Guest article by Nicki Weiss
I think confidence is the most important characteristic for a salesperson: in my experience, the more confidence, the more sales.
How do you instill confidence in your sales 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, sales people 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 sales people 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
- Never make role-playing easy
Sales people 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.
- Make it safe
Role-playing can feel threatening and embarrassing. To raise the safety level, keep groups to three people who alternate roles as sales person, customer and observer. Have the first role-play be an experiment. After the debrief, conduct the same role-play so the sales person can use the feedback to improve.
- 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 sales people who crashed and burned.
- 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.
- Split role-playing between sales peers and sales management
Role-playing groups should contain both sales people and sales management so they reflect different levels of approach and experience. Management and team members can take turns being the buyer.
- Make a list of your top ten sales objections and use them
Note, and make use of, your toughest sales objections during role-playing sessions. Your team will get practice in learning how to manage a range of buyers’ expectations.
- Redirect straying conversations back to the sales process
Prospects can change subjects and “steer” sales people 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.
- 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 sales person, 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 sales person can review improvements when replaying the tape.
- Debrief . . . with kindness and support
At the end of each role-play, the observer facilitates the debrief, asking the sales person what went well, and what could change the next time. Do not let the sales person be too self-critical. Ask the customer what the sales person did that was helpful, and ONE suggestion for improvement.
- Document strengths and weaknesses
Keep a record of each sales person’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 sales 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:
Sales managers/directors/VPs who are ready to become great sales coaches in order to retain, develop, and motivate sales superstars.
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