Actors love to work with director Clint Eastwood for good reason: “He expects you to know what you’re doing. And he’s going to take two giant steps back and let you do it,” says Morgan Freeman. But some Hollywood directors are notoriously difficult to work with. Kate Winslet said that working with James Cameron on Titanic was “an ordeal” after nearly drowning and chipping a bone in her elbow.
As the director of your sales role-play, you control the experience and ultimately the results for your team.
In Part 1 of this series on sales role-play, we laid out how to Set the Stage for success by setting clear expectations and selecting a specific customer and opportunity. Now you’re ready to cast your sales role-play.
Sales role-play: the secret is in the casting
Take a lesson from acting and don’t thrust salespeople into the spotlight without giving them some tips on how to “step into” their role. After all, their last acting gig may have been in second grade!
Following are some tips for each salesperson and manager to ensure maximum results:
The Director: played by a manager or a facilitator
Like Clint Eastwood, good directors foster a safe environment of acceptance and experimentation during rehearsal. Try to avoid labeling actions as “right or wrong.” Judgment inhibits the creativity and spontaneity necessary to make discoveries. Salespeople, like actors, need to know they are free to be themselves and test out new skills without fear of judgment.
It can be difficult for salespeople to resist saying what they think management wants to hear. Often the mere presence of a manager in the room can inhibit spontaneity and exploration. If you really want to maximize role-playing’s effectiveness within your organization, consider hiring a qualified facilitator. (Why yes, you can even ask us!)
The Client: played by a salesperson or an actor
Give the client a specific identity. Avoid using a general composite of your clients or your team will be playing generalities, which is unlikely to provide any insights. As a salesperson playing the client, it is difficult to forget what you know about your product or service, but it’s necessary to put it aside. Make sure the client is armed with only the amount of knowledge about your product or service that is appropriate for their role.
Note: The client’s goal is to respond according to his role, not to trip up or test the salesperson.
The Salesperson: played by…a salesperson
Provide the salesperson with detailed circumstances to ground them in the reality of the situation as well as one or two objectives to work on. The salesperson’s goal should be to keep the interaction as real as possible while trying to achieve their goals for the conversation.
Get into Role
Now, it’s important to allow participants some time to get into “character.” Send them the scenarios ahead of time. Most reps and clients have time to prepare for a real meeting, so why deprive your salespeople of that?
The rep playing the client needs to really step into the shoes of the client’s shoes and consider questions like, “What would I want to know/ask/hear if I were really in this situation? How do I feel about this product or service? Where does it rank in terms of priority?”
The salesperson should be clear on her specific relationship with the client as well as what she expects to happen or encounter and what she wants to achieve on the call.
For each role, it is helpful to imagine what took place just prior to the scenario. This provides a launch pad to more smoothly jump into the scene; for example, the sales rep might imagine, “I just drove 30 minutes in rush hour traffic and I’m now in a busy waiting room preparing to go into see Dr. Evans, who is running fifteen minutes behind.”
Remember, a little bit of preparation can go a long way toward making sure your sales role-play is a hit and not a conference room flop.
Next up, how do you give and receive feedback most effectively? Again, acting offers a proven method. Read about it here.