Sales skills can be taught, and role-playing is a great way to improve them. Here are five tips to incorporate role-playing into your sales training.
- Role-playing creates a safe environment for members of a team to build confidence in their day-to-day roles.
- Role-playing also helps employees develop creative problem-solving skills.
- Salespeople develop good listening skills through role-play.
To some degree, we are all actors. 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 their ability to create rapport and trust with the customer – is most likely to determine whether you get the potential client's 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 applications in the field? Instead, sales reps walk away from the training with a thick binder and a T-shirt if they're lucky.
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.
What are the benefits of role-playing in sales training?
- It allows reps to experience real-life sales scenarios in a stress-free and safe setting.
- It 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.
- It improves sales by practicing selling solutions and overcoming objections.
- It enhances teamwork, cooperation and innovative problem-solving.
- It improves listening and communication skills, both vital to success in the field.
1. Start with customer research.
You need certain benchmark data to develop meaningful sales training programs:
- Why do your customers choose to do business with you? What are their drivers?
- For your prospects who went elsewhere, what factors influenced their buying decision? Why didn't you get the business?
You can ask your sales reps these questions, but they may be too close to the situation to give you objective feedback. Nothing beats hearing it straight from the customer. You should conduct customer interviews prior to the sales training so the results can be shared and incorporated into the role-playing.
2. Create a safe 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. Let your team know there are no wrong answers. Employees can only engage in the training and improve their performance in an environment where they feel supported and safe. Giving your employees room to make mistakes assures them that you care about their success and want them to grow.
3. Provide message training.
Role-playing can be powerful when participants rehearse cold calls, elevator pitches, key sales messages, corporate presentations and price negotiations. Message training also helps ensure your sales reps speak about your brand in a consistent and compelling manner.
4. Share successes.
Success stories about key wins can be very motivating. Break them down and analyze what went right and why so your entire team can understand and learn by example. Feature your top salespeople in a best-practices panel discussion with audience interaction. Sharing success stories encourages the team to believe that they can overcome their own hurdles.
5. Dig deeper.
Educating sales reps about price, features and benefits is important, but also devote discussion to the psychological reasons customers buy. Knowledge of customer behavior can help your sales reps close more deals.
6. Reduce the pressure.
According to Spiro, role-play should make employees feel more at ease. Let your team know that it's OK to make mistakes. The more at ease your team feels during role-playing, even when being put at on the spot, the more likely they are to really learn and put the training into practice.
7. Focus on specific scenarios.
Present common objections and scenarios that your sales team members could come across, such as dealing with competitors, introducing a new product to the market, or analyzing prospective markets to sell your products. Based on the different scenarios, have your team come up with creative solutions and actionable plans for follow-up.
8. End the session by laying out actionable information.
According to Spiro, it's most effective to end each role-playing session by recapping the actionable takeaways. Have the team write down areas they should improve on and areas where they are already doing well. Answers should be as detailed as possible. They should be able to keep you abreast of their progress without feeling intimidated.
9. Make role-play training an ongoing process.
According to Menemsha Group, sales role-playing should not be a one-time thing. You may need to do it regularly, or even every day, for your employees to learn as much as they can. You must guide your sales team to improve their skills on a daily basis. Role-playing is often the easiest way to train sales executives communication skills and to analyze their daily performance and challenges.
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 on how they connect with the customer, the impression they make, and the confidence they 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.