Role-Playing is Essential for Sales Professionals

Role-playing is essential for Sales Professionals

This week, guest blogger Don Buttrey of Sales Professional Training offers us wisdom when it comes to our sales professionals: role-playing is essential! It is easy to overlook the benefits of role-playing in the professional environment, but these benefits cannot be overstated. If you are interested in what you see here today, you can reach out to Don here.

Professional athletes, accomplished musicians, battle-ready soldiers, doctors, pilots, and all professionals know that practice is essential. Pilots practice in simulators. Then after two months of ground training, they need to log more than 1,500 hours of flight experience. Quarterbacks run their patterns over and over.

You play as you practice. And in sales, it is no different.

Jerry Rice had a career as one of the greatest receivers in NFL history. Yet it was much more than just talent or good hands that made that a reality. Jerry had one of the most rigorous workout schedules in the NFL. Plus, we know that professional athletes watch a lot of films! They play back game film to critique strategy and execution. They must constantly improve to compete and win.

You play as you practice. If you want to make the big plays when it counts – your practice regimen is imperative.

So how can a sales professional get that essential practice? Granted, we can’t strap a GoPro cam to our head before meeting with a customer and then watch and critique it afterward. So, the only way to expose dangerous habits or feeble techniques is the method of role-playing. Role-plays are not real-life (and in the back of your head you know the other person is acting or improvising) but stuff will happen. You will see weaknesses or tendencies that you need to address and work on. Larry Bird, NBA superstar observed, “Coaches can talk and talk and talk about something, but if you get it on tape and show it to them, it is so much more effective.”

When you say “role-play”, most new hires start shaking in their boots. Some privately puke. But hey – they are new and probably expect intensive training or proving grounds. Some veterans (who are performing OK) might be threatened or fearful that they will be misjudged or condemned based on someone’s skewed opinions or branded sales techniques that may not apply to their customers or selling situations. A few successful veterans say, “bring it on – watch the master at work!” – only to bomb horribly. All this dread, fear, and mistrust is real. But it is not an excuse to just send your team out on the field every day and hope they are performing as sales professionals. Leaders need to know!

The answer to this need begins by adopting a proven sales curriculum, a standard pre-call planning process, and empowered servant leaders who coach and develop each sales professional with respect and consistency. Then, plan regular reinforcement, skill development and practice . . . on purpose. Put it on the calendar!

As a sales trainer over the last 25 years, I provided a starting point by conducting a sales training camp. I have always required a role-play exercise at the end of my training camps. Once the sales disciplines and the pre-call planning process were delivered in the seminar, a video-recorded and professionally critiqued role-play became the highest impact portion of the learning! The logistics required us to have lots of breakout rooms and equipment for the role-plays, but it was worth the effort. What was accomplished by the manager and I in each breakout room, one-on-one with each salesperson, far surpassed the impact of just lecture or teaching.

The training camp was meant to be the initiation into a regular culture of practice. The hope was that this first experience would remove the stigma and the invisible barrier to coaching. Role-playing should be part of a regimen of regular, ongoing practice! However, after a powerful training event ended, and everyone went back to busy schedules, it usually did not continue.

Today, Sales Professional Training has designed a new approach to training and practice that assures ongoing, sustainable sales team development. How? Well now, instead of a one-time seminar event, our complete sales training curriculum is delivered via web-based E-learning. It is on-demand and is digested and applied in short weekly increments that are processed with the sales manager and the team after each segment. Access to the course for review and reinforcement never expires. Clearly, this is much better than a one-time seminar where the salesperson feels like they are taking a drink out of a fire hydrant!

And here is the best part! The pandemic forced us to see past our paradigms and leverage the amazing technology at our fingertips. I now provide training and coaching for my clients that far surpasses what we could do in a seminar setting. Now, following completion of the E-learning version of The Four Pillars of the Sales Profession, we can role-play ‘virtually’ from different locations or branches. Zoom, Teams, and other virtual formats make it doable. No time, travel, or breakout room limitations!

No excuses.

Sales Professional Training is now offering role-play services! It is easy to implement and schedule virtually. I have been doing this service for other companies –and it is very high impact. They get more personal coaching from me and their manager in that hour than we could ever dream of doing in the logistics of a ‘live’ meeting!

Contact me and we will get role-play practice on your calendar!

