Transforming From Order-Takers to Strategic Partners


LEADERSHIP – By Rich Baron

The right approach can change everything

Does this sound familiar? You’re a trainer working on an upcoming launch, part of a team that is led by marketing. They outline their strategy, what they are thinking for the launch, including what training they want and even how they want it executed.

They say, “We need messaging workshops and objection handling, and we want the reps certified.”

Maybe it’s not a launch, but just a plan-of-action meeting or sales cycle and your internal stakeholders (maybe sales leadership) come to training and say, “We need to train our people on competitive selling. Can you please build a workshop to teach them to sell more competitively vs. X product?”

These are not uncommon situations. It’s a funny thing about training, everyone thinks they know what it is and how to do it. Trainers in many situations play the role of order-takers, where the internal customer comes to them and says, “We need training on this.”

Unfortunately, although common, this is the wrong approach and ultimately will not deliver the true value that is needed to solve the issue. So, what is the right approach?

The Right Approach

Ideally, the internal customer should say, “We are facing this problem and need to figure out how to overcome it.” If the trainer is a good strategic partner, they can work with the customer to evaluate the problem and determine the best approach.

The solution likely falls into the category of “Training Plus,” which means that training may be a part of the solution but there may be other components that need to be in place to achieve the desired results (such as communications, direction, perhaps incentives or coaching). As a good strategic partner, the trainer can help the customer understand the necessary components needed and become part of the larger solution.

So how does a trainer move from order-taker to strategic partner?

There are four key actions that trainers should employ to make this move:

  1. Developing strong business acumen.
  2. Communication skills and the ability to effectively challenge.
  3. Building the right solution to achieve desired business outcomes.
  4. Using measurement to prove value.

Developing Business Acumen

How well-versed are your trainers in the brand strategy? Their goals or forecasts? How well do they know the marketplace and competition?

To become a strategic partner, trainers need to be entrenched in understanding the business. This way, when the internal stakeholders come forward with an issue, the trainers can strategize to find a solution.

Additionally, understanding the business means understanding the marketplace and how it is evolving. If you not only understand what skills and behaviors are needed to be successful today but also what future skills will be needed, you become an incredibly valuable asset for your internal customers.

You want to be seen as a strategic partner, and this means that you need to talk that language with your internal customers and show them that you know your stuff.

Communication Skills

Trainers spend a great deal of time presenting their training plans back to the business to get buy-in. The degree of buy-in is completely dependent upon how well the trainer can persuasively communicate.

Can they deliver a concise, logical and impactful argument? Being a better communicator improves others’ perceptions of you and helps to position you as a strategic partner.

But being a great communicator is only part of the equation. To establish yourself as a strategic partner requires you to be a challenge partner, appropriately pushing back by using effective questioning to get your internal customers to see things differently.

Building the Right Solution

When asked for training, it is to address a gap, a business need. Because we are training people, in most cases, the objective is for the people to learn something different that will result in changes to their behavior and, ultimately, fill the gap.

Trainers need to understand what it takes to drive behavior change and build initiatives that have the best chance of achieving that. The best way to be seen as a strategic partner is for the trainer’s design to result in achieving the desired business objective.

Using Measurement to Prove Value

You can understand your customer’s business well, be an excellent communicator, challenge appropriately and design an amazing program that has the best chance to meet the business objectives. But, how will you know that you have achieved the desired business outcome?

Better yet, how will the internal customer know that it was the trainer’s plan to make that happen? It is critical that a measurement plan is put in place with the right metrics or key performance indicators.

Providing measured results allows the trainer to prove the value of their program and raises them up as a trusted partner.


In today’s dynamic business landscape, the role of trainers needs to evolve beyond the traditional boundaries of creating and delivering training. The shift from being mere order-takers to becoming strategic partners is essential for trainers to contribute significantly to organizational success.

This transformation not only enhances the effectiveness of training programs but also aligns them with broader business goals. By developing business acumen, communicating persuasively and appropriately challenging, creating training programs that are designed to meet business objectives, and measuring impact, trainers can play a crucial role in both shaping and achieving organizational goals.

Rich Baron is principal of Framework Leadership. Email Rich at or connect through



About LTEN

The Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network ( is the only global 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization specializing in meeting the needs of life sciences learning professionals. LTEN shares the knowledge of industry leaders, provides insight into new technologies, offers innovative solutions and communities of practice that grow careers and organizational capabilities. Founded in 1971, LTEN has grown to more than 3,200 individual members who work in pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and diagnostic companies, and industry partners who support the life sciences training departments.

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