Summary:One of the earliest steps in my professional journey — a stint as an SAT and ACT preparation instructor for college-bound students — has unexpectedly prepared me for training sales talent. Here’s what standardized test prep has in common with coaching sales professionals in high-pressure settings.
As a college freshman, choosing to teach SAT and ACT test preparation courses to high schoolers was pretty much a no-brainer. It offered scheduling flexibility and a convenient location less than a mile from campus. Plus, it paid well. I continued teaching part-time even after I graduated.
After several years of teaching SAT prep classes, I realized that how I taught had a direct effect on the success of my test-takers. If I communicated effectively, worked to actually understand my students, exhibited interpersonal skills, and demonstrated patience, my students tended to do better. I never forgot that lesson, and it became even more relevant after I entered the emerging, fast-paced software-as-a-service industry and started training salespeople.
Effective sales teams are always learning. However, it takes a willing, able mentor to teach people how to not only absorb facts, but also to apply them effectively to snag and retain clients. To teach effectively, it’s important to understand how people learn and how quickly they do so. The reality is that everyone learns at a different rate, and you can’t usually make James learn more quickly than Aubrey if that’s not his speed. At the same time, almost everyone learns faster by doing versus listening, so guided repetition with tons of feedback is key — no matter who’s in the student seat.
When you pair a trainer who has a strong desire to teach with salespeople who are eager to build their skills, you can jump-start any corporate sales team and keep the team members reaching for better “scores.”