“I didn’t know that?!” Training at Four51

“That is new to me… I didn’t know that… You can do what?… Neat!…”  These are all the phrases that make us smile when we have new trainees in our classroom, and we hope to hear some of that this week!

At noon today we kick off our newly revised free training format and are welcoming 12 people to frigid Minneapolis!  (c’mon, only 7 miles away from Mall of America!) So you may ask yourself, would this benefit me?  Of course it would, unless you are better than our very own tech guru, Steve Davis.  We have many trainees that attend our program because they are new at their place of employment and need to learn the basics; but we also have a large audience who come to expand their knowledge so they can provide more for their customers and co-workers.

Many of you may have already attended a training session here at Four51′s headquarters, but this week marks the first week with our new format in place.  In the past, we offered a one week course lasting M-F.  This allowed a lot of classroom time for Mike Moebeck to crack his famously old stale jokes, but meant people had to give up their weekends catching flights in and out of town.  We’ve changed that.

Here is a breakdown of our new training:

Monday Noon to 5 pm: CommerceTools Administration

Tuesday 9am to 5pm: Variable Text Products, Pageflex lesson 1 &2

Wednesday 9am to 5pm: Pageflex lessons 3-6 and Lesson Challenges

Thursday 9am to Noon: Pageflex lessons 7 & 8, Summary, and Goodbye!

Stay tuned for an announcement on our next training session so you can start planning your visit.

And please tell us!  Have you attended training at Four51?  What are your thoughts on the shorter program we’ve put in place?

If Only I Had Known

Come to training, and I promise you will hear this: “I didn’t realize that I could do that!” And it’s not the newbies who say this. It’s the veterans who have been using the system for a while and have decided to come in for formal training. Do you know what they say next?

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How big is your toolbox?

Think about the mechanic you take your car to when it needs repair. Next time you visit, take a look at the wide range of tools he has at his disposal. Compare his tools to a novice mechanic who starts off with a socket set, and if he’s lucky, some wrenches. Over time, as his skill level increases, he builds up his arsenal of tools. Eventually the novice becomes a veteran and he acquires tools along the way. His toolbox grows with his ability. (Insert grunting from Tim “the Toolman” Taylor here.) Continue reading

Training Guy: New Classes and Functionality on the Horizon

First of all, thank you to all the fine folks who filled out or training survey last week. The response has been overwhelming and a lot of folks responded with some very consistent requests. I am working out a way to deliver on some of these requests. I will let you know more when I have something official to announce.

On the Pageflex side of things, we are working on our roll-out to Pageflex 6. I have been busy writing some new lessons to go along with the features it will offer. For those of you how have gone through Pageflex training, don’t worry, the fundamentals of variable text product building will not change. You will just get some additional features to use, such as:

• Text on a path.
• More adjustments for crop marks.
• A toolbar on the spec form for your customer to do some light formatting.

Lots of fun things coming up! But no matter what the future brings, remember that Add is your friend.


Training Guy: Surviving Triple Training

Greetings all!

I have had a very busy run lately. My vocal chords are happy with me for the moment, though I do love talking…

At any rate, I recently conducted the first Triple Training week. I am happy to report that the class went very smoothly. It was, however, quite intense and some of the attendees were a little panicked at the beginning. Luckily, everyone survived. I look forward to conducting another session like it in September and October.

I realize that the intensity of these classes is quite high. This was done consciously because we cover a lot of ground in a finite amount of time. That said, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that I have built in a lot of time to be used practicing the skills you have learned and each lesson builds off of the last. This way, the skills you learned at the beginning of the course are still being used at the end of the course. The idea is to work the basics of the application as many times as possible while continuing to learn more advanced subjects as the course goes on.

