Integration of a Theme into NSM Workshops


Whole Systems’ client was seeking a fresh and energizing approach to practicing Objection Handling during workshops at their September POA. The challenge – to avoid the “not another objection handling workshop!” response from the field force.  To meet this challenge, Whole Systems created a half-day progressive workshop that used the fun theme of “Camping in the Great Outdoors” to engage the learners!

The theme was introduced with an animated photo of an outdoor, lakeside campsite that set the tone for participants to take this opportunity to reflect and refresh for Q4.  Participants “shopped” for camping supplies by selecting pieces of gear that prompted them to exchange probing questions in response to standard objections. Then, participants took turns sharing their real-life “Tough Customer” stories with their peers while “sitting around the campfire.” Small groups of camper-participants listened and brainstormed approaches, and then had a chance to role-play their own and each other’s Tough Customers. The trainers had fun bringing the theme to life during the workshops  with prop campfires and s’mores kits. Participants left the meeting refreshed and armed with some new best-practice approaches to the obstacles presented by their own customers.


  • Head off the “not another objection handling workshop” reaction from experienced representatives
  • Provide time to practice and to share best practices with others in their territory
  • Integrate a fun theme into the workshop without making it too simplistic
  • Use client-specific terminology within the theme so it would feel like part of the training continuum

Project Challenge

The only major hurdle to incorporating this theme occurred during the formal review process. We originally wanted participants to share their customer “horror stories.” MLR was concerned about the implication that customers themselves were “horrors” and wanted to delete the theme for that entire activity. We worked together with the client and the reviewers to align on the instructional validity of the activity and compromised successfully around the language used. The “sharing around the campfire” theme remained, and terminology evolved to telling “Tough Customer” stories instead.

Key Takeaways

  • Surprising clients and their participants with a fresh approach to an old problem can be successful.
  • “Fun” themes can be incorporated into workshop design to support and enhance a challenging instructional goal.
  • Enabling sales representatives to focus on their own customers is nearly always preferred to abstract discussion.
  • Concluding the workshop by focusing on next-step planning can facilitate the pull-through of best practice discussions to actions taken.

Whole Systems Solutions

  • The Whole Systems Instructional Design and Writing team created a fun way to practice selling skills while still empowering the representatives to look strategically at their accounts and how best to advance them along the sales continuum.
  • The Whole Systems Art Department did a spectacular job of pulling the theme through all aspects of the four-hour workshop. They included custom icons related to both the theme and the client as well as selecting on-theme fonts and photographs to add fun and context.

Contact us today to learn how to incorporate themes into your next meeting!