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Transformation: Becoming a Selling Organization 2

Transformation: Becoming a Selling Organization – Part 2

Tonight, Don Buttrey brings us Part 2 of his two-part series on Transformation: Becoming a Selling Organization.

2) Sell ‘the house’

We don’t just sell product anymore.  Product and brand will not sell itself. We have to ‘sell the house’.  That is one thing the competition does not have-your differentiator!

Why should customers choose you and do business with you?  Every person in your organization should know that answer.  This awareness should season everything you do and be on the tip of every tongue. If you do not know that answer…who does?

When you consider the question “what do we sell?” you can help define that answer by documenting Company Factors and Value-Added Services of your company.  Company Factors are advantages, minute distinctions and attractive characteristics that you offer.  Don’t get hung up on the word, unique.  Some competitors may claim the same or similar factors.  Company factors are simply what you look like as a company.  How many branches you have, expertise in certain markets, years in business, key people, inventory, size, location, stability, certified mechanics, customer base, and lines represented are all examples of company factors.  Value-Added Services are what you do for your customers before, during and after the sale.  These services support your offerings and enhance the perceived value.  Examples might be inventory management, part usage reports, financing services, safety training seminars, etc.  I suggest you workshop these two lists as a team and publish the results internally.  Make sure everyone knows and believes in ‘who you are’ and ‘what you do’.  You may even want to prioritize this list and document the top things that clearly set you apart from the rest of the pack of competitors.

3) Standardize your selling process

So how do we take this corporate, ‘selling mindset’ to the street?  This has to be more than a “value” campaign or hype.  We must make sure that all contacts and experiences that our customers have with us result in a perceived value for which they are willing to pay a premium price.  This will not happen by accident.  Banners, literature and websites will only create visual consistency in your marketing and image.  Each and every person, in every customer interaction, must sell that value and communicate it effectively.

The best way to facilitate this is with a standardized selling process.  This is a framework to help each person who interacts with the customer to prepare and execute effective selling of your value.  We recommend a standard tool that we call the SELL process.  The dynamic interaction with a customer is not step-by-step.  However, having a structure for how to prepare and execute the interaction is powerful.



The SELL Process:  Start        Evaluate        Leverage         Lock

Outside sales professionals can use this outline to pre-call plan for each call – SELL offense!  Sales support can use this same outline to react better in spontaneous selling situations and opportunities that occur everyday.  The same SELL process can also be used a framework to prepare for objections and respond to them properly – SELL defense!

When we train sales professionals and sales support, we use this simple, yet profound process to prepare, practice and perfect selling skill.  Each step is studied, understood and practiced.  For example, every person who deals with complaints or objections from customers can benefit from intense learning on how to answer objections.  The team can even document proven answers and practice delivery and methodology of responding.  By standardizing the tool and terminology used for selling your value everyday, you can fulfill the first challenge we discussed—teach everyone to sell.


Becoming a selling organization is not really complicated.  It is decisive, however.  The pieces are all there; your people, your products, your operations.  It is really a matter if reconnecting those pieces to transform into a selling machine.  Teach everyone to sell.  Sell the house.  Standardize your selling process.  Remember the line of children’s toys called Transformers?  A robot, with its existing parts could, by a few decisive moves, become a racecar or some other machine.  Make the three decisive moves we just discussed and turn from just a dealer into a SELLING MACHINE!

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Transformation: Becoming a Selling Organization 1

Transformation: Becoming a Selling Organization – Part 1

Don Buttrey introduces us to the transformation involved in becoming a selling organization in Part 1 of his blog on this topic.


“Nothing happens until somebody sells something.”  With that simple statement, Red Motley made clear the importance of the sales function to any organization.  As a distributor in the supply channel, the importance is even more acute.  Selling is your lifeblood.  The selling function is a significant part of your activities.  Oh yes, operations, service and technical support are essential, but today’s Construction Equipment Distributor or manufacturer must be a “selling machine” where everyone who serves the customer directly or indirectly delivers and communicates (sells) value.  When this thinking permeates your culture, it assures growth and profitability.  What I have just described is a true “selling organization.”


Leaders; transforming into a team where everyone sells and has a selling mindset will not happen by accident.  You must do it on purpose.  If you tell people to do the right things and your system tells them otherwise…the system will win every time.  This article will highlight three things you can start immediately to indoctrinate this culture into your system:  1) Teach everyone to sell; 2) Sell the house; 3) Standardize your selling process.


