Five key factors to help you source the right training suppliers

By June 2, 2017 Procurement

The delivery of large-scale training programmes by external consultants can be expensive, how do you ensure you select the right external training partner?

In our last procurement training blog, we began by focusing on managing the category, using ten key steps to achieve cost savings and strategic clarity. Now it’s time to make sure you’re procuring the right suppliers for the job, in the right way.

Large-scale training programmes delivered by external consultants or organisations can represent a significant investment for a business, and potentially have a lasting impact. So selecting the right one, and injecting some professional rigor into the process, won’t just ensure that your business is compliant and getting good value for money; it will make you flavour of the month with both stakeholders and L&D.
However, many L&D teams won’t even have considered seeking support from procurement, or running a professional tender process, when selecting training providers. That means that, to effectively engage them, you’ll need to be efficient, professional supportive and knowledgeable.
Of course, you’ll bring your own preferences and techniques to bear, whether you’re implementing strategic sourcing processes or creating competitive tender exercises, but whatever your approach, there are five main factors to bear in mind when sourcing training suppliers.

1. Organisational fit

Training interventions stand or fall on how well the provider understands an organisation: it’s structure, culture and industry, as well as the issues its stakeholders face. It’s your job to assess whether their training methodology, approach and values will be a good fit for your people and company. Arranging a taster session to see them in action can be a great way to test the chemistry.
Remember, most training consultancies are founded by small groups of people who have come from particular industries. By uncovering their backgrounds, and the clients they work with, you can get a feel for the types of organisations they understand best.

2. Content

Some training companies offer a bewildering array of topics and courses. However, there will usually be a core few topics which they deliver most often or in which they have particular expertise.
So be mindful of whether the specific training areas you most need are simply something they ‘can’ deliver as part of the menu, or a specific speciality.

3. Experience

Asking for case studies is an excellent way to gauge how experienced the training provider will be with your specific issue. Request examples of workshops they have delivered to other relevant clients that clearly outline the problem, the solution, and outcomes for staff, business and customers.
Client references can also help give a sense of what it feels like to participate in a supplier’s workshop and what aspects of the training worked best. Be careful here, though; look for examples of tangible ROI, rather than simple stakeholder satisfaction, which may have proven to be misplaced.

4. Trainers

The ability of a trainer to be instantly credible to delegates can make or break a workshop. With training, you’re essentially buying into people, so the individuals who will be delivering the work deserve close scrutiny.
Biographies of trainers can provide useful insight as to whether they’ll be able to command respect and relay relevant experiences from their own career. When it comes to engaging and motivating your staff, they’ll need both the right business experience and the right personality.
It’s also important to make sure the trainers have experience delivering at the business level your delegates come from. The best way to assess this is to meet or trial the trainer in person – not just the sales rep.

5. Due diligence

As we saw in part one, the UK training and development industry is highly fragmented. There are huge national training companies and small, niche teams; ‘open’ courses, uniting delegates from multiple organisations, and bespoke in-company programmes. Given the relatively low barriers to entry in the market, there are lots of new companies cropping up all the time, so it makes sense to assess their stability if you’re after a longer-term relationship, or if this is high risk or politically sensitive area of spend.
It’s also important to check how a provider will provide administrative support. A dedicated account manager and logistics team can help ensure course arrangements run smoothly, and while a larger company may have clearer processes, a smaller organisation may be more flexible to your needs.
Finally, don’t forget to check how compatible the supplier’s technology solutions are with your organisation’s existing systems. It could save you a lot of time, money and effort if you opt for tech that won’t clash with your own.
So now you’ve managed the category and selected the best possible suppliers, it’s time to turn your attention to the contracts. Drop into the blog next week for part three.


James Ball is a consultant at Retearn and has extensive procurement, supply chain and operational experience across learning and development, IT and healthcare industries.

Thoughts? Questions? Need more help? We’d love to hear from you at or

Call us on +44 (0) 7795 236664