Who are the Advanced Sellers?

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In the aftermath of the 2008 recession, many sales forces were right-sized in an effort to cut costs. As a result, many of the newer sales reps were phased out or their positions shifted to other channels such as inside sales. The primary group still standing are the advanced sellers, salespeople with several years of experience through the recession years while in the same position or industry.
While they can be seen as the ultimate survivors, these journeymen sellers face many new pressures in today’s selling environment such as:

Rising sales quotas as the number of sellers remains stagnant or is reduced

  • Selling the most complex products and services which carry higher price tags
  • The need to move their skills to the next level more quickly in order to achieve success and in some cases, to survive.

The learning dilemma for advanced sellers

A 2013 ASTD Study found that as salespeople gain more tenure, their participation in training decreases proportionately. This is largely due to the inability of training programs to move the needle. The lack of Return on Training Investment (ROTI) has led to a decrease in traditional learning activities especially for advanced salespeople. A major concern of advanced sellers is the prospect of having to give up valuable selling time to sit in a classroom or online training session. In many ways, this age-old battle of whether or not to take time away from selling for training is not much of a fight anymore. Companies have scaled back training and perhaps worse, the training that is offered may not be very useful to the advanced audience.

New Learning Methods Geared Towards the Advanced Learner

Have you ever been a part of a “best practices” event whereby the expert / top performer is asked questions in hopes of revealing their secrets to success for others to copy? Although there are a few tidbits and insights that may emerge, for the most part these activities are largely ineffective. One reason for this phenomenon can be found in several studies that suggest that experts often struggle to verbally express up to 70% of their thinking. This is due to the nature of tacit knowledge, which is implicit and largely subconscious.

Fortunately, many companies are discovering how to address the needs of advanced learners by using new training methods that focus on the following:

Implicit Learning – Science has helped us to find new ways of “setting the conditions” for implicit learning. One example is to engage with experts using a structured questioning approach. The following dialogue model can help train your brain to ask better questions and extract tacit knowledge from experts.

SituationQuestions that explore the expert’s situation awareness and recognition.


  • What made you think it was a (blank) situation?
  • How did you know to (blank)?
  • What were you thinking at the moment of (blank)?

SequenceQuestions that explore the order of decisions and actions the expert takes and why he or she took them in that manner?


  • Explain why you did (blank) first?
  • What could have happened had you not done (blank)
  • What might have changed your decision sequence if the situation were different?

RationaleQuestions that explore the reasoning the expert had for making his or her decisions


  • Why did you decide to (blank)?
  • Describe your thinking when you decided to (blank)
  • Why did you rule out (blank) or decide not to (blank) instead?

FormulationQuestions that extract tacit knowledge on how the expert arrived at his thinking or conclusion

  • How did you come up with that solution?
  • How long did it take you to come up with that?
  • What factors led you to your conclusion?

Learn While Working – There are structured activities that can be used to cultivate implicit learning without giving up valuable selling time. They involve no instruction and can be applied during routine work. Click here to learn more: http://goo.gl/9NDzie

These and other “Anytime Learning” strategies help the advanced seller grow while improving performance and results.

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