Anyone can attend training and leave proficient at using the application. There are a couple of key things to keep in mind as you mentally prepare to come to Minneapolis:

  • Come in with an open mind about the application. You will learn more than you probably imagined was possible and you don’t want to hinder your learning if you have too many preconceptions.
  • Think about the problems you are trying to solve with current customers. Although this sounds contradictory to the first point, it’s really not. You still want to keep an open mind about what the app can do, but it’s good to have some focus regarding the issues you are looking to solve.
  • Contemplate how the application can be used to bring new customers online. Think about the last deal you didn’t get and then when you’re here (keeping an open mind!), start imagining what you would show a prospect in your next pitch.

    Thank you to everyone for stopping by, and never forget…

    Add is your friend.


  • Thoughts from Four51: Form meets function when learning is fun

    Everyone is passionate about something–it’s human nature–and we will relentlessly choose to learn more and more about our interests. I’ve recently developed an interest in history. It’s a topic I have not spent much time on since…I don’t know when, but lately I can’t get enough of it. I buy books, I download podcasts on iTunes, I read blogs…yada, yada, yada. In short, I’ve become passionate about it.

    While we are free to pursue personal learning on our own time, self-directed learning in the workplace is often a struggle for employees. Most of us don’t get to pick what we learn about at work, and if we do, the time allowed for self-directed learning is often very limited.

    An online training magazine I recently read cited a survey that showed that 80% of survey participants didn’t remember the last time they purchased any self-directed learning offerings. To add further evidence, I’ve observed that nearly 100% of Four51 customers that attend our training courses come because they were asked to by someone else at their company, typically their boss.

    It makes sense, right? Companies make calculated investments in their employees and ought to get a return for their money.

    Here’s an obvious but interesting fact: Most of us learn the bulk of our knowledge and skill on the job, through ad hoc interactions with our peers. We collaborate with each other on the fly, and learn a wealth of information while doing so. It’s a powerful dynamic, probably more powerful than any classroom or web-based instructor-led training!

    That being said, my impetus for this post is a learning website called learnhub.com. It’s a new tool that allows educators and students to teach and learn in a collaborative online community. Basically, it’s Facebook meets eLearning.

    But the coolest thing is that you don’t need to be a licensed, certified educator to teach courses. In their words, “Because LearnHub’s communities can be created by both teachers and learners, the system purposefully blurs the line between teacher and student to increase collaboration between learners and educators. By eliminating the divide between students and teachers and combining education with the benefit of social networking, LearnHub has created a niche in education that is unprecedented in the world of online education.”

    Pretty cool stuff. These people truly understand how most of us learn: peer-to-peer, collaboratively, in social networks. And, as an added bonus, learnhub.com is a lot of fun. Learners and educators have the ability to create personal profiles, develop communities around any topic, get RSS updates about what other users are doing, and much more.

    Why not make learning fun? Shouldn’t Four51 do this? I’m not making any announcements in this post, but I will say that Four51 is currently taking a hard look at ways to enhance our training offerings. In a few weeks, Four51 will be distributing a survey to all our customers asking for input about how we can enhance your Four51 learning. When you receive the survey, I ask you to take it seriously and really let us know what your training needs and wants are.

    To me, learnhub.com is a clear indication that there is technology available to support a wide-variety of learning styles and needs. That’s what I want Four51 to do but the question remains, do you?


    Four51 Tools: An Open Mind

    I spent the other week with our trainer, Mike, in one of the largest training sessions we have conducted to date. This session was dedicated to one customer who flew employees in from around the country. The training was based on our standard offering with no customization, nor any customer-specific modifications. The only difference, as compared to normally scheduled training sessions, was that we condensed seven days of training into an intense five day session (just like we’re now offering across the board). Oh, and by the way, the training was conducted on the customer’s premises.

    So, what is the point of my telling you about what we did for one customer?

    There are four take-aways that I believe any of our customers can benefit from:

    1. We are prepared to conduct on-site training, providing the number of trainees warrants it. There are, of course, logistical and financial issues to consider, but where there is a will there is a way.

    2. The customer had done excellent homework in prepping all of the trainees for both the intensity and importance of the sessions. There were few distractions and training continued until 5:00PM every day (even Friday) with no complaints. Bottom-line is that they all realized the strategic impact of their role in introducing a new technology into the organization.

