How to Get Sales Training Buy-in From Salespeople

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If you’ve been in sales training and enablement for a minute, you’ve encountered this challenge: How do you engage those who don’t wish to be there? 

Sometimes the “crusty experts” who resist training are the longest-tenured, sometimes the highest performers, often just a random non-believer or egoist. So how do you handle them? I have three sure-fire solutions that work like a charm when it comes to getting sales training buy-in from your reps

1. Let them go. No, really. Nowhere in your job description does it say your job is to sell the Kool-Aid to the non-thirsty. Are you graded on attendance? This approach ends one of two ways:

    1. They’re grateful to leave and the rest of class is happy to see them go.
    2. They realize they’re being unprofessional and backpedal themselves right into your front row. 

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Here’s what to say (at first break/quiet work opportunity): 

“Ethan, do you have a moment? Pop into the hall/breakout room with me? Hey, I feel like I’m wasting your time. I’ve heard a few comments about my approach and your busy schedule, and I just want to remind you that this is optional. If ongoing training isn’t for you or this doesn’t work for you, I’m the last person who is going to keep you.”

If the backpedaling begins in earnest and you really want them gone, try this:

“Actually, Ethan, what I’m suggesting is no longer a choice. The disruptions are now affecting the whole class and I’d appreciate it if you’d grab your stuff and maybe try next time this is offered. Appreciate it.”

Be careful to stay cool. You don’t need to offer lots of evidence he’s being rude, just let him know you noticed and give him the out.

If you want to keep him, then try something simple like:

“Hey, I get busy. You’re welcome to stay but I need you to really be here and act like a role model to…” There’s some good stuff here and I’d love your input if you can get present and stop the commentary maybe?”

2. Stroke that ego! As soon as you see the attitude, assume they’re a top performer superstar and pull their story and tip for the class. “Jane, what do you think about storytelling during discovery, have you seen it work?” 

Note: For this to work, we want to pick something where Jane will agree AND give her narrow guardrails, OK? Otherwise, you’ve handed Jane the stage to derail you in front of the entire class on nearly any subject she chooses.

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What NOT to say:

“Jane, What do you think” 

This invites her to wax on about nearly anything. Good luck getting the spotlight off her and her amazing self.

Try this instead:

“Jane, have you ever tried using the second step of the objections process? I bet you have a great story”

This should give her a headstart in proving your point. Assume she will agree with you, give her a narrow focus, and specific instructions so she knows how long she has the green light. One of two things happens next:

  • “Thanks, LB. Yeah, I’ve totally seen this work…this one time I was a hero…”
  • “Nope, in my experience this happens instead…”

If I get the latter, I get a few details and then interrupt (stop her momentum before it gets worse) and ask the class, “Do you all agree? Raise your hand if there is no second step of this process? What happens instead?” Now quickly organize into a positive direction. You don’t want ten individual stories, you want a vote so you know where to go. Follow up with, “OK, how can we pivot these four steps to work in this situation?”

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In other words, be ready to pivot and engage their expertise. Maybe Jane is actually right! If she isn’t, the class will shut it down and pop that inflated ego balloon.

The second benefit of this approach is the learning we do by abandoning script/trainers’ notes. Your credibility will soar with your ability to zig-zag your way to a custom solution the class experts endorse.

3. Option three is best or a 1:1 coaching approach vs. classroom. It’s two steps:

  1. Enroll their help
  2. Call them perfect

This approach combines a little of the psychology of options one and two, and almost always lands with the resistant egoist shifting into reverse and backing right into helping you out! Here’s how it works:

Adam: “Do we really need to do this? I’ve got so much to get done.”

You: “No man, we totally don’t! I’m 100% not here to tell you how to get better. You’re the best there is! I was more hoping you could show me what it should sound like in a few of these areas. Talk me through the ultimate demo. How do you kick it off?” 

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Let the ego stroking ensue – smile, nod, clarify, maybe even a few ooohs and ahhhs – then go in for the kill:

“Would you be willing to do some coaching on this? I’d love to have some of the new guys hear this. Maybe we can book a session with 2-3 guys and have you do some role plays?”

He’s taken the bait, now it’s time to reel him in!

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In front of the group, find an opportunity to call Adam perfect. You’ll have to move out of his way he’ll be shifting so fast. 

Try this:

“Group, this is Adam and he’s one of our top 10% around here. 10%?! Probably 1%! I heard his demo kickoff and asked him to share it with you all. Seriously, ya’l’ need to keep your eye on this guy. Adam, you must literally be the perfect Account Executive.”

Wait for it…

Adam’s reply will sound like, “Oh, gosh no. I’m far from perfect! I’ve just been doing this a while.”

I’m humble and fabulous, and terribly good-looking.

Now you have a chance to ask what he’s working on and his brain will search for and find an answer in front of the group (or 1:1). 

Try something like, “Whatever, humble! No, I really love that even the best are always striving to be better. That’s what makes the greats great right? Tell us about the skills you’re focused on improving right now?” 

Pretty soon he’s a coaching role model, assistant coach, and your best friend.

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Have you found a theme? There are plenty of people who may not believe in sales training and coaching and it’s usually ego-related. They’re feeling under-recognized for their skill and maybe a little insulted someone sent you to teach them anything. As soon as we reverse this and give them some spotlight, recognition, and control, the defensiveness deflates and they shape up. They will also become a big YOU fan and you can count on them to help and sing your praises.

Most of the time. (Then I recommend choice one!) 

Good luck! 

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