When I think about our team and what it is that makes them “the very best,” a few things come to mind. They are masters of the fundamentals, or “table stakes,” of training, and they are skilled subject matter experts in Richardson’s content and in selling. Here is how I describe our team:
- They are passionate about their craft, and it shows in their work.
- They connect quickly and easily with their learners.
- They create a risk-free environment for learning, and they earn the right to push participants to stretch beyond their comfort zones.
- They are subject matter experts, and they are skilled coaches who understand the real challenges salespeople face in the field.
- They model the skills that they teach while also drawing out best practices from the participants in the room.
- Most importantly, they tailor each classroom experience to meet learners where they are, which ensures the learning is real. Relevance is a critical success factor in the application of learning.
When a facilitator brings those characteristics together in a Richardson workshop, the result is a challenging, relevant learning experience that prepares and inspires sales reps to engage in genuine, customer-focused conversations that result in high-value, needs-based solutions. When that happens, we can reasonably expect that sales reps will begin developing long-term, trusted advisor-level relationships with their customers. They will close more deals, make more money, and provide better service to their customers.
Six Skills for training excellence
To be among the very best in any profession takes hard work and a solid grasp of the core fundamentals, or the “table stakes.” Once you have mastered those, you can set your sights on reaching the next level.
Here are six foundational skills that a sales trainer needs to be successful:
- Passion: Great sales trainers are passionate about supporting the success of sales professionals. Passion is emotion, and emotion is a key element to learning and memory. A trainer who is passionate, learner-focused, and has subject matter expertise can lengthen the forgetting curve. A passionate trainer who receives a thank-you note from a participant who applied the learning and had success is a fulfilled trainer.
- Relatability: Sales trainers must have an innate ability to connect with and relate to sales professionals quickly and genuinely. Doing so helps foster trust and provides a safe environment for participants to stretch, allowing them to be vulnerable in learning. When a learner feels comfortable trying something different and knows he or she won’t be embarrassed by making a few mistakes, the learning sticks. Mix in some humor and, by the end of a day, solid business relationships are often formed between trainers and participants.
- Credibility: Credibility in a sales trainer has two components: successful sales experience and expertise in training. Sales professionals are more receptive and willing to listen to someone who has real sales experience. A great trainer knows what a sales rep faces on a daily basis and can empathize with the pressures of the job. The trainer can, and should, draw on his or her own personal experience to emphasize key learning points and help a sales professional prepare for a selling situation he or she has not yet encountered. Trainers with selling experience anchor the learning in reality. When you blend that with a sound sales training methodology and strong facilitation skills, sales reps receive a deep, rich, and relevant learning experience.
- Draws out best practices: Great sales trainers know how to transfer knowledge to learners, and they are also skilled at creating an environment where individuals learn from one another by drawing out and sharing best practices. When a learner attaches a new concept to previous experience, he or she begins generating thoughts on how to apply the concept in the real world. Additionally, great trainers are always learning something new from participants that helps them stay on top of their game.
- Learner-focus: Richardson’s methodology is centered on being customer-focused. In the classroom, the participant is the trainer’s customer. Remaining learner-focused is a critical success factor for a trainer. To accomplish this, it is important to take the time to prepare to deliver a tailored learning experience. Good trainers show up for training workshops with an understanding of their learners’ unique selling situations. The very best trainers adjust the learning experience appropriately, from a knowledge and skills perspective, to meet the audience where they are. They know when to slow down or go deeper into content, and they know when to push harder to help all learners achieve at a higher level, stretching them in a safe way. Word choice plays a big role in remaining learner-focused. It is subtle, but word choice can dictate the level of engagement. Great trainers stay learner-focused by using inclusive language, like “we,” “our,” or, “let’s” versus “I.” For example, they will say this:
“In this activity, our goal is to be sure we …”
“Let’s practice the skill of prefacing.”
Instead of this:
“OK, now I want you to …”
“Here’s what I want to see …”
“I always …”
When a trainer executes a truly learner-focused workshop, participants are left feeling that the facilitator is one of them. We often hear that participants in our programs are surprised to learn that the facilitator wasn’t an employee of their organization. That’s a compliment that demonstrates how effectively our facilitators prepare and focus on customizing the learning experience to meet the needs of the audience.
- Classroom Management: Classroom management, sometimes referred to as the mechanics of a seminar, refers to a trainer’s ability to navigate all of the moving parts associated with a training day to deliver a smooth, rich learning experience.Preparation is a critical success factor. It’s important for a trainer to create a plan to accomplish the learning objectives of the workshop. A few things to consider when planning: develop a well-timed agenda; prepare smooth transition statements to move from one learning module to the next; prepare instructions for activities to ensure clarity on roles and to ensure they accomplish desired learning outcomes; and a plan for how and where you might use a story to emphasize a key learning point.And because, as they say, “the best laid plans …” it is also important for a trainer to be able to make course corrections. For example, it may be necessary to accelerate or decelerate the timed agenda based on the needs of the audience or an unanticipated delay. It’s also important to have the ability to resolve a technology glitch and/or minimize the impact of a disruptive participant while also handling all of the “known” moving parts that may be designed into a program. Classroom management is a challenging foundational skill. A great trainer is able to address these things seamlessly while also delivering a rich learning experience.