Convincing Older Reps To Embrace Today’s Sales Technology

This is the first part of a three-part article about teaching veteran sales reps to use new sales technologies.

In the ever expanding universe of technology, keeping up with new programs or software can be daunting. This is true of workers both young and old, across all sorts of professions.

That includes jan/san distributor sales representatives, for whom enterprise resource planning software, manufacturers’ applications and websites, and mobile tech can prove challenging — particularly for older sales reps.

Robert Wendover is managing director for Common Sense Enterprises, Inc., Littleton, Colorado, a business that focuses on workforce transitions, including recruitment, employee retention and aiding in generational differences. He believes a lack of technological understanding sometimes plays a critical role in older employees not being able to make decisions.

The key for distributors is to understand that most older sales reps, by nature, are “digital immigrants,” as opposed to “digital natives.”

“Digital immigrants are people who came of age and learned how to make decisions and their reasoning skills prior to all the digital technology we’ve seen since about 2000 or so,” says Wendover. “The digital natives, of course, are the young people who have come into the workplace but have been immersed in [technology] since they were really just little kids. So, their comfort with using technology is so much better.”

Wendover believes that frustration over not understanding technology can be a barrier.

“If you think about it, the brain develops neural pathways, and those pathways are based on repetitive actions,” he says. “The neural pathways that a 50-something has developed over time are very well ingrained on how they think things through and reason and the logic that they use. Now, we’re asking them to overlay on top of that a series of applications that they have to learn, and they are not comfortable with it. But even when they get comfortable with it, it’s so much easier to just slip back into what they did for the first 50 years of their lives.”

Others say the “technology gap” is less about capability and more about desire, says Eric Cadell, president of operations at Dutch Hollow Janitorial Supplies, Belleville, Illinois. He says the older sales reps who don’t typically embrace technology are the same reps that simply don’t have the drive to improve.

“[They] are in what the industry kind of calls that ‘fat and happy’ stage,” says Cadell. “They are happy with what they have, and they are really not trying to grow.”

No matter the reason for this technology gap the truth is that technological understanding is a necessity in today’s sales landscape.

“So much of our industry has moved toward being technology driven to run our businesses and get data faster, because ultimately that is what our customers are looking for — the information that much faster,” says Cadell.

next page of this article:
Providing Technology Training For A Sales Team