How to Engage and Train an Experienced Salesperson
One of the greatest challenges many sales training initiatives face is that the participants (sales professionals) often feel that they don’t need more sales training. Before addressing this challenge, it is important to understand why they may have this visceral negative (and in some cases well placed) reaction.
Here are a few of the most common objections:
Experience: "I’ve been selling this way for years”
This is often raised by sales veterans who have great industry knowledge and established relationships. What they are likely missing when they raise this objection is that the relationship between customers and sales professionals has shifted over the last several years as buyers have become more enabled. As such, the skills required to create the most value for clients have evolved accordingly. In many cases, and experienced salesperson may also be concerned that the “role plays” will be uncomfortable and expose weaknesses in their selling skills.
Repetitive: “I’ve already attended sales training”
For many sales professionals, this is a reality. They have attended one or more flavors of sales training over the years and wonder why this training program will be different or better than the other “events” they attended. Based on my experience, this is a legitimate concern. If the training is positioned as an event, it will not likely have any lasting impact on sales performance.
Not Relevant: “This is a waste of my time”
Poorly designed and/or delivered sales training can in fact be boring. This is especially true if the training isn’t customized to address real world selling situations and facilitated in a manner that keeps participants engaged. There is nothing more frustrating to a high paced sales professional than sitting through a full-day seminar where they have to figure out how the training applies to them.
Addressing Potential Training Concerns
To eliminate this friction, it is important is to make sure that these and other potential concerns are addressed up front in the design and positioning of the training. Here are few recommendations:
Determine Success Metrics
Determine program goals and metrics for success. It is important to clearly articulate what sales professionals will learn to do differently or better and why this is important. It is also essential to have a system in place to measure skills adoption.
Get Stakeholders Involved
Get input from sales managers and participants to establish program relevancy and buy-in. This includes asking them for their view on industry trends, customer requirements, competitive positioning, and challenging selling situations.
Line up executive sponsors to communicate the importance of the project and how it aligns with the company’s business strategy.
Clearly determine and communicate what is going to take place before, during, and after training (see examples below).
- Before: Consultation, assessment, and customization
- During: Highly interactive and engaging workshops focused on skills application
- After: Small group reinforcement and personalized coaching focused on skills adoption and sustainability
In addition, emphasize that skills development is ongoing and that the best athletes in the world spend a significant amount of time training and lead by example.
About Norman Behar
Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.