A 19th-century physician’s advice might, strangely enough, be the best medicine for leaders developing successful 21st-century sales teams.

You probably don’t recognize his name — Dr. William Osler — but you’re likely familiar with his legacy. As the founding physician-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Osler spent his professional life creating a training regimen around the idea that the hospital is the best classroom for doctors-to-be.

The doctor’s three-day-a-week ward rounds with students were legendary. By combining on-the-job instruction with direct yet supportive feedback, Osler grew the university hospital into one of the nation’s most prestigious medical institutions.

Given today’s high-stakes battle to attract and retain sales talent, Osler’s “teach first” philosophy is back in vogue. Nearly three-quarters of employees say they’d be more likely to stay with an organization that recognizes their potential, but just 13 percent believe their company is doing so today.

Dissecting Sales Training Success

Based on training experiences collected during my two-decade sales career and a healthy dose of inspiration from Dr. O, this is the anatomy of my teach-first strategy:

1. Show them how it’s done.

Our new hires go through a comprehensive six-week program that covers everything from products to systems to culture. Take a building-block approach: Just as doctors-to-be watch dozens of consultations before trying anything themselves, we start by having sales trainees do data input while a leader does the talking on calls. Once new associates get comfortable with your systems, they can then start “seeing patients.”

2. Make rounds as a team.

When taking new doctors around the hospital, Osler paired high expectations with accessible mentorship. So when our salespeople start their first rounds with customers, managers and mentors provide visible leadership with on-call support and post-call coaching.

Give ride-along experiences to relax new associates. Modeling how to achieve success establishes credibility and trust, and it gives trainees real-life experiences to draw upon once they’re servicing customers solo.

3. Don’t lecture — discuss.

Whether you’re training doctors or salespeople, dialogue is vital. The Johns Hopkins physician famously forsook boring classroom lectures — the standard of the day — in favor of real-world experiences as opportunities for discussion.

After customer calls and presentations, our sales leaders open the floor for discussion and give every person the chance to share what they learned. Tough questions are encouraged — not shied away from — and if our leaders don’t know the answer, they work to discover it together with the team member. “The dry formal lecture never… touches the heart,” Osler quipped wisely, “but it is in [the] conversational method of the seminar that the enthusiasm of the teacher becomes contagious.”

4. Coach regularly and informally.

Coaching doesn’t just happen: Sales leaders must make time for employee education, just as they do for any other responsibility. Osler did this informally by inviting students to dinner and coffee on Saturday evenings, which invariably became discussions about medicine and medical history

My colleagues and I carve time out of our calendars each month for formal trainings, but we also perform informal tutoring daily, according to consultants’ and customers’ needs. This isn’t just for new hires, either: We coach veterans, too, when necessary. Continuous education keeps our team accountable, and it builds relationships so critiques inspire respect rather than fear.

What’s your sales training secret? Share your own prescription for success in the comments below.