Having experienced sales professionals on your team can be a blessing. The reason is obvious. They have the knowledge, the confidence and the expertise to do the job and bring in more business. With years of practice under their belt, tenured sales reps know how to prospect, approach and pre-qualify potential buyers, give winning presentations and close deals. They rely on proven strategies that served them well in the past and enabled them to generate hefty profits for their organization. In fact, many of them played an integral part in building their company and contributing to its success. They showed loyalty and proved their worth over and over again, which should never be taken for granted by sales executives.
However, some sales managers and executives don’t realize that with experience come challenges. These challenges cannot be swept under the rug and should be addressed as soon as possible before snowballing into a crisis. In most cases, long-term performers are reluctant to get out of their comfort zone, embrace change or subscribe to a new sales philosophy, which makes them a liability rather than an asset. Some of them seem to be intimidated by new technologies. Others may be put off by the prospect of working under new leadership. If they start slacking off, falling behind or losing interest in their job, it may set the wrong tone for the rest of the team and worsen staff morale. What’s more, resistance to change, a “know-it-all” attitude and an old way of thinking may lead to serious disagreements with the management and result in stalemate.
In this article we provide specific suggestions on how to manage, retain and motivate long-term sales reps, avoid potential confrontations, and benefit from their enormous expertise, talents and capabilities.
If the spark is gone, find ways to reignite the fire
Top-performing sales executives tend to come up with creative incentives to encourage new behaviors and a new way of thinking among long-term employees. What can you do to “rejuvenate” their spirit and reawaken their enthusiasm? Spend some time brainstorming and ask yourself the following questions:
- How do you encourage them to explore new technologies? And what is the best way to communicate the value and importance of new technical solutions available to them?
- Can you increase sales commissions if they implement new behaviors and new strategies? By how much?
- Would it be possible to revise your compensation plan for long-term sales reps and offer additional perks, incentives and rewards?
Here is what they need to know: Will it make their lives easier? Will it help them get the job done faster, save time and earn more money? If they can clearly see the advantages of upgrading their skills, they may be willing to overcome their fear of technology and get up to speed.
It is never too late “to teach an old dog new tricks”
There is a lot you can do to stimulate new behaviors, thoughts and ideas. Set the bar higher, introduce new performance standards and help your “veterans” refresh their action plan. Regularly organize staff meetings and one-on-one coaching sessions where you can discuss new cross-sell and up-sell strategies, engage in role playing, test a novel approach, and offer constructive feedback. These activities should NOT be reserved only for the rookies. Monthly, weekly or bi-weekly training and reinforcement sessions are equally beneficial to long-term employees. You may even consider the possibility of introducing a few advanced courses, specifically designed for tenured sales reps.
If you are in the process of implementing a new CRM, make sure everyone knows how to use it. Review key features and clearly explain to each sales rep (veterans and new hires alike) how to create new opportunities, keep track of details, stay organized and manage contacts. Some older sales reps may require more time to wrap their minds around the new system.
While introducing a new approach, procedure or behavior, ensure that every sales professional knows exactly what is going on and plays by the same rules. Everyone should be fully committed to changes taking place at your organization. It will create peer pressure and even prompt some of the most obstinate individuals to get on board.
Find the time to laud their accomplishments
When it comes to long-term and high-performing sales professionals, don’t spare the praise. Publicly acknowledge their new achievements and share their success stories with everyone on your sales team. Don’t forget to mention that it’s not only the industry experience that keeps them going; staying current on new trends, strategies and technologies is what enables them to reach new heights, year after year.
Your veteran sales reps worked very hard to get to where they are. What’s more, many of them have made a lot of sacrifices to help you grow your business. After years with your organization, they don’t want to feel invisible, neglected and ignored. Give them the attention and recognition they deserve, without taking anything for granted or fully focusing on new hires. While hand-holding is no longer necessary, let them know that their presence is essential to your company’s success. Sometimes, a little bit of that can go a long way.
Bottomline: If you want to stay competitive, always take the time to re-evaluate your long-term sales reps. Provide the tools, training and reinforcement they need to stay on top of things. Make sure they are aware of all the new trends and technologies emerging in the market and continue to sell with the same amount of passion and intensity. Oftentimes, it is an advantage to have tenured sales reps working for you. The other side of the coin is that the old strategies may no longer have the same impact. Therefore, your job is not only to show your appreciation for their input and hard work, but also train, educate and encourage them to brush up on their skills and embrace change.