Guest article by Nicki Weiss

I think confidence is the most important characteristic for a sa1esperson: in my experience, the more confidence, the more sa1es.

How do you instil confidence in your sa1es team? Vince Lombardi, the famous football coach, used to say, “Football is about blocking and tackling. The team that blocks and tackles better then their opponent will probably win the game.” Translation … stick to the basics and practice, practice, practice.

But DON’T practice in front of the customer. Just like a football team doesn’t hone its craft in front of a packed stadium, sa1espeople need to practice out of the limelight. They can try role-playing, an underused sales tool (only an estimated 21% of sales teams employ it) that is the easiest and most effective way to practice and build confidence. It gives sa1espeople the opportunity to learn new product information, test their selling skills and try new approaches.

As an added benefit, role-playing sessions help your team build an esprit de corps as they learn together. The more successful they are in the office, the more likely their success in the field. Here are some hints to make your role-playing sessions as productive as possible.

10 Role-Playing Tips

  1. Never make role-playing easy
    Sa1espeople must learn to be able to handle pressure (and stress) in the form of questions from prospects about value, price, competitive positioning and feature/function offers. Tough role-playing sessions prepare them for any situation.
  2. Make it safe
    Role-playing can feel threatening and embarrassing. To raise the safety level, keep groups to three people who alternate roles as sa1esperson, customer and observer. Have the first role-play be an experiment. After the debrief, conduct the same role-play so the sa1esperson can use the feedback to improve.
  3. Add some fun
    Ask each group to vote on its own best role-play and award prizes. Or give prizes all around, even to those sa1espeople who crashed and burned.
  4. Role-play by title of buyers
    The way you sell to a CFO of a Fortune 1000 firm is different than selling to the president of a small private firm. During the role-playing exercises, switch around the buyer titles.
  5. Split role-playing between sales peers and sales management
    Role-playing groups should contain both sa1espeople and sales management so they reflect different levels of approach and experience. Management and team members can take turns being the buyer.
  6. Make a list of your top ten sales objections and use them
    Note, and make use of, your toughest sa1es objections during role-playing sessions. Your team will get practice in learning how to manage a range of buyers’ expectations.
  7. Redirect straying conversations back to the sales process
    Prospects can change subjects and “steer” sa1espeople away from the sales conversation to chit-chat. Team members can use role-playing to see how quickly they can swing the conversation back to a discussion about relevant business issues.
  8. Lights, Camera, Action
    Videotape the role playing sessions to dramatically increase their effectiveness. Place the camera on a tripod in the back of the room and have the observer turn it on and off. Using one high quality videotape for each sa1esperson, tape each of their role-plays and the following discussion. Then give them the tape to keep, making sure that you have advanced the tape to a blank space every time so you captured a number of different situations. Each sa1esperson can review improvements when replaying the tape.
  9. Debrief . . . with kindness and support
    At the end of each role-play, the observer facilitates the debrief, asking the sa1esperson what went well, and what could change the next time. Do not let the sa1esperson be too self-critical. Ask the customer what the sa1esperson did that was helpful, and ONE suggestion for improvement.
  10. Document strengths and weaknesses
    Keep a record of each sa1esperson’s strengths and weaknesses during each role-playing session so you can build on the information in follow-up exercises. Understanding and managing your team’s skill sets will help them hit their sa1es quota faster. To achieve greater success – role-play more!

About the author:

Nicki Weiss is an internationally recognized Certified Professional Coach, Master Trainer, and workshop leader. She brings to her work 25 years of experience with sales leaders and their teams. Her training and coaching practice is designed for:

Sa1es managers/directors/VPs who are ready to become great sa1es coaches in order to retain, develop, and motivate sales superstars.

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