1) Teach everyone to sell


This part of the transformation starts at the top, as you might have expected.  First and foremost, the dealer principle and top management must be selling experts.  Not that they are out on the field closing deals (although they may have key involvement in some accounts.)  Yet they must possess sharpened selling skills in order to sell ideas, expectations, tools, systems etc. to the entire team.  Sell, not tell!  They must also have a clear understanding of value and benefit selling in order to present, market and perpetuate the required factors that differentiate you from the rest of the competition.  Only leaders that understand the strategic and tactical requirements of successful selling can direct, inspire, coach and motivate a true selling organization.  Visible, enthusiastic support of any selling skills training is a must.


Sales managers must also sell.  They must become brilliant in their contribution to joint calls–not to “take over” but to be a model of professional selling skill.  As a coach they reinforce the disciplines of professional selling and raise the bar of expectations.  It is strongly suggested that sales managers participate in any selling skills training.  The purpose of this is not to just monitor and observe, but to be an active part as each salesperson practices and refines their execution.


Of course, front-line salespeople must be masters of selling.  Selling is their profession.  Each one should strive to become a Sales Professional!  Product knowledge, application expertise, people skills, benefit selling, communication skill, strategic account planning, and pre-call planning are just a few of the many skills and tools they must execute skillfully to get consistent results.  Intensive selling skill training for these professionals is a given.  These are the “highly trained field agents” of a successful selling organization that take proactive action and start the engine.


And please don’t forget that service technicians, customer service, installation, and all sales support must also be trained in selling skills.  Granted, selling is not their primary job duty.  Yet they are interacting daily with customers and dealing with the tough issues. They encounter an astounding number of opportunities to reinforce value, secure jeopardized business, penetrate and expand accounts, discover hidden opportunities, pass leads, add-on sell and build relationships.  Great selling organizations provide these key players with more than just technical know-how or specific job skills.  They leverage their integral involvement with customers by adding core selling skills to their regimen of training.  With proper sales training they can learn to sell spontaneously and appropriately.

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Pre-Call Planning Is an Absolute Must!

Pre-call Planning is an Absolute Must!

Pre-Call Planning is an Absolute Must

Don Buttrey is the president of Sales Professional Training Inc., a company that offers in-depth skill development for sales professionals and sales support. He has trained thousands of salespeople over 25 years and clearly understands the selling environment of equipment dealers. His curriculum is comprehensive and proven. All courses are now available as web-based Elearning. E-learning is ideal for training individuals and smaller sales teams! Don can be reached at (937) 427-1717or email Check out this website link  for more information – or to purchase online sales training. This week he is sharing all of the reasons why pre-call planning is an absolute must for our salespeople.

What preparation should I expect my salespeople to do before picking up the phone or meeting with a customer?

Most of the time salespeople do the ‘typical’ prep such as considering the situation, doing some research, or reviewing notes on the customer such as past sales, problems, internal politics, personal facts, previous calls etc. That is important – but it is not enough. Often, at that point they just charge in or pick up the phone and “see how it goes”. I call this, “showing up and throwing up”. There is another part of pre-call planning that is an absolute must!

One of the most important disciplines and skills I teach is, tactical pre-call planning. This involves consideration of the customer contact person, situation, competitors, etc. and then designing and perfecting the expected interaction. I love that word – “interaction”. The last part of that word is action. And if you want to get action – you must be a master of the interaction! When salespeople make proactive calls, they are on the “offense” and they should prepare their offense!

First, what is the objective for the call? If a salesperson does not know why they are there – the customer doesn’t know why they are there! Sales Professionals must have a purpose or defined reason for every call. If our veterans get in the habit of calling on buddies and just stopping in to say; “got anything for me” or “I just happened to be in the area and thought I would stop by” you will end up with a team of professional visitors. We need professional salespeople!

What will salespeople say to start? What questions will they ask and how will they word them for maximum effectiveness? What benefits of product or distributor value will they leverage? What is their action-oriented objective and how will they ask for commitment or action?

The SELL Process Tool

For the last two decades my mission has been to help salespeople pre-call plan using the SELL Process tool. SELL stands for Start, Evaluate, Leverage, Lock: and each of these steps should be prepared in order to maximize every precious customer interaction. My training curriculum teaches this powerful process in great detail and provides a simple, but profound tool as a framework for effective pre-call tactical planning. It’s like learning a proven offense, that with time, empowers sales professionals to execute each uniquely different call brilliantly! Preparation and ongoing practice are essential. You play like you practice—and salespeople just don’t practice enough. I am a firm believer that we should even be doing dry runs and scrimmages before critical calls!

