Seven Ways Sales Trainers Can Up Their Game
What makes a great sales trainer? This was the subject of my previous post, found here. In it, I discussed a number of traits that I consider table stakes for great sales trainers.
So, now the question becomes: How can sales training facilitators up their game?
To go above and beyond the basic requirements — to really stand out as an exceptional facilitator — it’s important to stay tuned to what is happening in your fields of play (sales and learning and development) and integrate that knowledge appropriately to remain credible and relevant. From a skills perspective, it is important to continue your professional growth with a focus on mastering your content so you are modeling it effectively. Listening skills and effective coaching skills are critical to a trainer’s ability to create and illuminate lightbulbs, or “aha” moments. Executing in-the-moment coaching to provide specific, accurate feedback that will equip and inspire learners to apply classroom learning in the real world is a nuanced, next-level, and important skill set.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Keep up to date on selling trends
It’s important to understand the changing trends in your selling space, whether that’s business-to-business or business-to-consumer sales. Talk to sales professionals, both inside and outside the company. Read the experts in the field. Search for the latest reports and studies by industry consultants.
2. Seek out information on training trends
Stay connected to what’s happening in the field of training. Network with industry colleagues. Follow the social media feeds of thought leaders, and subscribe to their blogs. Go to conferences and make personal connections. Explore hot topics in the field, such as neuroscience, learning research, blended learning, how to meet learners where they are, and the needs of future and multigenerational learners.
3. Build credibility through field experience
Look for opportunities to accompany sales professionals in the field so you can see firsthand the challenges they are facing. Real, in-the-trenches field experience raises credibility in the classroom and builds the confidence of a training facilitator.
4. Define the next level
What is your next-level goal as a trainer? Professional development is personal. It could be about fine-tuning your craft and honing your skills to become more accomplished. It could be about broadening your area of expertise. It helps to set a target by defining what next-level skills look like, visualizing success, and then working to make it happen. Once you have a target, look for resources to support you, including coursework, new certifications, or speaking engagements at industry conferences.
5. Create and illuminate lightbulb moments
Hone your questioning and listening skills, and focus on recognizing, creating, and maximizing aha moments for learners. Doing so benefits everyone in the room. Look for opportunities to make connections and linkages to learning modules. As tempting as it may be to give answers to training participants, learn to ask more than tell. It could be as basic as answering a question with your own question to encourage more probing of the content being addressed. Or, it could involve asking open-ended checking questions before transitioning to new topics.
6. Model essential skills
Incorporate essential questioning, listening, and other critical skills into your training behavior in the classroom. By modeling these skills yourself, you demonstrate how having a higher level of these skills can help sales professionals differentiate themselves and provide greater value to their customers.
7. Hone coaching skills
The ability to observe training participants practicing a skill and then stopping and redirecting to make course corrections helps them achieve a kind of “muscle memory” in the new skill. Sales training facilitators must be skilled in providing specific, accurate feedback that helps learners improve their ability to apply what was learned. This — moving a learner from knowledge to skill application — is what separates good facilitators from great ones. The objective of every training session is to support the learner through some level of change in the real world that results in the desired business outcome.
For sales trainers to up their game takes a desire for continual improvement and a commitment to lifelong learning. The outcome is a powerful one: a highly skilled facilitator who is learner-focused and delivers a tailored, challenging, and inspiring learning experience that results in improved performance and results.
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