On the first day Tesla started taking pre-orders for its new Model 3, it sold $7.5 billion worth of cars that it has not started producing yet. That is a massive number that got me thinking about how enterprise software companies can do the very same thing selling training courses. Well, maybe not sell $7.5 billion dollars of software training in one day (hmmm, maybe I just don't think big enough), but selling training courses that they have not yet developed.
Model 3 orders at 180,000 in 24 hours. Selling price w avg option mix prob $42k, so ~$7.5B in a day. Future of electric cars looking bright!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 1, 2016
I know it is difficult to imagine, but it can be done quite easily.
Selling products before they are made is not new. Dell Computers became the number one PC maker by selling PCs and laptops before they were assembled. And don't think disruptive technologies made this innovation possible. Back in the "olden days," when people bought magazines and actually read the classified ads in the back, remember seeing ads for products telling customers to please allow four to six weeks for shipping and handling (S&H). Six weeks? For a quick-dry towel? C'mon. Why does it take so long?
Many of these products have such long shipping times because the products have not been manufactured yet.
How to Sell Software Training Courses Before They Are Developed
You can sell a training course before you create it, and I am going to show you how. Keep in mind that this technique works primarily for instructor-led training, whether delivered virtually or live and in-person. The reason is because you can sell a course today, but it might not be scheduled to run for another four to six weeks. So, when people buy it, you still have time to develop the course. This does not work quite as well with self-paced eLearning because customers expect instant access to eLearning content.
There is one exception.
A self-paced course designed in the style of a massive open online course (MOOC) that has a start date can work as well. You could have a MOOC-style course start in eight weeks, and when customers buy it, you could ramp up developing the course.
With that in mind, here is a process for how to pull it off.
Six Steps for Selling Software Training Before You Build It
Step 1 - Write up a course description: The first thing to do is write up the course description. This will serve as the content that will be on the course web page telling prospective customers what the course is about and what they will learn in the course. The course description should have a good title, a detailed description about what people will learn, and a list of specific learning objectives. The main point of the course description is to sell the course by setting the right expectations for what people will learn.
Step 2 - Set the course price: There are many strategies for doing this, but the main idea is to set the price to reflect the value your course provides customers. Don't worry about the exact price at the beginning because you can use early bird pricing and/or coupon codes to get your customers interesting in buying.
Step 3 - Decide when to run the course: Set a date when you will run the course. Make sure it is long enough in the future that you have enough time to build the course after someone buys it, but not too long in the future that discourages customers from buying today.
Step 4 - Put it on your website for sale: Post the course description on your web site and allow customers to purchase the course. Customers should be able to read the course description, click a purchase button, and pay with a credit card or purchase order.
Step 5 - Promote the course: Once you have the course description on your website. You need to promote it. Work with your marketing team to come up with ideas for getting the word out. You can add messaging in e-newsletters and on social media. You can arm your sales team with coupon codes and have them call good customers to tell them about the course. Other ideas include using Google Adwords and Linkedin Sponsored Updates that target people who possess specifi skills.
Step 6 - Start developing: Once you sell a few seats, start building the course.
Knock Your CEO Out of Her Seat
Training professionals often lament about how hard it is to get the resources they need to develop the depth and breadth of training customers need. That is a problem to be sure. However, if you go to your management team and show them that you sold ten seats to a course you have not yet built yet, at an average price of $499 each, you may just get the resources you need. And you might even knock your CEO out of her seat.
If you like the idea of selling a training course before you build it, but you have no idea how you would develop the course, we have a solution for you. We wrote a book to address this very problem. It's called Ad Hoc Hell: A ServiceRocket Guide to Developing Your First Software Training Course. In it, we lay out a specific process that demystifies the whole idea of how to develop a software training course. After you read this book, you will have the confidence to execute the strategy in this blog. It is not that big of a mystery. Download the book now.