(By Spike Santee) Role-playing is the standard training method in the military, police force, and fire rescue…and especially sports. Role playing is essential in professions where quick decision-making is necessary. That’s why role playing should be a regular component of your sales training.
Role-playing is one of the ways to measure how well you are learning the new material. It is one thing to read a book or watch some training tapes, but putting what you learn from books and tapes into practice makes all the difference.
Role-playing isn’t meant to embarrass, it is meant to reinforce the content and the skill. Role-playing also drives home the point that the sales skill isn’t as easy as it looks. When you are watching a sales video or reading a sales book, you are “unconsciously incompetent” – you think you get it, you’re following along. But when you go to practice that skill, you become “consciously incompetent” – you are aware that if you practiced a little bit more, you could do it better.
Role-playing is an important tool that can help you improve selling skills, but only when done properly and consistently. Here are four suggestions to better role-playing results.
1. Role-Play on a Regular Schedule
Selling skills are just like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you will perform. The top performers in any field of endeavor work to refine and improve their skills. They practice improving their skills on a regular basis.
Before the team takes the field or an actor takes the stage, they practice and rehearse. The public sees the results of that rehearsal. That’s what they pay for, to see a performance. In sales, it should be no different.
When the client sees the presentation, they should be seeing the results of practice and rehearsal. That’s what they are paying for. Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady doesn’t just show up on Sunday to play ball. He trains all year long.
2. Start with the Basics and Work Up
When summer football training camp begins, the coach issues the players a playbook. The players are required to memorize every play. You should create your own sales playbook. Start with something as simple as your greeting, or your appointment-setting script.
You already know some of the objections, stalls, or roadblocks you will encounter. Start with those and develop some new ways to respond.
Start with “I’m not interested” and learn how to overcome that before you move on to role-playing your closing techniques.
Or, how about, “I tried radio once and it didn’t work” or “I already have too much business.”
You should role-play all the various skill sets in the sales process, even long after you first learn them. Practice appointment setting, the customer needs assessment, the presentation, closing, and yes, even practice the service call. That’s how all the material remains fresh and relevant.
3. Practice “Winning”
At the beginning of summer football camp, the teams essentially play touch football in the beginning. They practice the successful completion of the play before introducing the defense. We all need to know what winning feels like if we want to repeat winning. Practice successfully getting the appointment or closing the sale before learning how to overcome the defenses you might encounter.
Sales managers, take note. Don’t throw out every conceivable objection in the first training session. First, that is not lifelike. Second it is frustrating and shuts down the willingness to learn. Let your salespeople win in role-playing, let them get the appointment or make the sale before increasing the complexity of the process.
4. Record Your Role-Playing
Most telephones and tablets can record audio and video. Record your role-playing, either alone or with your partner. At first, you may feel uncomfortable, but the whole purpose of role-playing is to increase your confidence so you can perform better in front of your prospect.
You may not like role-playing at first. You may feel awkward or even embarrassed. Face it, that means you’re not ready for prime time. Even the most talented people say they get nervous when it comes time for the big game. The whole reason you want to role-play is so you can perform when you’re nervous and under pressure.
It is far better to role-play with your team where you can get a second or third chance at making the presentation. Once you get in front of the prospect, you only get one chance and you better not blow it.
The old saying “practice makes perfect” isn’t always true. Practice makes permanent, is more accurate. Perfect practice makes perfect permanent. Practicing something regularly permanently changes the neurological circuits in your brain.
Remember, you are only one decision away from becoming the person you deserve to be.
Spike Santee is the author of The Four Keys to Advertising Success and the president of SpikeSantee.com. Contact Spike at (785) 230-5350.