The success of a sales training initiative is based on multiple considerations — and not all criteria carry equal weight.
The “X-Factor” that makes for an outstanding sales training program is the facilitator. While the quality of program design and the associated materials are very important, it is the facilitator leading the training sessions that makes the experience engaging and memorable.
As companies plan their sales training initiatives, it is crucial to make sure that the facilitators who deliver the training have the requisite skills, experience and personality to deliver an impactful training experience.
If you think about this point, it applies to all forms of instructor-led sessions. As an example, if you took a world history course and the instructor spoke in a monotone and lectured for the entire session, you’d likely tune out. You would also have a lower appreciation for the topic — even if the instructor were an “expert.”
For sales training, having a qualified, engaging facilitator is essential given the magnitude of investment companies make in training their sales teams. According to a 2019 study by the Association for Talent Development (ATD) Research, sales organizations spend an average of $2,326 per salesperson annually on training. Based on this level of investment, companies are looking for a significant return, especially since they are asking participants to give up valuable sales time to participate in training.
Based on our experience, here are five key qualities to look for in a sales trainer.
1. Sales experience: To have credibility with participants, the facilitator must be able to share relevant examples based on personal experiences. This brings the training to life and helps with skill application.
2. Training experience: It is essential that the facilitator have extensive experience delivering sales training sessions. Asking a sales manager or high-performing salesperson to deliver sales training typically results in a poor training experience. This is because they have not been trained on how to engage participants in a (live or virtual) classroom setting. Instead, it is better to leverage these internal resources on sales coaching and mentoring.
3. An engaging personality: Sales training is based on adult learning theory. Simply stated, adults learn by doing. It is essential to identify trainers who can engage participants in discussions, exercises and role-plays to ensure that participants can apply the skills. Having a facilitator who can connect with participants and provide an upbeat interactive experience is essential.
4. A cultural fit: A sales trainer who does well in one setting could easily fall flat in another environment. As an example, a trainer who focuses on only one industry (e.g., banking) may not do so well working with new hires at a high-growth tech company and vice versa. That isn’t to say, however, that you should lock in on someone solely focused on your industry. While some industry experience is important, a trainer who is entirely focused on one industry runs the risk of training participants to do things the way we’ve always done them. If we learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that we need to adapt and that “what we’ve always done in the past” won’t necessarily deliver the best outcomes.
5. A tech-savvy mindset: Since most sales trainings now incorporate blended learning, it is essential that trainers have adopted the requisite technology to deliver a great training experience. As an example, many sales training programs now leverage a collaborative learning platform where participants can view microlearning, complete exercises and provide feedback in advance of the training sessions. In this case, having a facilitator who can access the platform, review participants’ work and pull real-world examples into the live sessions is essential.
As you think about your next training initiative, you can learn more about your facilitator(s) by evaluating their resumes, reviewing participant feedback and speaking with them. Ultimately, they are the “X-Factor” that can change the training experience you provide from “good” to “outstanding.”