Practice can certainly enhance salesperson performance, but practicing only when in front of the customer can be an embarrassing and costly misstep; a better option: sales roleplaying beforehand. Here’s why that can be essential to better sales performance and a higher sales conversion rate:
An Instant Advantage
It’s been estimated that no more than one of every five sales teams practices roleplaying. If your team is among that 20%, you’ve got an instant advantage over your competitors who get their sales performance lessons only during high-pressure customer-facing meetings.
Of course, your advantage can be amplified even more if your roleplaying exercises are carefully planned and strategically implemented for learning outcomes that can enhance sales performance when it matters most. Here’s how to optimize your sales roleplaying:
Test to Identify Needed Training
Roleplaying provides high engagement during learning. It puts the learner in position to be responsible for much of the roleplay experience. But everyone involved should understand from the beginning that the objective is not to find fault or break down the spirit of the salesperson. Instead, the goal should be to identify areas for improvement and create opportunities for additional training to address any potential sales performance deficiencies. Roleplaying isn’t about catching your salespeople doing something wrong; it is about helping them be the best they can be.
Start with Less Pressure
One of the benefits of sales training via roleplaying is that it reduces the impact of missteps that could be catastrophic in the “real world”. Thus, the salespeople involved in the training should feel a lower amount of stress. That’s not to say that the roleplaying shouldn’t be challenging, however. In fact, while simulating the anticipated situation, it should include possible tough customer objections and even tense interpersonal exchanges. The stakes in the roleplaying session might not be astronomical, but the stakes in the actual sales meeting will be higher, indeed. Make the roleplaying realistic, but realistically tough.
Stay in Character
Effective sales roleplaying ideally includes three participants in the following roles : the salesperson, the customer, and an observer. During the roleplaying session, it is important for each of these participants to remain in character until the debriefing period. Why is this important? Because in the actual sales situation the salesperson will not have the luxury of any “do-overs”. He can’t merely say, “Wait, let me start that over,” or “Would it have been better if I said it this way?” During the meeting with the prospect, any adjustments to the sales approach will have to be made in the moment, so that is the best way to carry out the roleplaying exercise as well. The observer should only step in to provide guidance if the salesperson is truly struggling during a portion of the mock selling situation. This will reduce the rising pressure and help the salesperson maintain his pride. In difficult situations a brief “timeout” might be needed to help reset the situation, but these interruptions should be the infrequent exceptions.
During the sales roleplaying session, the observer should take notes. These will come in handy at the end of the session when debriefing occurs.
During the debriefing, the participants will share how they thought the session went, including positive feedback and constructive criticisms. The best way to share these observations is via the “sandwich” method: a positive comment followed by a constructive criticism followed by another positive comment. This will help keep the tone of the meeting instructional but not overly negative.
It is important for the debriefing to take place in this order:
1. The salesperson shares his or her impressions of the mock session
2. The “customer” offers critique from that perspective
3. The observer – essentially a neutral party – shares insights from that impartial perspective
It is especially important that the salesperson go first. Because the salesperson may already recognize problem areas, there is no need for the others to bring those up except to confirm the trouble spots. (In fact, a good rule-of-thumb for roleplaying sessions is that once a criticism has been raised and discussed, the others can’t revisit this problem area when it is their turn.) Sometimes, a salesperson may think a portion of the session was problematic, but the others didn’t peg that as an issue. This helps the salesperson zero in on what really matters.
As I mentioned in my book, Beyond the Mountaintop: Observations on Selling, Living and Achieving, we’ve been told that practice makes perfect. Hall of Fame NFL coach Vince Lombardi took it even further when he said, “only perfect practice makes perfect.” But just as a football team doesn’t hone its craft in front of a packed stadium, neither should salespeople wait until meeting with the customer to practice selling scenarios. That’s why, with one chance to make a good impression with the customer, sales roleplaying can be a critical competitive advantage for sales success.
If you’d like to learn more about how to utilize sales roleplaying for your sales team, contact Sales Xceleration today at 844.874.7253. Our licensed Advisors can help you optimize sales performance through roleplaying and other highly effective sales training methods.