Five Rules for Effective Sales Role Play

Posted by Mike Carroll on Fri, Aug 6, 2010 @ 09:08 AM

Role Play, sales improvement, practice, sales meetings, five tips for sales role play, Mike Carroll, Intelligent Conversations, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, management consulting, growth consultant, sales training, Dave Kurlan blog, Objective Management Group partner"Make Your Sales Managers Great Sales Coaches"

Dave Kurlan wrote another gem this week in his recent article “Sales Coaching is Like Baseball – How Do You Rate?”  While Dave makes several great points, there’s one I want to highlight that we see sales managers struggle with on a regular basis – the effective use of role play.

To be an effective sales coach your sales manager must be able to demonstrate the proper way to handle all of the sales situations their team encounters.  If there’s a tough competitor in your market working one of your weak spots or trying to reframe the conversation to their advantage, your sales people need to know the:

  • Questions to ask,
  • Statements to make,
  • Phrases to use,
  • Softening tactics that gently steer the conversation back on track, and
  • Right tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language to do all of this.

The same thing applies to overcoming objections, handling price discussions, uncovering compelling reasons, qualifying the decision process or budget, and all of the other milestones they must reach over the course of an intelligent sales conversation.

So what are the key elements to effective role play?  In addition to what Dave writes about we offer the following list – our Five Rules for Effective Sales Role Play:

1) Sales Process Map; the first step sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many sales organizations miss it.  To be an effective sales coach who can demonstrate the right behaviors through on-the-spot role play, it’s eminently helpful to have a well defined Sales Process Map outlining the key milestones and how to hit them over the course of the sales conversation.

2) Ditch the Map; while mapping out a general framework for your sales process is a great first step, understand that an actual sales conversation almost never happens as planned.  A sales process map will give you the general direction to go and areas to cover, but you’ll need to be agile enough to adjust and adapt once you are in a real sales conversation.

3) On-the-Spot Role Play; your sales managers may be uncomfortable doing this (at first), but nothing earns credibility and changes sales behavior faster than effective on-the-spot role play.  Whether it happens in the middle of a sales meeting or during a one-on-one, going into role play “on-the-spot” to demonstrate the right sales behavior makes everyone step up their game.

4) Sales Person as Prospect; the toughest prospect you will ever meet is a sales person who has been beat up a lot by prospects over the past week.  When they get an opportunity to “be the prospect” they get to amalgamate all of the objections, tough questions, and difficult behaviors they’ve experienced from prospects over the past few days.  For a sales person this is extremely fun (and therapeutic).  For a sales manager it provides great insight into the types of issues their team is encountering in the field (and it also gives them insight into how busy people are – if a sales person can’t role play as the prospect effectively they’re probably not in as many sales conversations as they’re reporting).

5) Do It and Then Do It Some More; the easiest and most effective way to get better at sales is to get into more sales conversations.  And while nothing can replace the experience gained during live sales calls, frequent role play between sales manager and sales person provides a great way to have those conversations in a constructive environment.  The more your sales managers do this the better they’ll get at it. 

Have your sales managers follow these Five Rules for Effective Sales Role Play and you will start to see your sales team having better conversations, with better prospects, selling larger opportunities at higher margins and creating stronger top line growth for your company – and isn’t that what you want from your sales department?

Need help?  Contact me for a cup of coffee and together we will figure out if it makes sense to work together to help your sales team achieve more. Not sure where to set expectations? Download our CEO Sales Expectations worksheet and we can review it together.

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Topics: avoiding resistance, Cold Calling, Sales Training