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Great Sales Training Comes From Skilled Trainers

Here is a question for trainers and entrepreneurs and those who lead them: How great (or not) are your skills in front of an audience of learners? Sales training is not just about the tools, the job aids, participant’s guides, the PowerPoint and the props.

Great sales training also is about your ability as a facilitator and communicator (and at times, entertainer). Great sales trainers have persuasive personalities.

In this month’s article about the CAT Scan for your sales training, we will look at the T, which stands for training skills. The right skills can turn a sales training session into a sales training experience.

When we use the word “experience,” it puts responsibility on the trainer to exhibit entertaining and persuasive platform skills, to perform and engage attendees, to enhance and embed the learning.

So just as good training puts attendees out of their comfort zone, trainers themselves can improve their personal performance by moving beyond their comfort zone and gaining the same platform skills displayed by outstanding actors, speakers, musicians and comedians.

The final piece of our CAT Scan diagnostic process is all about two things great trainers do to offer learners a memorable and high-impact experience.

They prepare as professionals. They perform as professionals.

1. Prepare As A Professional

Preparation involves making an ongoing investment in your career. When a trainer adopts the practices that help make the training experience dynamic, the event is made memorable for the students. Learning is more deeply embedded by replacing boredom with entertaining and engaging moments. This is not about getting silly during a session, but it is about keeping the training time upbeat, fast-moving and fun.

Top-notch training performers do not read the material. They know the content cold. They rehearse in front of a mirror (to eliminate bad gestures or nervous physical habits), in front of a camera or in front of a group of peers. They break down the material into manageable pieces for their practice sessions. This is also the time to add personal stories, appropriate news items and humor to support the content.

Know the audience by reviewing their profiles, and adjust the presentation to who is out there. Gather personal stories to provide concrete examples to the learning session.

Dress professionally. The first impression on learners is critical to credibility. Pay close attention to details. The biggest problem here? Guys with unpolished shoes.

Practice smiling. Practice vocal exercises. Develop the strength and stamina needed to conduct half-day and longer sessions, focus on clear enunciation of words, emphasizing specific words and phrases, pausing after important statements, and variety in volume and emphasis (to eliminate a boring monotone).

Do some warm-ups before practice and before the training session begins. Your training voice is an instrument that makes you money. Take good care of it.

Review speakers and entertainers whom you admire. Late night talk show hosts are incredibly skillful with audiences. Study their gestures, facial expressions, vocal variety and movement. Could you create your own David Letterman-style “Top Ten List”? How about a funny man-on-the-street video to support your ideas? Adopt ideas that improve the training experience.

Know your room and your equipment. Speaking of equipment, videotape your training sessions. Then watch the video with the sound turned off in order to study your gestures and movement. Listen to the sound without the video in order to critique your vocal skills.

One option: obtain acting and vocal training privately, at a local university or through coaches. The National Speakers Association is a good resource.

Attend a “Train the Trainer” workshop. The American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), a global training organization with 74,000 members, has an outstanding program. (I’m a little biased because I designed their sales training experience.) You would be wise to invest the time and brainpower into this resource from world-class training professionals.

My favorite training resource is the book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo (you’ll use up two highlighters on this masterful book).

Your preparation is now complete. It’s performance time!

2. Perform as a Pro

Performance is all about your time on the platform. During that time, you are a trainer, an educator and an entertainer. Your “performance” breathes life into the training content. Here are some tips for giving a memorable performance:

Smile! When you are enjoying yourself, you set the framework for the whole class to do it as well. Connect! Meet and greet attendees as they enter the room.

Your first two minutes on the platform are critical. Open with an insightful observation, a promise or a humorous anecdote that supports the training. (An example: “You made a great decision to be in this room today. Just the fact that you’re open to new learning means you can adopt what you’ll experience and go back to your jobs and use this investment to make more money as sales professionals.”)

Engage in your own positive self-talk throughout the session. (An example: “This is going to be a great experience, for me as well as my learners.”) Move! Don’t stand in one place. Walk into and connect with your learners. Sit down at times.

Make eye contact constantly. When someone else is speaking, give them your complete attention. Affirm comments and questions. Encourage participant interaction by thanking them for every contribution to the group. Failing to do this might be the biggest mistake trainers make. Always give some feedback to a comment made, before moving on. It’s respectful and it tells others that their ideas are welcome as well.

Put into play those movements, gestures and facial expressions you’ve adopted during your preparation time. Modulate your voice. Speak as if you are talking with a close friend, sometimes quietly with emphasis, sometimes louder with energy.

Exhibit posture that shows authority, success and strength. Move forward on points that are important to the learners. Pause frequently.

Be yourself! Banter. Read humorous material in order to stimulate your own sense of humor. Find places to insert some funny lines during your program. It has to be natural, not forced.

Trainers – like all professionals in business, academia and sports – need to hone their skills in order to give their audiences the best possible experience while accomplishing their mission to change behavior.

CAT Scan Wrap-up

In this series, you have learned the three foundational concepts that form great sales training.


Do you have the latest best practices in motivation and decision-making? For example, you can know exactly when to use Pain on a buyer and when to use Gain (or benefits). That’s worth adding into your selling system.


Do you design your training experiences to help participants change their behavior? I hope so, because most trainers out there are still preaching. And that means your sales professionals aren’t practicing the actual skills they need in order to make you both more money.


Do you give a great training presentation, including interactive elements, humor, video, music, exercises and more? Outstanding trainers know that memorable makes money.

Now it’s time to re-design! Develop that CAT scan of your own and begin to improve your sales team’s performance by truly training your selling professionals. 

Dan Seidman is the 2013 International Sales Training Leader of the Year (Stevie® Awards) and designer of the global sales training program for the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD). He is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Sales Training. Contact Dan, write to [email protected].

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