Effective Role Playing in Sales Training

September 25, 2012

Top salespeople approach their careers in a similar fashion as professional athletes. They practice, drill and rehearse all of their skills so that they can execute them without even thinking about it, and do not ignore any area of the sales process. It is useless for a salesperson to make a great presentation if she does not know how to close. And closing and getting the money will not lead to referrals unless proper account management is performed.

Each one of the top salesperson’s skills can be broken down into individual, trainable components, such as the greeting, matching body language, handling specific objections, elevator pitches and more. The most effective sales training method for teaching these skills is role playing.

Here are a few pointers to develop great role playing sessions.

Look, don’t listen

While salespeople can be asked what their biggest weaknesses are, sale trainers might not get honest answers. Also, if someone “knows” what is wrong with them, it usually isn’t what is truly wrong with them, or else it wouldn’t be a problem. This might seem unreal, until you observe salespeople going around in circles trying to fix what isn’t broken, such as their “poorly -designed website,” while completely ignoring obvious issues, such as the fact that they constantly interrupt prospects when they speak.

The philosophy to apply here is “look, don’t listen.” Sales managers and trainers should observe salespeople, listen on their calls when possible, and simply LOOK at what they are doing. If the sales manager or trainer is on the ball, glaring errors will come to light, and these are the things that should be role played in order to have effective sales training sessions.

Train with reality

Role play tends to degenerate into silliness when unreal situations are presented. Salespeople might also do a poor job due to competitiveness (why help a competing salesperson in the company get better?) or lack of interest. These make conducting effective sales training difficult.

The solutions are twofold:

• Make the situations to be drilled as real as possible. Sales managers might have one of their salespeople share a problematic transaction and how they solved it, or if they did not solve it, the class can brainstorm how they might do so, and role play the solution.

• Use other staff or, if the budget allows, actors to act as clients. Using people other than salespeople can increase the interest level of the class and add to the reality of the role playing.

Important skills

The following are good skills to include in every role playing regimen for effective sales training.

• Handling objections. There are specific things to say in response to certain objections which always come up. Make sure these words are learned, and that the tendency to argue with customers is drilled away.

• Group presentation skills. Have each salesperson stand up in front of the class and simply rehearse the way they present to, say, a boardroom full of executives. This is usually ten times more nerve wracking than dealing with actual customers, as each salesperson is acutely aware that everything they say or do is being judged by their peers. If a salesperson can survive this ordeal without having a nervous breakdown, they are ready to take on live customers.

• Closing. Of vital importance is to train salespeople to keep quiet once a closing question is asked. And once the customer buys, make sure the salespeople do not “unclose” the deal with further idle talk.

Effective sales training has one goal: improving real-world skills to increase sales. If this is kept in mind, role playing cannot help but improve revenue.