“Hire trainable people with pleasing personalities, give them effective, continual training, and motivate them to pursue and close the sale.” – Harvard Business Review advice to managers on how to create great sales teams.
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Too often sales management hires great people and then just turns them loose to do the job. While this may work for some, the majority will fail without training and resources. While product knowledge is important, it’s the sales skills that will make the difference along with sales team motivation.
Nothing works better than role-playing to judge your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Unlike other sales training, role-playing takes active participation and puts your team through their paces in front of other team members. This peer pressure can be difficult for some, but it leads to insight and learning opportunities that stick.
While some sales teams hate role-playing, it’s better to make your mistakes in a safe environment than in front of a potential customer.
Sales Team Structure in Role Play Exercises
As the sales team leader, you are managing these role-playing activities with a specific goal in mind. Here are the are five things you need to do every time you role play:
- Focus the activity. Pick one topic for each session.
- Don’t be too easy on them. Your customers won’t be. Portray customers as demanding, hesitant to purchase, and push back against sales team assumptions. As your team gets better, raise the challenge level
- Keep in mind sales team dynamics. When you have completed the role-playing exercise, let the person who did the role-playing tell the group what they could have done better. This will help reinforce what they learned. If they are self-aware, it’s a little easier than having to hear their shortcomings from the group. Instead, encourage group members to point out what they did well. This can focus attention on the positive and stave off defensiveness. A great way to approach this is by asking what the person could have done even better or if others have ideas to improve the presentation.
- Conclude each role-playing exercise with a quick summary of lessons learned to help reinforce the message. Emphasise the positives and a list of things to remember.
- Revisit the lesson regularly. Sales teams that implemented post-training reinforcement typically see a 20 percent improvement in achieving sales goals.
Each salesperson will have their own style. It’s important to remember there isn’t one correct way to do things. Role playing encourages people to think on their feet and learn different ways to approach potential customers.
Many managers think role-playing is only for the less experienced sellers. However, experienced sellers often take shortcuts or forget key steps in the process. It’s a good reminder for both newbies and veterans what it takes to get the job done.
Sales Training Produces Measurable Results
- Improvement in the percentage of sales team members that achieve quotas
- Improvement in total team hitting sales goals
- Reduction in sales turnover
- Lower sales cycles
- Faster time to productivity for new sales reps
Sales Team Role Play Exercises
With all that in mind, here are some great role-playing exercises that sales management can use to help train their sales teams.
Dealing With Difficult Customers
Have each sales team member write down one thing they have to deal with when working with their most difficult customer. Shuffle them up and hand them out. Have one person role play the customer and another salesperson tackle the issue.
This can provide sales team members with new ways to approach a difficult customer. It can also be cathartic for the group as others have likely had similar experiences.
Talking To Well-Informed Customers
Did you ever run into one of those customers who knows your products inside and out? What do you do when they ask very detailed questions about your products or services? A good role-playing exercise is to assume the identity of this customer and put your team to the test.
One of the key skills salespeople have to learn is how to overcome client objections. No matter what they are selling, they’ll hear objections. The more they practice dealing with these objections, the more successful they will be.
You may want to brainstorm the most common objectives your team faces and let them set the agenda for the training. Or, you may want to use this list of 10 common objectives:
- It’s too expensive
- My budget is already committed
- I don’t have time to deal with this right now
- I need to talk to my husband/partner/boss/investor
- I’m not sure this product is right for my business
- I tried it once and it didn’t work
- We only work with people we know and trust
- Can you just leave me your info?
- I need to shop your competitors to make sure I’m getting a good deal
- I need to think about it
Stump The Manager
Turn the tables and let the sales rep be the customer and have the sales manager take on the salesperson role. Make them demonstrate how they would approach a client. After a few run-throughs, switch seats and let the salesperson show what they’ve learned.
Leave A Message
It takes an average of 8 cold calls to reach a prospect. That means your team is leaving a lot of voice mails and hoping for a return call. What tactics work to get a prospect to call back?
Give everyone a product to pitch and give them 5 minutes to write out a script for leaving a message. Have each person leave the room and call into your voice mail and leave their message. Then, get the group together and play them all back. Let the team vote on who left the best message and what they learned from the exercise.
Bring In The Big Guns
This takes a little more set-up, but it can be extremely effective. Bring in a friendly client and have them role-play the prospect. If you are targeting a C-level prospect, ask the big boss to sit in and listen to the pitch. That can add to the stress level for the team but will give you a good assessment of your sales team dynamics.
These are just a few examples of role-playing exercises. You can always create your own scenarios for your role play exercises. Some of the best ones will come from your own team members who have had to face real-world problems. The more realistic you can make it, the better it will be.
As a sales team leader, continually reinforcing the positive behaviour that you want your team to model, and understanding where your team needs additional help gets you one step closer to meeting your sales goals. Now let’s go sell!