client relationships through digital media and skills. We are ready to assist with this current transformation and beyond for our automotive industry clients.


Mike Schmidt has had a passion for automobiles all his life and has been actively involved in the industry for more than 40 years. [ Read more... ]

  • Insight
  • Sales Process
  • Consultative

QB4R: Crack the code to understanding your clients

By Jim Shute and Russell Fleury of Pro-Active Learning, Inc.

Many sales consultants believe that the best approach when a client asks a question is to have all of the answers, and respond immediately.  By contrast, the most effective sales consultants realize that the opposite is true: the best approach is to have the right questions to ask before responding. Having the right questions enables consultants to better understand what is most important to their clients.  With this knowledge as a foundation, consultants can tailor their presentations and demonstrations of their product to that specific client—saving precious time for both client and sales consultant, and avoiding potential miscommunication.

We have seen this scene play out many times in the showroom of a high-end product retailer: A client arrives and is greeted by a sales consultant who asks something like, “what brings you in today?”  The client says they are interested in a particular brand or model of a particular product.  The consultant responds with, “we have several right over here… let me show you,” and then launches into a product presentation.

Is there something wrong with this picture?  Of course it’s human nature—and common courtesy—to respond to a question or request from another person, especially a prospective client.  But without some understanding of that client’s individual wants and needs, a premature product presentation can be counterproductive.

A Consultative Approach

Effective sales consultants resist the urge to respond to client questions with a ready answer.  They know they must question before responding—QB4R—to help them understand the client’s situation, interest, wants, and needs.  Informed by that knowledge, they can more effectively and efficiently address the client’s interests through their product or service offerings.  This supports a consultative or interests-based approach to the client’s purchase process.

QB4R can be used effectively during all phases of sales consultations—and in any conversation where your aim is to ensure mutual understanding.  Let’s look at some examples:

During Greeting/Introduction

The Greeting phase is for building rapport and gathering some basic information. QB4R can help:

Consultant: Welcome to Blue Water Marina, my name is Jon. What brings you in today?
Client: I’m Pat, nice to meet you. I’ve been reading a lot of good things about your VX24 Wakemaster boat, and wanted to check one out.
Consultant: We’re glad you came by, Pat. So that I can be of the most value/benefit/help to you, would it be OK if I asked a couple of questions before showing you the VX24?

By applying QB4R—rather than immediately talking about the product—Jon has earned permission to find out more information about Pat before proceeding… information that can help to guide Jon’s sales approach.

Here are some questions you can use during Greeting/Introduction:
• What is it about the VX24 that appeals to you?
• Have you had a chance to do some research about the VX24? What caught your eye?
• Do you have some specific questions you would like to have answered?
• Where are you in your consideration process?
• What would you like to accomplish while you’re here today?
• How much time have you set aside for your visit this morning?

During Consultation

Consultation focuses on discovering the relevant information about a prospective client in order to match the best possible product or service to their needs. In this phase—which is all about asking questions—QB4R can help clarify the discussion and ensure understanding. For example:

Client: I’m looking for the overall best performance, and the VX24 seems to fit the bill. But I am curious how it compares with the VR26 model?

Consultant: “Performance” can mean different things to different people. What exactly does performance mean to you? What situations are you envisioning where performance would be particularly important?

For example, performance in a boat might mean the wake, the engine, the maneuverability, or even the maintenance and operating costs. Without QB4R, Jon our consultant may never know what it means for his client. And he certainly wouldn’t know by launching into a comparative presentation of the VX24 and the VR26… at least not yet!

Questions you can use during Consultation include:
• How are you planning on using this (product)? How will (product) fit into your family’s lifestyle?
• What [product] are you currently using? How has your experience been with that one?
• What appeals most to you about [Our Brand]?
• What other products have you researched/experienced that have impressed you?
• What impressed you about [Competitive Brand or Model]?
• Once you’ve done your research, how will you decide between the alternatives?
• How will you know when you’ve found the right [product]?

Addressing Clients’ Concerns

Most consultants want to respond to a concern/objection raised by the customer by answering it as quickly and directly as possible, and moving on. QB4R can help here too:

Client: I’d think I’d like to mull this over for a few days.
Consultant: It sounds like you still might have some unanswered questions about the VX24 and how it might fit with what you’re looking for. What else would you want to know in order to feel comfortable that you’ve found the right model for you?

With additional clarification provided by the client, the consultant can now more effectively respond to the objection or concern. In this case QB4R lets the client know that you are really listening to their concern and that you understand it fully, before responding. And in some cases, it buys you just a bit of extra time to more effectively tailor your response to the client.

Questions you can use to help with Objections include:
• What exactly do you mean when you say [whatever concern the client has raised]?
• If you don’t mind me asking… Why is [client’s concern] so important to your decision?
• Other than [client’s main concern], is there anything else that we should discuss or address to help you with your decision?
• In your overall decision, how important is [client’s expressed concern]?

Cushioning the Consultation
While the purpose of QB4R is geared toward better meeting the client’s needs, there is a fine line between being consultative and being evasive—and no client wants to deal with an evasive sales consultant. You may need to “cushion” your use of questions, or even ask permission to ask questions, like Jon did during the greeting process, so that the client understands the benefit to them of your approach. Some phrases you can use as cushions when you QB4R include:
• I’m curious…
• So that I make sure we cover everything you’re interested in...
• So that I can make the best use of our time together…
• That sounds interesting. If you don’t mind me asking…?

Ask First, Tell Second
The goal of any two-way communication is understanding, which is accomplished by listening. QB4R is a reminder to “ask first, tell second” in sales interactions. It supports a client-focused approach where consultants “seek first to understand” before making presentations or demonstrations. When used effectively it will help you to better understand client needs, and present your brand, organization, and product—and yourself—in a way that is focused on individual client needs.


Jim Shute has been helping people to succeed through learning and professional development for over 35 years. A career-long sales professional, Jim is founder and president of Pro-Active Learning, Inc., a company that develops and delivers sales and customer service training programs for companies in premium market sectors. During his career, Jim has been able to establish, build, and maintain productive client relationships through his practical and personal sales and communication approaches. Jim and his company have designed and conducted sales training programs to help clients and their employees do the same. Jim was a contributing author to the 2018 bestselling book, The Will to Win: The World’s Leading Entrepreneurs and Professionals Reveal Their Secrets to Winning in Life and Business! with success expert Brian Tracy.
Russell Fleury is a life-long learner with over 40 years’ experience as a professional educator and the co-author of two college-level textbooks on individualized instruction. He began his career as an educator with the Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Schools where he was a mathematics teacher, guidance counselor, varsity football coach, and high school principal. In 1986, Russell left public education to begin his career in organizational development and human performance improvement. Over the past 20 years, Russell has designed, developed and delivered a wide variety of programs for Fortune 500 Companies, small businesses and executive managers. Russell is best known for his highly interactive seminars that have provided participants with the knowledge and skills necessary to develop a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace.

  • Insight
  • Sales Process
  • Consultative

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