Using the SELL Process framework, my training teaches sales professionals to write out their tactical plan. Yes, write it. Writing makes the message exact. If you don’t write it, you can’t fix it. Tooling out what you will say to Start will keep you from getting “diarrhea of the mouth” and overwhelming the customer with jabber. Writing out the questions you need to ask and perfecting the wording of those open-ended questions helps you be a consultant and increases the chance that you will find out the real needs and situation –and listen! Plus, writing provides some notes for you to follow and indicates to the customer that you cared enough to get ready for this important investment of their time. Writing helps you remember, helps you prioritize, and keeps the meeting on track and in control. Your confidence and improved non-verbals will show!

And this is not just for big calls. It is an essential daily discipline to prepare appropriately for every precious customer interaction prior to making a call. When a sales professional is prepared, it shows respect to the customer. It presents a professional, consultative image. Buyers are sick of cocky salespeople who wing-it and don’t even listen. Plus, the deal at hand may come down to this do-or-die call – and if the salesperson is not prepared, the opportunity is lost. Careful preparation assures that the message is focused on the customer and not the salesperson. It keeps the call focused, concise, and clear without veering off on useless rabbit trails!

I accept the reality that selling is very dynamic and that anything could happen in each unique call. Pre-call tactical planning with the SELL Process is not a silver bullet. However, it empowers sales professionals with skill and brilliant execution of their offense and defense to maximize every opportunity. The market for a small, independent construction equipment dealer is extremely competitive. Every call counts. The days of winging it are over. Pre-call tactical planning is a must!

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Strategic Planning for Key Accounts

Strategic Planning for Key Accounts

Strategic Planning for Key Accounts

Virtual Selling Tips related to Vital Selling Regimens by Don Buttrey, President of Sales Professional Training, Inc. In this week’s guest blog, Don shares with us some strategic planning for taking care of key accounts.

Dealing with market potential becomes a challenge in the virtual world as well. Using data and information is critical. Your business systems can help you here. Take advantage of these condition and circumstances to become much smarter on how you manage you time and business.

Strategic Planning for Key Accounts 

  1. Focus primarily on accounts that are less impacted by the pandemic to assure quicker results in these accounts that already have a long selling cycle.
  1. However, it may be wise to pick at least one or two strategic accounts where business may be stalled short-term –but that have significant long-term potential. Now is an ideal time to do the legwork and create a path for future business. Now is a chance to build trust and solidify relationships. (whereas before, they had little or no time to spend with you.) Giving them time and offering creative ways to prepare for future growth now, proves that you are not just a partner in the good times. Show them that you are focused on their business in good and bad times – instead of just taking orders selfishly and forgetting about them! In difficult economies, focus on expanding influence and growing your market share. When it picks up again – you are well positioned!
For more information on our classes and assessments, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.

Coverage and Account Priority

Coverage and Account Priority

Coverage and Account Priority

Virtual Selling Tips related to Vital Selling Regimens  by Don Buttrey, President of Sales Professional Training, Inc. In this week’s guest blog from Don Buttrey, we explore the importance of coverage and account priority.

Call reporting can keep us on track but staying on top of the action is much harder from the home office. It is all too easy to get interrupted at home, or to lose the prioritizing system when we work in our traditional professional spaces.

Coverage and Account Priority

  1. In this slower market, set an aggressive deadline to call through all the current accounts under your responsibility. Stay in ‘front of mind’ even if their business is slow or on hold.
  2. Periodically you should re-prioritize your accounts to adjust to market changes and other dynamics. During this pandemic, re-prioritize your accounts to focus on accounts that are less impacted and offer immediate sales potential. Some customers or segments are actually doing better in this current downturn. Focus on the right accounts and markets NOW. (This also applies to your selection of Strategic Accounts – see next)
For more information on our classes and assessments, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.

Prospecting and Account Penetration

Prospecting and Account Penetration

Prospecting and Account Penetration

Prospecting and Account Penetration: Virtual Selling Tips related to Vital Selling Regimens. By Don Buttrey, President of Sales Professional Training, Inc. For today’s guest blog, Don shares with us the unique challenges of prospecting and account penetration in the virtual world. In the world of “before,” it was a given that we could meet with our customers. This new normal challenges us to innovate our processes.

