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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