Sales Role Playing

Why Sales Outsourcing Experts Recommend Role Playing as a Training Tool

If you have a sales team, one of the most effective training tools you have at your disposal is role playing. Role playing can cement key training concepts and techniques, help break the ice for your sales team, enable more experienced reps to teach what they know to newer recruits, and give your reps a chance to try out what they know in a positive, non-threatening environment.

Some sales managers are dismissive of role playing, but it's usually either because they're of the sink-or-swim persuasion and don't want to be bothered with training at all, or because they have put insufficient thought into how to set up their role playing exercises for maximum effectiveness. Either way, the solution is to dedicate the time and effort to planning the right type of role plays for your team, product, and market.

Why Is Role Playing a Good Idea?

Low-Pressure Practice

First, role playing is a great way to help new sales recruits practice their new-found skills in a supportive, positive environment. For most new sales representatives, the first few times going out and actually talking to a prospective client are terrifying. They feel a lot of pressure to get things right, because every time they mess up feel like they are losing a sale.

Role playing gives them a chance to boldly try out their new sales skills without worrying that a mistake will cost them their commission. If they can loosen up and have their sales conversation in a setting where the stakes are low, it will help them to be less nervous and more prepared when they actually get out into the field. Sales representatives who have already practiced the sales conversations they will have in the field are much less likely to freeze up when they actually get in front of a prospective customer.

Peer-to-Peer Teaching

A picture is worth a thousand words, and actually showing your sales representatives an effective sales encounter can be an effective way of cementing the concepts you're trying to teach them. Do you have a member of your team who is especially good at closing? Let him or her demonstrate the magic. Hold contests for the most creative and interesting door approaches. Rotate the roles so that everyone has a chance to play both sales person and prospective customer. Your more experienced reps likely have a lot to teach, but succeeding in front of the group can also help your newer additions feel more confident.

Team Building

Role playing exercises don't have to be all serious. Taking turns being the difficult customer and hamming it up a bit can help your team let off some steam and have fun. Encourage them to get into the roles they're playing. Have a role play where they act out their worst (or funniest, or most bizarre) interaction with a customer. Sales days can be hard and long, but role playing their frustrating experiences can help your sales representatives put things in perspective, as well as giving them new ideas on how to interact positively with difficult customers. 

Tips for More Effective Role Plays

Plan Effectively

Don't just randomly call up a couple of reps during your sales meeting and have them act out a door approach on the fly. Think through what you want your team to get out of the experience beforehand, and come up with some specific scenarios for them to play out. You can have them draw a sales scenario out of a hat, or give one of them a list of concerns and objections that the other must discover and resolve. It's a good idea to ask your team periodically what aspects of the sales cycle or customer objections are giving them trouble, so that you can include related scenarios in your upcoming role plays. Keep it relevant and useful for your team.

Be Creative

Don't let role playing become just another boring part of sales meetings. Keep your team on their toes by varying the type of role play that you do. One day you can practice a single scenario over and over until they get it perfectly. The next, throw several different problems at them in quick succession to help them learn to think on their feet. Get into the fray yourself, modeling the fearless persona you'd like them to emulate during role plays. It's OK to occasionally demonstrate a "bad" approach to sales, but make sure that most of your role plays focus on what they should be doing. Remember, only perfect practice makes perfect. Whatever you practice will become permanent, so make sure they're practicing right.

Make it Fun

Real interactions with sales prospects can put sales representatives under a lot of pressure. But your sales role plays don't have to. Make it clear that mistakes are inevitable, and all you expect is that they do their best. Keep the atmosphere non-threatening, and make sure that you and the rest of the team deliver comments and criticism in a light-hearted, friendly way. Role play is your chance to reward courage and improvement in a way it might not be rewarded out in the field, so take advantage of the opportunity to give praise as well as constructive criticism. And keep a box of costume props (hats, sunglasses, a superman cape, whatever) to help everyone relax into their roles.

Are you stuck in a rut when it comes to sales training? Netpique sales outsourcing specialists can provide on site and remote training, or help you develop an effective training program tailored to your company and industry. Call us today for a free consultation.