As adult learners find less time for training and organizations push for more virtual courses, field trainers (FTs) have emerged as vital connections between sales representatives and training teams. When successfully deployed, FTs improve onboarding, help new hires develop their skills, and enhance coaching and training for existing sales reps. In doing so, FTs boost their own professional skills in preparation for future leadership roles.
That said, many FTs could be better equipped for their roles through the development of enhanced people skills that aren’t covered in most FT training curriculums. To understand the gaps, it’s important first to examine how FTs fit into the training team and which responsibilities they carry out.
What Is a Field Trainer?
A field trainer is an extension of the training and sales teams. In the pharmaceutical industry, for example, FTs typically spend up to 20% of their time supporting training initiatives within their region and the rest of their time calling on customers as sales representatives. A competitive position, the FT role is often used as a step toward management and typically includes a small stipend.
What Does a Field Trainer Do?
Though the position is highly adaptable, FTs are generally responsible for:
- Mentoring and observing new hires through onboarding and new hire training processes.
- Serving as classroom facilitators for live and virtual training courses.
- Supporting the development of new hires and tenured peers through field rides and peer coaching.
- Coordinating and executing training and pull-through initiatives.
- Participating in the planning and execution of key meetings, including plan of action and national sales meetings.
- Acting as liaisons between field and training and development teams, including proactively providing feedback to training teams.
- Working on special projects assigned by regional managers or training and development teams.
- Modeling company values in everything they do.
5 Areas to Improve Field Trainer Training
Most FT curriculums include training on the process-related skills needed to be effective in the role. These skills include facilitation and presentation, peer coaching, leading without authority, providing effective feedback, and ensuring a good onboarding experience. However, training often overlooks several people skills that are critical to the success of the modern FT. By augmenting your FT training curriculum to include the following five areas — and supporting this training with realistic case studies and interactive workshop scenarios — you can significantly improve FTs’ impact on your organization.
1. Emotional Intelligence
It’s important to see the field trainer as a leadership position. As such, it requires self-awareness and an ability to manage one’s emotions while conducting positive interactions with others. Emotional intelligence training teaches FTs these critical skills. When incorporating this training into your curriculum, the goal should be to help FTs make their emotions work for their benefit instead of working against them.
2. Inspirational Leadership
While field trainers usually have no direct reports, they’re in a position to influence. Their words and actions significantly impact their peers, especially new hires, so it’s important that FTs understand how to use their influence to model appropriate behaviors, motivate others, build enthusiasm and help instill positive beliefs. Training should help FTs become inspirational communicators as they uncover strategies for encouraging others through their role.
3. Managing Conflict
Field trainers often act as sounding boards for their peers. As a result, they’re often presented with or observe a wide range of conflicts. FTs must not only understand and learn to mitigate potential sources of conflict, but they must also have the tools to effectively handle conflicts when they arise. Take time to provide FTs with training that explores several different conflict management strategies and helps them understand when each is appropriate to use.
4. Leading Change
Every organization is susceptible to change, and field trainers often find themselves on the front lines of communicating change to their peers. Therefore, it’s vital that FTs understand what it means to be an effective change leader. Within your curriculum, provide FTs with a blueprint for being successful agents of change. This training should help them anticipate obstacles to organizational shifts and plan how to minimize or overcome them.
5. Receiving Feedback
While most FT training curriculums emphasize how field trainers should provide feedback to peers, they often overlooked the fact that FTs also require feedback themselves. The skill of asking for feedback — and receiving it well — is often forgotten in today’s workplace. Take the time to teach this skill to FTs with the goal of empowering them to create their own personal strategies for soliciting and receiving feedback from their sales leaders, training team contacts and peers.
By designing your FT curriculum to address both task-related skills and people skills, you’ll better prepare your incoming field trainers for success — and benefit your organization as a result.