Vince Lombardi, the famous football coach, used to say, “Football is about blocking and tackling. The team that blocks and tackles better than their opponent will probably win the game.” Translation ... if you want to win, you’ve gotta master the basics. How do you do that? Three words: practise, practise, practise.
The same applies to sales, where practising is called “role-playing”.
Role-playing is one of the most potent tools there is for driving sales results. It’s the easiest and most effective way to practise skills, try new approaches and build confidence.
That’s why the best sales leaders include role-playing on a regular basis in their team meetings, for young reps and seasoned pros alike.
It makes perfect sense. The worst place to practise sales skills is in front of the customer. Just like a football team doesn’t hone its craft in front of a packed stadium, salespeople need to practise out of the limelight. The more successful they are in the office, the more likely their success in the field.
As an added benefit, role-playing sessions when done right are a lot of fun and help your team build an esprit de corps as they learn together.
Despite these benefits, it’s estimated that only 21% of sales teams use role-playing as a training tool. But therein lies an opportunity for you if you incorporate it into your team meetings now.
Here are my Top 10 tips to make your role-playing sessions lots of fun and incredibly productive.
- Split role-playing between sales peers and sales management
Role-playing groups should contain both salespeople and sales managers so that they reflect different levels of approach and experience. Managers and team members can take turns being the buyer.
- Make it safe
For some people, role-playing can feel threatening and embarrassing. To raise the “safety” level, emphasize that learning by making mistakes is part of the process. Keep groups small -- three people is ideal – so that everyone has a chance to play roles as salesperson, customer and observer. Make the first role-play an experiment.
- Debrief . . . with kindness and support
At the end of each role-play, the observer should facilitate the debrief, asking the salesperson what went well and what could change the next time. Do not let the salesperson be too self-critical. Ask the customer what the salesperson did that was helpful, and offer ONE suggestion for improvement. Make sure the debrief is always kept constructive.
- Add some fun…
Ask each group to vote on its own best role-play and award prizes. Or give prizes all around in a variety of fun categories, even to those salespeople who crashed and burned!
- …but never make role-playing too easy
Salespeople must learn to be able to handle pressure and stress in the form of questions from prospects about value, price, competitive positioning and feature/function offers. Make sure your role-playing sessions prepare your reps for any situation.
- Role-play by title of buyers
The way you sell to a CFO of a Fortune 1000 firm is different than selling to the president of a small private firm. During role-playing exercises, switch around the buyer titles.
- Make a list of your top ten sales objections and use them
Note and make use of your toughest sales objections during role-playing sessions. Your team will get practice in learning how to manage a range of buyer expectations.
- Redirect straying conversations back to the sales process
Prospects can change subjects and "steer" salespeople away from the sales conversation to chit-chat. Team members can use role-playing to see how quickly they can swing the conversation back to a discussion about relevant business issues.
- Lights, Camera, Action
Recording the role playing sessions can dramatically increase their effectiveness. Place the camera on a tripod in the back of the room and have the observer turn it on and off. Record each of their role-plays and the following discussion. Then give a copy to each participant so that they can later review and learn from each of their role-playing situations.
- Document strengths and weaknesses
Keep a record of each salesperson’s strengths and weaknesses during each role-playing session so you can build on the information in follow-up exercises. Understanding and managing your team's skill sets will help them hit their sales quota faster.
Remember -- to achieve greater success, role-play more!
Nicki Weiss is President and Co-founder of the SalesWise Academy (www.saleswiseacademy.com), an innovative, affordable online sales development program designed for sales leaders and teams that sell technical or complex products and services. SalesWise Academy trains more effectively by teaching the way adults learn best, in frequent, “bite-sized” lessons, delivered via 10-minute audio podcasts and support materials to members’ inboxes every two weeks.