Not being able to drive around and see what is going on in the field is a problem today. We have to be creative with how we do our prospecting. Using the phone is much more effective in numbers it is the quality not the quantity that gives us some trouble.

Prospecting and Account Penetration

  •  Now is the opportune time to find and develop new accounts and new relationships within existing accounts!
  • Slower markets put pressure on ‘price’. But you can overcome that with good fundamental selling. One of your best negotiation strategies is to increase your prospecting. Having more deals in process (better participation/market awareness) gives you more power. The more deals you have in the pipeline – the better!
  • Have thick skin. Do not take rejection personally. Be carefully persistent. If they are a potential customer, they will appreciate your proactive effort!
For more information on our classes and assessments, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.

Virtual Selling and Time Management

Virtual Selling and Time Management

Virtual Selling and Time Management

Don Buttrey, President of Sales Professional Training, Inc. is back with a new installment of his CRM Hell series: Virtual Selling and Time Management.


Virtual Selling Tips related to Vital Selling Regimens.

The virtual world is all on you. You are in control of every aspect of your world. Your life, your world, everything. It is a big change. We had become comfortable with our “old” routines. How we proceeded through the day. How we organized our calls. Now we have to “relearn” how to do everything.

Time and Appointment Management (calendar)
  • Check/improve internet speed. Upgrade if needed. This is your new main venue and you must avoid as many potential distractions as possible.
  • Set aside time each week to SCHEDULE calls/video conferences with current and prospective customers. Call and/or email to ask for best day/time then send invites. Be proactive. Take control.
  • Load up your calendar with appointments and live by that calendar.
  • Confirm next meeting and venue (call or video) at the end of every sales call.

With time management applied to our virtual world, we can stay on top of our customer service.

For more information on our classes and assessments, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.

Call Reporting

Call Reporting

Call Reporting

Virtual Selling Tips related to Vital Selling Regimens, by Don Buttrey, President of Sales Professional Training, Inc. Today, Don shares with us the importance of Call Reporting in Customer Relationship Management.

Let me discuss some items requiring more discipline and attention in this “Virtual” world we are living in today.

Call Reporting

  • If working remotely, it is even more critical to include to define your commitment to some specific start/stop times and aggressive guidelines on how many calls you will make each day. Own it. Be accountable. Do the grunge work. It will pay off in the long run! If you coast or get distracted it will bite you. Get fired with enthusiasm! . . .or . . . be ‘fired up’ with enthusiasm!
  • Set target ‘guidelines’ to make more calls/touches in this current market! And that is now feasible due to elimination of travel time. Use that to your advantage and be tenacious with the discipline of proactive calls! The slower the market, the harder we must work as salespeople! No excuses.
  • Mix up your touch points such as phone, email, video etc. Try multiple approaches until you connect. Do not give up.
  • Monitor and document communication preferences in your CRM for each contact (such as email, text, call, video –Zoom, Meet, TEAMS, FaceTime, etc.)
For more information on our classes and assessments, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.

From My Perspective

From My Perspective

From My Perspective

From My Perspective is the latest guest blog by Don Buttrey, President of Sales Professional Training.

We have covered the headlines and some thinking on Customer Relationship Management. Let me wrap it up with these final thoughts.

HELP! I’m in CRM hell!

My position is that the “software” is not a solution per se.  The solution is getting the entire organization to embrace the power and value of knowledge with effective team selling.  Call documentation, account strategic planning, pre-call planning, post call documentation, customer profile completion, account tiering and prioritization, calendar management, and whole team communication must be taught and expected first and foremost. Then, CRM can and will be embraced by all as a powerful technological tool that makes doing all these things easier—and actually possible! As an analogy, this is similar to learning the concepts and discipline of mathematics first – then seeing the time savings and exponential power that a calculator or computer can provide.

Every dealer I have trained in the last 20+ years has seen the need – and is at some stage of CRM initiation or operation. Like cell phones or any other technology it has become a part of being a sales organization. I do not sell or promote any particular CRM.  However, due to the inevitability of dealers needing and using it, my training addresses it throughout my curriculum. As a sales trainer, my service to dealers is to support and promote buy-in and implementation of all the selling and service activities that CRM documents, tracks, and manages. I teach the “why” of CRM and make sure that leaders do not dictate it – but that all levels of the dealership accept the duties of data entry, maximize it’s use, and are involved in continuous improvement and ongoing customization of the tool.

For more information on our programs and assessments, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.