Category Management Training Partners: Choosing the Right One

Many individuals who are tasked with the responsibility of researching category management training companies and their offerings, or even making the training purchase for a team or organization, are new to the task. It’s not a task to be taken lightly, nor a decision that should be made without some careful considerations.  Based on this, I’ve compiled some ideas that you should take into consideration if you are tasked with this important responsibility.  If you haven’t gone down the path of purchasing training, I hope that you will find this blog useful.

1.  Training Needs to Have a Blended Learning Solution

Category Management Training Blended Learning Solutions In general, training is a vehicle to provide a new skill set to individuals within a team or organization.  Creating habits of newly learned category management skills is an ongoing process that benefits from a blended learning approach, which can include online training, webinar training, case studies and live training.  This blended approach extends over months – instead of over just a few days in a more traditional classroom training approach.  It gives participants time to learn, practice and apply new concepts (and ask questions and get feedback in areas where they struggle) until they become habit. When participants complete online category management training, they are going to have questions – about the content, about their situation, about how to apply their learnings in their unique environment.  Therefore, coaching plays an important role in the learning process.  When choosing an online training solution, you need to consider the additional support – including coaching, additional training options, support options available – to ensure that each student has the support required to successfully complete their category management program.  These resources should not come at an additional cost to your organization.

2. Remember, Purchasing Training is Not Like Purchasing “Widgets”: It’s a Complex Process

In order to provide worthwhile return on investment, a blended training program must address the specific needs of your participants, as well as the expectations of the key stakeholders in the organization.  Standard “site license” (all courses) pricing for online category management training companies often means “off-the-shelf” generic training, which is “one-size-fits-all” approach.  It does not effectively impact the needs it was expected to address for many organizations, many students do not complete all of the courses, and the ROI just isn’t there. Category Management Training ConsultationA seasoned category management training company will consult with the key stakeholders to help understand the specific challenges faced at the organization, understand the desired outcomes, and get a sense of a budget range the organization has to devote to addressing these challenges.  This will uncover the facts necessary to suggest a training program of appropriate length, format, and content that also fits within the budgetary constraints of the company. This process saves time in the long run, and is more effective than simply collecting a pile of standard course descriptions with pricing and making a decision based on that.

3.  Consider Your Attendees and Their Managers When Planning Training

Category Management Training ParticipantsWhen you purchase category management training, you want participants to get started on implementing the new behaviors right away as soon as they have completed the training.  Leaving participants to find the time on their own to make the changes recommended in the session is not a great next step coming out of the program.  The opportunity is to create structure behind the program, include group work / discussions for your team that gives them an opportunity to brainstorm ways to jump-start on the new behaviors, learn from each other, and generate some great ideas and next steps.    Look for a trainer that fosters a structured, group work approach – whether in live sessions, case studies and/or webinars. Another opportunity is to get managers involved in the category management training program, so that they know what they should be asking for based on participants’ new learnings.  Managers who play a hands-on role in any training, and who show excitement and engagement in the training themselves, will experience much more productivity and team engagement.  Ask trainers how they keep the managers of participants engaged in the program on an ongoing basis.

4.  There is a Difference Between a “Trainer Delivering a Curriculum” and a “Subject Matter Expert.”

Some online category management training companies sell multiple types of training in many different topic areas.  They typically have packaged curriculum that was purchased (ie. developed by someone else), and they are not subject matter experts in the areas that they sell in.  This training is often sold at cheap costs, which at first is luring to key stakeholders.  The problem is that all they can provide is the online training curriculum – “you get what you pay for!”  A “jack-of-all-trades” training provider can be a convenient single source when basic needs in multiple areas are to be addressed, although compare prices with specialists. A specialty category management training firm typically offers products around a single topic, and is usually run and supported by subject matter experts.  They focus only on category management, stay active and add value in the industry and through social media, continually research and evolve category management for the benefit of the industry, and refine the content to keep pace with the changing industry, data and technology.  When long-term adoption of new behaviors is sought, a subject-matter expert can usually provide solutions with greater impact.


Category Management Training Partnership It’s common to view a discussion of category management training as the beginning of a negotiation that too often focuses on price alone.  But a reputable trainer should be viewed as your partner in the process, who can help you uncover your needs, consider everything important as it relates to your training requirements, gives you options to choose from, and works with you to provide the best and most cost-effective training solution possible, within your parameters.  Make sure you take the time to choose wisely, and you will get the best return on investment in your category management training program, both short- and long-term.

Click here to download an infographic that includes the important questions that you should request of your future category management training partner.

If you are interested in discussing category management training opportunities for your organization (no matter how big or small), I’d love to have a conversation with you to learn about your specific needs, and how CMKG may partner with you to meet those needs, based on the principles outlined above.

Sue Nicholls, President, Category Management Knowledge Group  |  Ph. 403-547-2376  |  email:


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