Part two of this three-part article discusses tech training for older sales reps.

Cadell says his company employs two sales team members who are part of an older generation.

“Both of them have embraced technology wonderfully,” he says. “They’ve had no problem [learning], and they understand that this is what their customers want.”

Cadell’s two older sales reps may call and ask questions, but they want to learn the new technologies — because it’s a necessity.

In terms of the technology itself, a lot has shifted to mobile platforms — iPads or other tablets, and smartphones — and videos of products, so that this information can be accessed anywhere, says Cadell.

New technology has gone out of its way to improve user functionality, but distributors can help by ensuring that the technology used by older sales reps is actually worthwhile and is simple enough that the sales reps will appreciate how it makes their jobs easier.

“Most of the ERP systems ... have a portal just for salespeople that lets them click on a button, and it shows them a customer; and another button shows them when that customer is due to order things,” says Cadell. “Click on another, and you can see what a customer normally buys, and it can send quotes out. It’s very user friendly for them to be able to use, because they don’t need the intricacies of all this back-end reporting and all this other stuff that this software can do.”

As simple as some of the newer sales technologies have become, hands-on training is still important, says Cadell.

“Repetition is the best possible thing,” he says.

Wendover advises businesses to use a three-step process to help older sales reps learn technology. First, he believes distribution leadership needs to sell its employees on the concept that technology is useful.

“If I have been selling the same way on a regular basis for a long period of time, and I know what works for me, you’ve got to sell me on the idea that this technology is going to be better than what I’ve had in my head for the past 30 years,” says Wendover.

The second step is to provide the employee with the means to learn new technology. The most effective way is by creating a video or instructional manual going over the process involved in using a specific application.

“Here’s the magic behind it: I can post something like that to YouTube or Vimeo, and then I can send you the link ... and any time you need to brush up on this or relearn it because you don’t use it all the time … you can use this,” says Wendover.

The third step is enforcing it. Wendover cautions business owners to not just turn younger workers into full-time tech support for the older generation.

“What I generally recommend is to find the young person who seems to be the most capable — or better still, find the [Baby] Boomer who seems the most capable — and is happy to help peers and making it part of their responsibility to be a ‘help desk’ to some degree,” he says. “But that person, at the same time, has to draw a line someplace, because you’re going to have some people who come there every five seconds and ask how to do something.”