    3. Our training can be condensed into fewer days, but trainees start reaching burn-out towards the end of the week. So, although something can be done, that doesn’t mean it should be done. I would not advocate, under normal circumstances, to compress something into a week that is as important as training and that has been tried and tested in a seven day course.

    4. Most important though was the attitude that these trainees brought to the training. I sat in the back of the room with a colleague and was able to monitor everyone’s attentiveness and capture any comments or concerns. Happily, I can say that not once did anyone get fixated on what their current system does and what they might lose or need to change when using Four51. Rather, there was a constant chatter about how they could use the new system to improve some or other existing business process.

    Interestingly enough, even my colleague and I sitting in the back of the room and undergoing the same training kept an open mind and both of us learned new aspects of a system we believed to know so well already. It is amazing what an open mind will allow you to do, if only you let it.


    Training Guy: Training Galore!

    Sorry for the delay in getting to post #2! I have been very busy teaching and training.

    Not long ago we experimented with offering two certifications in a single week to great success. Prior to that session, I conducted a special training event where I taught Four51 Fundamentals, Certified Site Admin and Certified Designer in a single week; let’s just say that I have learned a lot about how much information can be transferred in a single week!

    Given the recent success of these intense training weeks and the demand for more of the same, we have decided to offer a new training configuration, Triple Training, which is all three courses in a single week! We’re wasting no time getting going, and our first Triple Training week will be August 4th-8th with the next round September 15th-19th. Watch your email for more information (or go ahead and register!).

    Also, I would like to take a moment to thank those of you who have come out here for training, both for your hard work and for your positive energy.

    If you have any suggestions, feel free to add them below as a comment!

    Thanks, and never forget “Add is your friend.”


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    Four51 Tools: Sell better with sales training

    Just as there are many salespeople and many different ways to sell, there are numerous ways to sell with Four51. However, some e-commerce sales tactics are universal.

    Four51 now offers a two-day training session to help customers sell with Four51 and obtain the full benefits of e-commerce. This class is primarily designed for someone who has sales experience and wants to use Four51 to increase sales with current customers and sell to prospects. You will learn to build and use the demo site to achieve the presumptive close, successful strategies for closing prospects and the products and customers that work best with Four51.

    You and your company will benefit from your ability to sell e-commerce products with confidence.

    To learn more about our upcoming training sessions, click here.


    Four51 Tools: Invest in Yourself

    A few days ago, I had a conversation with a customer who had recently joined the Four51 network and was in the process of setting up a site for one of his clients. He was going through the storefront with the customer, but was running into all kinds of problems and couldn’t figure out why some things weren’t working how he thought they would. Needless to say, he grew quite frustrated and finally called me for help. We took a look at the site together and the deeper we got into the site, the further my belief was confirmed that training is a vital part of using the Four51 application effectively.

    Part of what makes Four51 so valuable is the flexibility of the system and how that flexibility allows you to create a unique experience for each user who comes to access one of your sites. Naturally, with a system that provides that level of benefit, you’ll need to know how to setup and configure those options for your customers.

    Customers usually have very specific needs and if you take the time to figure out what tools you have and how to use them, you’ll be able to satisfy your customers’ requests much more efficiently. Not only that, but you’ll be able to provide a better set of expectations instead of promising something that can’t be delivered exactly how the customer thought it would be. You will establish more credibility if you can answer questions and explain the details right on the spot.

    Not only is training knowledge valuable when trying to satisfy current customers, but it will also make your organization much more effective in bringing aboard new clients. If you know how to use the administrative environment, you can easily setup an effective demo site that has the prospect’s logo, an appropriate theme and any other options that they may request for an online ordering interface. You can present a replica of what the customer already expects and impress them right from the start instead of giving the impression that you’re in over your head.

    As with any new product or system, there is a learning curve involved for both the site consumer and the administrator. The faster you understand how things work and certain items need to be configured, the faster you will be able to use the Four51 application to build your business. Check out the training course listings on Access Four51 and see if you could benefit from the variety of courses we have to offer.


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