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Overcoming Seasoned Sales Reps Resistance to Training

By Ray Makela

On this episode, Muralidhar Rao, CEO, Executive Education, Regenesys Business School, India asks: How do you deal with the attitude of "I already know it all' among seasoned sales people and get them to learn new skills that are vital for dealing with a changing marketplace? Watch this video to learn how to eliminate friction from this common sales training challenge and get seasoned participants engaged in the training.

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Video Summary

It’s a common occurrence in the sales training world: The seasoned and experienced sales rep isn’t sure the training has anything to offer them. These people are sometimes referred to as “hostages” because they feel like they’re being held hostage in the classroom when they would prefer to be selling.

Here are five things you can do to better engage these reps and get them on board with sales training.

1) Understand the Audience: It’s important to think about why these reps might express resistance to training. Here are some common scenarios:

  • They’ve been through sales training before
  • Previous training sessions weren’t that successful
  • They think it will be a waste of time
  • They feel that they already know what works
  • They don’t want to change their ways
  • They’re already hitting their quota
  • Training takes them out of the field
  • It’s getting towards the end of the quarter and they have deals they want to work on
  • They wonder what the sales trainer can possibly teach them

Once you know the basis for their resistance, it’s important to point out that they will benefit from learning selling skills that are consistent with changes in the marketplace.

Sales isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago. In today’s environment, buyers are more connected, informed, and much further along in the sales process before they engage with a rep. Techniques that worked a few years ago may no longer be relevant.

2) Get Stakeholders Involved: It’s also important to engage the leadership from the very start. Ensure that the leadership is on board with the training objectives and outcomes that are expected of the program. Before training begins, have them communicate why it’s important and why they want their sales reps engaged.

3) Clarify Expectations: It’s important to communicate the desired objectives and outcomes before the training starts so that sales reps understand the value the training will provide.

4) Enlist Seasoned Reps: If you know you’re going to have some experienced reps that are resistant to training, have the sales trainer enlist those reps to help train others. Ask them to share their experiences and expertise to not only get them involved in training but to share their best practices with the rest of the team.

5) Treat Them Like the Star Athlete: Elevate participation and involvement by treating seasoned reps like star athletes. Think about it this way: Star athletes still are often the first to practice and are among the hardest workers. If you’re able to get this philosophy across to your reluctant reps, they’ll come to understand that even the best performers can still improve.

SRG Insights is a Q&A video series where we answer your questions on the topics of sales, sales management, sales coaching, and sales training. Featuring sales experts with over 25 years of sales and sales management experience.  

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Learn how to transition star sales reps into high-performing sales managers

About Ray Makela

Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.

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