In an earlier post, I reported on a list of the top seven excuses for not training salespeople. Here’s the one that gets my blood boiling the most: “My reps don’t want to learn.” Or, as it’s sometimes phrased: “My reps don’t need to learn.”
The argument usually goes something like this: “We hire experienced reps and pay them top dollar. They’re professionals, so we don’t need to train them on selling skills. And if we tried, they’d be insulted.”
That argument might make more sense if other professionals — you know, those people with letters like M.D., J.D. and R.N. after their names — didn’t engage in lifelong learning. In fact, they don’t have a choice. If you want to continue practicing medicine, law or nursing — or any other profession — you have to engage in continuing education. Otherwise, the state takes away your license.
Makes sense to me as a consumer. If I’m going to see a doctor, I don’t want to think, “Well, the last time she learned anything new was in her residency back in 1988.” If I’m consulting a lawyer, I’d kind of like to know that he knows what laws have actually been enacted since he strolled down the aisle in a cap and gown. Granted, you’ll hear professionals grousing about meeting their CE requirements. But they do it anyway. And for me, the consumer, I can’t see a downside.
So who’s the consumer of the professional services that salespeople provide? Why, it’s the sales managers and organizations who pay them. If it were me spending top dollar for such services, I’d want to know that these professionals are keeping their skills sharp. In fact, I’d insist on it.
Besides which, I think this whole argument is a red herring for the real issue. I’ve never met a truly professional salesperson who doesn’t want to get even better at his or her craft. That’s what makes them so good in the first place. The real problem is managers who don’t want to take the time to train their people, or don’t know how to do it. When managers say, “My people don’t want/need training,” it’s an attempt to let themselves off the hook. But it’s a short-sighted approach. After all, managers are accountable for the performance of their people. And the best way I know to improve that performance is through training.
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