Although it may seem counter-intuitive, role-playing for sales reps can cause a stress-filled moment of panic. Sellers spend the bulk of each day performing – social situations where improvisational skills may be the difference between missing a quota or triggering a commission accelerator.
So why would play-acting out scenarios cause any concern at all?
The context of role-playing is artificial; a challenging situation created by management to induce a strong response. Sales reps understand that the person sitting across from them is also acting, that the training room filled with peers and that company leadership is watching their every move.
Role-playing in a training situation typically follows a loose structure; the conditions are set so that only a truncated portion of a real sales call are presented. For example, “explain why this buyer should view our product as better than their current process.” As such, the role-play limits the natural flow of a real sales call where rapport-building, research and preparation are not applied.
Role-playing is done so infrequently, typically once or twice a year, that reps never find their rhythm.
And, maybe most importantly, the human mind isn’t great at both ‘performing’ and ‘learning’ at the same time — trying to do both creates stress. Often great stress. This may be the real reason that reps consistently avoid role-playing when they can – even though they typically have had success with it in the past.
Role-Play Automation is a Better Way
One of the deepest human fears is the fear of not measuring up; the fear of judgment. This is especially true in conditions where the “buyers” and “sellers” are compatriots playing opposite sides of a pretend engagement, and where their respective peers and managers are waiting to evaluate and critique every statement.
Role-play automation is a video-based training SaaS tool that systematically allows sales reps to record, watch and learn how to improve their respective sales stories in the privacy of their own offices. It creates a library of sales-ready stories for the entire organization to use and removes the stress from the process of skills improvement.
Here’s how it works.
- Find Stories – The rep is assigned or finds stories he or she wants to practice; say for example how to respond to a common issue such as “how are you different than XYZ company?” A role-play automation platform such as SharperAx hosts an extensive and searchable library of recorded stories from across the organization; stories about products and services, challenging and successful implementations, resolved customer complaints, etc. So the collective expertise of the company is available to sellers wherever and whenever they need it.
- Preview Stories – The rep watches stories they need to learn; picking up the subtle language, tone and expression elements of effective storytelling. Most of the brief videos in the library are done in role and contain valuable information and expertise. It’s been shown that watching and practicing – recursive learning – aids retention by upwards of six times over traditional learning approaches. Previewing stories also enables the reps to recast responses in their own language and style.
- Practice Stories – The role-play automation system allows users to then record their own version of the stories as many times as they like. These rehearsals enable sellers to perfect the rhythm and rhyme of the story in the privacy of a conference room or their own home-office, discarding recordings that aren’t good and keeping only the ones that hit the mark.
- Share Stories – Once the stories have been perfected , they can been shared with others – management or peers within the organization for further coaching. In contrast to the very public feedback loop of role-playing held at quarterly sales conferences, this private one-on-one coaching approach is much more effective. It allows reps to learn without the stress of performance.
- Share Learning – A great way to further leverage these stories is to have a brief story workshop weekly or bi-weekly where the team watches different takes on the story of the week and discusses and fleshes out the different ideas and approaches.
- Build Mastery – By the time the rep has reviewed a best practice story, practiced it 5 times, gotten coached on it and discussed it with their peers, they know it and can use it with great impact in selling conversations.
Role-playing is an incredibly useful training methodology and one that should be utilized by organizations on a continuous basis to reap the benefits. SharperAx helps create a storytelling enterprise without any of the stress.
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.