Most salespeople hate role play even though it is one of the best tools to help them grow. Unfortunately, traditional role plays set up a salesperson to feel bad about themselves instead of learn.
We strongly suggest that managers be the salesperson when role playing, especially when working with new reps, for two reasons. First, playing salesperson allows a manager to demonstrate the behavior they expect of their reps in front of a prospect. Second, a manager shows their team that they’ve still got the skills to sell in the field.
Let’s address what role play really is; practise. Other professionals, like doctors, lawyers and accountants, call what they do “practise,” but for some reason most salespeople don’t make time to practise.
Recent research shows that general practise doesn’t really improve performance, but “deliberate” practise does. Deliberate practise is intense, focused and has a specific outcome for each practise session.
Opportunities for deliberate practise are easy to find if salespeople debrief every one of their sales meetings.
To get better results from your practices follow these four steps:
1. Set the ground rules up front – below are the four rules for practise that my President’s Club members created.
-Don’t be mean – to paraphrase David Sandler the worst person to role play with is a salesperson because they are just dumping all of their bad prospect experiences on you. Practise should be a safe place for each person to succeed and fail, not for one or both people to get their psychological needs met
-Don’t sabotage – the purpose is to practise as close to real as possible. General rule, if you haven’t had a prospect do something to you don’t do it to your partner in practise
-Keep going even if you think you screwed up – anyone who plays an instrument has heard this one. If you stop in the middle of the scene both you and your partner lose an opportunity to learn something further on in your practise
-Start only when everyone understands what the practise is about – pushing someone into a role play is like pushing someone into the deep end of the pool with ankle weights. Neither ends well.
2. Have a specific purpose – pick a specific skill or situations from your meeting debriefs that you believe will help you close more sales in the next 90 days if you improve it
3. Have a specific outcome –David Sandler’s first rule was “you have to learn to fail to win.” Having an outcome and not reaching it will put you farther ahead than someone who practices with no outcome
4. Debrief every practise – research shows that debriefing after practise can double retention. Keep the focus of the debrief understanding why the salesperson said or did something instead of attacking their behavior (e.g. “what caused you to say…?” instead of “when you said…”)
If you want to close more sales and put more money in your pocket make deliberate practise part of your weekly behavior.
Hamish Knox is a Sandler Trainer in Calgary, Alberta.