Role-Playing is the Worst Sales Training Idea Ever – Even Though it Works

By March 16, 2018Uncategorized

In sales, social skills are vital. The behaviors and habits that enable reps to engage prospects are frequently the difference between hitting and missing quota. It’s been estimated that a bad meeting with a prospect can lock the rep and her company out of the account for upwards of 18 months.

Do you talk too much? Are you missing buying cues? Are your stories misaligned with the prospects needs? Do you underinvest in building rapport? Do you talk about how great the product is a lot? Do you love to do demos? Most importantly, do you convey trust, credibility and competence?

The only way to address these issues without spoiling potential sales in the process is to practice. Yet it is extremely difficult to find opportunities to do that and capture feedback to fix any inadvertent mistakes. Oh, and do it in a safe and constructive environment.

Sales reps know this; so do their managers, which is why role-play is used in sales training. But any sales trainer knows that including role-playing in the agenda for the quarterly sales conference will double the griping level.

Why? Because sales reps hate role-playing.

Role-Playing is the Best Way to Learn

One of the main reasons sales reps benefit from spending time together at an annual or quarterly meeting is the stories of success and failure. So despite the reluctance, there are several reasons why role-playing works.

  • Role-playing gives participants an ability to hear how one of their own addresses specific questions.
  • Hearing stories from the team is a great way to augment your own ‘story library’ to trot out when appropriate
  • Being surrounded by your peers is an ideal setting for active and constructive coaching.
  • It allows testing of language and expressions in an effort to perfect performance.
  • Role-playing allows sellers to adapt what they see and hear into their own approach, tone and wording.

Role-Playing is the Worst Way to Learn

No matter how powerful the benefits of role-playing, it is largely reviled by reps for many reasons.

  • It puts sellers “on stage” in front of their peers and thus exposes even the best reps to a very public assessment of their sales skills. Actors have performed hundreds of hours to an empty theater before standing on stage.
  • Constructive criticism is best performed one-on-one, not in front of the organization. Who likes to have their words dissected, analyzed and measured in front of his peers?
  • Performance anxiety is powerful enough that it permeates the training room. So those who should be listening are mentally preparing instead for their time at the front of the room.
  • Research has shown the human brain can’t perform and learn at the same time. Role-playing is a combination of both so it can be very stressful for the participants.

Role-Play Automation is Sales Training Zen

Fortunately, there is another option that integrates the benefits of role-playing without the stress of performing. It’s called role-play automation. So before you dismiss role-playing as a viable training tool, consider how video might benefit your team.

Role-play automation is a story platform that allows users to review, practice and record in private and then submit their best selling stories to the organization for shared learning. It is a powerful visual solution that re-invents role-playing as a training tool to help the sales rep master the selling stories that move prospects to action.

Although sales force automation solutions have made a significant impact on the sales process – improving outreach, follow up, forecasting and the like, it hasn’t enhanced the personal connection between buyer and seller or improved the quality of the sales conversation.

A role-play automation system can be organized by relevant topics, common issues and shared objectives. Stories shared among sellers on an internal platform upskills the entire organization. They perpetuate a common branded-language, enable continuous learning (rather than having to wait six-months for the next sales conference) and give new reps a powerful head-start.

Want to sell like last year’s President’s Club winner? Listen to his stories on common objections or key differentiators. It’s all on the Role-Play Automation System.

To learn more about how a SharperAx Role-Play Automation system might help you, contact us.

Mark Heisten is a seasoned marketing and business development executive with more than 20 years of experience at Fortune 100 firms and start-ups.



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