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Use Role-Playing to Engage Your Sales Force

By editorial staff, writer
Apr 04, 2014
Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images
> Marketing

To some degree, we are all actors. And when we go to work, we have a role to perform.  This is especially true in the world of sales, where sales reps are constantly making pressure-filled presentations in front of customers and clients. They have to deliver on the spot and communicate competence, confidence, and empathy.

Research shows that the sales process is largely the province of the right brain. The skills of the salesperson -- and her ability to create rapport and trust with the customer -- is more likely to determine whether you get the business or not.

So business schools devote plenty of time to teaching sales skills, right? Wrong, which means it's left to the sales managers. The good news is that sales skills, including interpersonal skills, can be learned and developed over time. The problem is that many sales trainings are not engaging or motivating. Where are the real-world strategies that have immediate and practical application in the field? Instead, sales reps walk away from the training with a thick binder and a tee-shirt if they're lucky.

Related:The Strategist's Guide to Defining Company Culture

Enter role-playing, a training technique that engages your sales team in real-world selling scenarios and enhances their knowledge, attitude, and skills. Just like Broadway actors, good sales performers need to practice their lines before they go live (Tweet This!)


  • Allows sales reps to experience real-life sales scenarios in a stress-free and safe setting.
  • Provides sales reps with objective feedback about their performance, which can then be used to diagnose issues and encourage your sales force to monitor their interpersonal impact.
  • Improves sales by practicing selling solutions and overcoming objections.
  • Enhances teamwork, cooperation, and innovative problem-solving.
  • Improves listening and communication skills, both vital to success in the field.

Following are 5 tips for incorporating role-playing into your sales trainings:

1. Start with Customer Research

Benchmark data is needed to develop a meaningful training.

  • Why do your customers choose to do business with you?
  • What are their drivers?
  • Of your prospects that went elsewhere, what factors influenced their buying decision?
  • Why didn't you get the business?

You can ask your sales reps, but they may be too close to the situation to give you objective feedback. Nothing beats hearing it straight from the customer. Interviews should be conducted prior to the sales training, so the results can be shared and incorporated into the role-playing.

2. Create a Protected Environment

Sales managers and training facilitators should explain at the outset that role-playing requires a safe, positive, and respectful environment that will bring out the best in participants. There are no wrong answers.

Related:Learn more about our Sales Ready Leads 

3. Provide Message Training

Role-playing can be very powerful when participants rehearse cold calling, elevator pitches, key sales messages, corporate presentations, and price negotiations (Tweet This!). Also, message training will help ensure your sales reps speak about your brand in a consistent and compelling manner.

4 Share Success

Success stories about key wins can be very motivating. Break them down and analyze what went right and why, so the entire team can understand and learn by example. Feature your top salespeople in a best-practices panel discussion with audience interaction.

5. Dig Deeper

Educating sales reps about price, features, and benefits is important, but also devote discussion to the psychological reasons customers buy. How can a knowledge of customer behavior help your sales reps close more deals?

 Related:Are You Increasingly Saying "We Have Sales Problem"?

Selling is absolutely a performance. By pointing this out, I am not suggesting that sales reps are insincere or inauthentic. What I am saying is that they are being judged and evaluated based on how they connect with the customer, the impression they make, and the confidence they instill or don't instill. Role-playing is like a dress rehearsal for sales reps before they go into the field, and sales managers would be smart to incorporate it into their sales trainings.

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