Alleviate Sales Training Pushback from Your Veteran Reps
Top performers are revered in many sales organizations. They should be.
In some cases, these top performing reps are seasoned veterans who have spent years with both the company and their customers.
Sometimes, they have become circumstantial top producers, producing at high levels due to circumstantial factors. This might include inheriting top-producing orphaned accounts due to turnover, having a handful of large, long-term clients that produce most of their quota, capitalizing on longevity and deep client relationships, or other such good fortune.
In other cases, these seasoned veterans have the right Sales DNA (think: “astronaut right stuff”), an extraordinarily strong skill set (sales mastery), and deep industry and product knowledge that is respected by their clients. They are true top performers who are responsible for their success and could replicate it again, in another set of circumstances.
Regardless of how they achieved their status, these top producers and top performers deliver results for your company. So, when they speak up about sales training, you should listen, right?
Of course, you should.
When Veterans Speak Out Against Sales Training
How should you handle it when your seasoned sales reps speak out against your sales training efforts, especially the implementation of a new sales methodology?
I will share our model for resolving concerns from Modern Sales Foundations, which is a helpful process. I’ll also share some rationale and additional approaches to consider, as you position to resolve (preferably) or side-step (temporarily) their concerns.
Let’s start with the model itself.
ACCRC: The Model for Resolving Concerns
Make an empathy statement acknowledging their viewpoint. You don’t need to agree to acknowledge them and their perspective. You just need to ensure they feel heard and understood. “You statements” (about them) are better than “I statements” (about you).
Ask questions to truly understand their concerns, complaints, point-of-view, and perspectives.
Important Note: In this model for resolving concerns, the Confirm step of ACC (Acknowledge, Clarify, and Confirm) occurs at the end, to verify that you have:
- Resolved their concern
- Addressed it well enough that they will move forward without a complete resolution
- Or, got their agreement to 1) consider your perspective as you have considered theirs, and 2) suspend judgment until they “see how it goes.”
This is where you identify and categorize the type of concern being expressed. You do this to select the best-possible approach to resolve the concern. (See below in Respond for the rationale.)
To effectively resolve concerns, you should adapt your approach based on the root cause of the concern, rather than having “stock answers.”
This is a check to see whether your response is understood, accepted, and has resolved the concern.
Formulating Reponses for Your Veteran Training Detractors
As mentioned above, you should adapt your approach based on the root cause of the concern. This time, we’ll leave off Disqualifier since that doesn’t fit the context for internal influence with your top performers.
Provide proof or evidence that reduces or eliminates skepticism.
This will vary based on what they are skeptical about. You adapt accordingly, providing whatever proof is relevant to decrease skepticism and increase belief and trust.
- If it’s about effectiveness, which is common, and you are working with a commercial training provider, ask them for cases or examples of what their training has helped others accomplish.
- If it’s about whether they will learn anything because they are so experienced, share some content of the program with them to get their opinion. Everyone does some things better than others, so you can try to pick something that might help them or surprise them. You can also use any comments from your other internal reviewers.
Some Other Approaches to Consider
To avoid or resolve the concerns that may arise with your top performers, here are some other approaches to consider.
I’ve often tried to engage these reps early, to foster buy-in. Often, if they see themselves in the content (“Okay, I’ve been doing that for years, it really does work”) they will support it, even if they don’t think they’ll learn something new.
In 37 years, I honestly cannot think of a time when a seasoned reps didn’t eventually come back to me and say something like, “I have to admit, I was skeptical at first and thought this would be a waste of my time, but that [XYZ content] was spot on and helpful.”
Turn Your Detractors into Advocates
Sometimes, how you handle these concerns is as much about you as it is about them. If you project confidence in your decision, display empathy, are sincerely curious, interact authentically and transparently, and seek first to understand before being understood, it will go a long way to working through concerns from your top reps. Combine that with the above model and perspectives, and you’ll have the best chance of creating long-term advocates from initial detractors.
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Modern Sales Foundations (MSF) is an end-to-end virtual sales training program that teaches sellers the buyer-centric strategies and approaches needed to excel in today’s marketplace.