It’s not the content. Put the same sales training program in the hands of two different facilitators, and you may see vastly different outcomes.
It’s not the time spent as a frontline seller. While direct experience lends credibility and an ability to empathize, a history of carrying a bag is no guarantee a Sales Trainer can transfer personal know-how to others.
It’s not the amount of sales management experience. While nice to have, neither the experience of selling nor the experience of managing adequately prepares one to effectively train others.
It’s not the amount of training experience. Sales training requires a different skill set than other types of training. Why? Mainly because no one else pays the same price that a seller does to be in training. Every single minute in the classroom is a minute lost in reaching goals and earning commission. Others lose time when attending training, but sellers lose time and money.
It’s not the ability to amuse and entertain. There’s nothing wrong with having a good time in training. But time out of the field needs to be more than entertaining. The feel-good experience is seldom enough to transform sales activities and boost sales.
So what is it? What makes a Sales Trainer effective? After hiring and training 100+ Sales Trainers and working alongside hundreds more, here are the differences I’ve observed between Sales Trainers who impact top line revenue and those who don’t. This applies to internal and external Sales Trainers alike.
The factors listed above may help a Sales Trainer, but none of them – not even all of them – ensures success. Unfortunately, most Sales Trainers are hired for some combination of these criteria when there are three other considerations that matter much more.
The Focus of an Effective Sales Trainer
Steer clear of any Sales Trainer who isn’t focused on driving sales productivity and increasing sales. You want a Sales Trainer who designs and delivers outcome-based training, a Sales Trainer who starts with the end goal in mind and makes sure every minute of training moves your sales team closer to that goal.
Many Sales Trainers dodge training metrics. They prefer to be measured by butts in seats and smile sheets, mistakenly thinking that ego-boosting ratings will translate into sales results. What matters is what sellers DO after training, not how they feel.
Some Sales Trainers focus on flawless facilitation, by-the-book delivery of a canned training program. They don’t customize to meet audience needs or to offer relevant examples and relatable skills practices. Even the very best programs don’t stand alone. (If they did, sellers could read the book instead of attending a workshop.) Trainers are responsible for knowledge transfer that spurs behavior change and yields improved results. That’s a whole different focus than flawless facilitation.
Effective Sales Trainers have a single-minded focus on improving your sales results. Everything else they do is a means to that end, not an end in itself.
The Investment in becoming an Effective Sales Trainer
The sales industry is polluted with a lot of former sellers and sales managers who became trainers. (Note: many of them couldn’t hack the grind of selling and were never very good at it.) They don’t seek any training in how to be a trainer. They haven’t got a clue about adult learning principles or instructional design. They like to talk, and they mistakenly believe that telling people how to do things is the same as training.
Many of these posers resist professional development opportunities. Most resist emerging sales research and techniques, content to keep “training” with whatever program they learned once upon a time. They are out of touch and may do more harm than good. They cling to platitudes like “Always Be Closing” and tell stories from the trenches that are embarrassingly outdated. They’ll tell you that sales is sales, that it never changes, and that what worked decades ago still works today.
Effective Sales Trainers take pride in their profession. They study the science of learning. They stay current on new sales methodologies, buyer behaviors, and economic and societal shifts. They adjust to meet the needs of training participants and develop themselves constantly so they can do so.
The Traits of an Effective Sales Trainer
Getting and keeping the attention of sellers requires finesse. But it’s not about entertaining them. It’s about engaging them and moving them out of their comfort zone. It’s about personalizing the learning so each and every participant recognizes a need to stretch and willingly does so.
These traits supersede most other criteria. I’ve seen many brand new trainers with no sales experience make an impact. What they have going for them is:
- They are empathic listeners, genuinely connecting with sellers early on in a workshop
- They are curious and love to learn, drawing others out with authentic questions
- They are collaborative and team-focused, crafting training solutions to drive the desired results
- They are resilient and nimble, not easily discouraged as they strive to engage every participant
- They are motivated by helping others, measuring their own success by the success of others
- They are influential, able to inspire others and compel change without relying on authority
For additional competencies and behaviors exhibited by highly effective Sales Trainers, you can access the People First Productivity Solutions Competency Model here.
If you’re looking for an internal or external Sales Trainer, prioritize these three criteria. That’s how you’ll land a Sales Trainer who truly makes a meaningful difference you can take to the bank.