As our society moves toward electronic platforms, web-based learning, and the use of online or mobile apps to complete business processes, we often assume that our sales force has the same base of technological skills that we do. If your sales force, however, is reflective of your consumer population, and that consumer population is shopping in the Medicare market, that assumption may not be valid.

Often, unless there is a corporate culture that encourages the deliberate questioning and evaluation of technology skills, we may not have realized that their ability to log into a webinar platform may be the peak of an employee’s technology skills and that he or she may not adequately demonstrate the necessary behaviors to transition to and succeed on mobile apps and web-based sales platforms.

One of the keys to success in sales is having salespeople who can relate to your consumers. In the Medicare and retirement markets, that may mean that many of your sales personnel are over 55 years of age and might not have boarded the internet and technology bus at the same stop as other members of your workforce. So, how do you ensure, to the extent that it is reasonably possible, that your sales team is technologically savvy when you roll out new web or app-based processes? Here are four tips.

1. Assume nothing when it comes to tech skills.

Many salespeople have become successful with nothing more than the gift of communication, empathy and the ability to complete a paper contract. Baby boomer C-suite leaders may believe that because they are proficient with technology, others of their age are, too. Until you ask and, more importantly, check, you won’t know if that assumption is true. You can’t assume that because an employee can successfully log on to a webinar to access training he or she will be able to navigate through various webpages or complete basic troubleshooting.

2. Spend some time on the WIIFM (“what’s in it for me”).

If your sales team has been successful up to this point doing it “The Old Way,” why should they change? While it’s certainly a truism that online and mobile technology has generated cost savings and increased productivity in many areas, those increased efficiencies may not be readily apparent to the group you’re trying convince. Spend some time explaining how the new processes will make it better, faster, stronger (to paraphrase a 1970s TV show). Better yet, record a promotional video with someone in your target audience who is an early adopter and enthusiastic supporter. The ability to relate to the consumer is a huge asset in sales, and you’re trying to sell a new process to your team.

3. Be ready for pushback, and respond appropriately.

You may encounter comments like, “I’m too old to learn” or, “I just don’t get this new stuff.” Don’t laugh them off or become frustrated. Dive into the reasons behind those comments, and take the time to reassure employees that as long as they have the will to learn, you have the skill to teach them. At my organization, the comment, “I can teach skill; I can’t teach will. If you have the will to learn, I have the skill to help you understand” has proven helpful.

4. Be ready to spend some one-on-one face time with your target audience.

Web-based training is a great way to increase the bang from your buck, and the money and time spent on making sure your team really understands and will use the software is an important investment. In a face-to-face encounter, trainers have the opportunity to spot-check, walk around and actually see what the learner is doing. If you have a training website or app running, a simple question – “Does your screen look like mine?” – will often quickly determine where the learners are and how the training is actually going. For many older learners, having someone who can quietly point out where they’ve gone astray and get them back on track has value that, while hard to quantify on an expense report, pays a huge return on the personal investment side of the spreadsheet.

Articles abound on how the workforce is aging, and we will have to keep training our teams in new methodologies, skills, attitudes and technologies. Can old dogs be taught new tricks? Certainly – as long as we remember that not everyone knows what we know, and it’s our job as learning professionals to ensure that as long as they have the will to learn, we have the skills to train them.

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