10 role-playing tips to increase sales success
Role-playing can be a powerful tool to improve sales force effectiveness. Nicki Weiss and Joanne McLean explain howBy May 30, 2012 on
We think confidence is the most important characteristic for a salesperson. In our experience, the more confidence, the more sales. How do you instil confidence in your sales team?
Vince Lombardi, the famous American 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. But DON’T practice in front of the customer.
Just like a football team doesn’t hone its craft in front of a packed stadium, salespeople need to practice out of the limelight. They can try role-playing, an underused sales tool (only an estimated 21% of sales teams employ it) that is the easiest and most effective way to practice and build confidence. It gives salespeople the opportunity to learn new product information, test their selling skills, and try new approaches.
And we all know that new approaches are definitely needed in the changing pharmaceutical environment. As an added benefit, role-playing sessions help your team build an esprit de corps as they learn together. The more successful they are in the office, the more likely their success in the field. Here are some hints to make your role-playing sessions as productive as possible.
1. Never make role-playing easy
Salespeople must learn to be able to handle pressure (and stress) in the form of questions from prospects about value, price, competitive positioning and feature/function offers. Tough role-playing sessions prepare them for any situation.
2. Make it safe
Role-playing can feel threatening and embarrassing. To raise the safety level, keep groups to three people who alternate roles as salesperson, customer and observer. Have the first role-play be an experiment. After the debrief, conduct the same role-play so the salesperson can use the feedback to improve.
3. Add some fun
Ask each group to vote on its own best role-play and award prizes. Or give prizes all around, even to those salespeople who crashed and burned.
4. Role-play by title of buyers
The conversation that a rep may have with a general practitioner is very different from the one they may have with a KOL. During the role-playing exercises, switch around the client titles.
5. Split role-playing between sales peers and sales management
Role-playing groups should contain both salespeople and sales management so they reflect different levels of approach and experience. Management and team members can take turns being the buyer.
6. Make a list of your top ten sales objections and use them
Note, and make use of, your toughest sales objections during role-playing sessions. Your team will get practice in learning how to manage a range of buyers’ expectations.
7. Redirect straying conversations back to the sales process
Prospects can change subjects and "steer" salespeople away from the sales conversation to chit-chat. Team members can use role-playing to see how quickly they can swing the conversation back to a discussion about relevant business issues.
8. Lights, camera, action
Videotape the role playing sessions to dramatically increase their effectiveness. Place the camera on a tripod in the back of the room and have the observer turn it on and off. Using one high-quality videotape for each salesperson, tape each of their role-plays and the following discussion. Then give them the tape to keep, making sure that you have advanced the tape to a blank space every time so you captured a number of different situations. Each salesperson can review improvements when replaying the tape.
9. Debrief … with kindness and support
At the end of each role-play, the observer facilitates the debrief, asking the salesperson what went well, and what could change the next time. Do not let the salesperson be too self-critical. Ask the customer what the salesperson did that was helpful, and ONE suggestion for improvement.
10. Document strengths and weaknesses
Keep a record of each salesperson’s strengths and weaknesses during each role-playing session so you can build on the information in follow-up exercises. Understanding and managing your team's skill sets will help them hit their sales quota faster. To achieve greater success—role-play more!
Nicki Weiss and Joanne McLean are founders of PharmaMatters, a leadership and team coaching organization.
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