The Importance of Role-Playing

Vince Lombardi, the famous football coach, used to say, “Football is about blocking and tackling. The team that blocks and tackles better than their opponent will probably win the game.” Translation … stick to the basics and practice, practice, practice.

Confidence, in my estimation, is the most important characteristic any salesperson can have. The more they gain, the more sales they will close. Role playing is the easiest and most effective way for salespeople to build confidence. The more successful they are in the office, the more likely they are going to be successful out in the field. It gives them the opportunity to learn new product information, test their selling skills and try new approaches. Role playing can also be used to practice dealing with difficult situations in a safe, comfortable environment. They can work in small groups with other salespeople or in a large group during a sales meeting.

Here are the key components of an effective role playing session:

Three’s company. You will need one person to be the salesperson, one to be the customer and one to be the observer. Have each salesperson set up a scenario that he/she wants to practice. The customer’s job is to make things difficult by using common objections they normally hear as a salesperson. The observer’s job is to evaluate, take notes and comment on the effectiveness of the salesperson. Have each person take turns at each role so they can feel what it’s like to be a customer and an observer.

Play it again Sam. Have each salesperson practice two role play sessions. Let all of your salespeople act out their first role play and have each observer make notes. After everyone has participated, stop for a brief discussion and have each observer explain their observations. Then let each salesperson do the same role play over a second time. Have the observer make notes and look for improvements or any repetitive mistakes compared to the first attempt. Usually, the second attempt is better then the first. Again, hold a discussion at the end.

Lights, Camera, Action. To dramatically increase the effectiveness of your role playing sessions, use a Camcorder to record each role play. Place the camera on a tripod in the back of the room and have the observer turn it on and off.

Use one high quality video tape for each salesperson and let them keep it for their own viewing. Tape each role play session and the corresponding discussion session afterward so each salesperson will have both on tape. Make sure that you advance the tape to a blank space every time you use it in order to get each session and a number of different situations on the same tape. Each salesperson will have a library of sessions to review in order to see their improvements as they go along.

Selling is a tough game. Customers are always judging you and your offer against the competition. Many companies improve their odds through the use of sales training. But no training program is complete until you have run role plays. Success in these sessions back at the office will build confidence in the hearts of your salespeople and motivate them to go out to see customers and prospects.


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