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Getting Sales Role-Plays right – Make them REAL

Nothing in sales training has a cringe factor like role play. Why? Because it’s not what really happens. Because nobody takes them seriously. Because it’s terrible to do this in front of peer. Fact is: if you want to learn new ways of doing things – the simple truth is, we have to practise them. Intellectualising is simple – doing is difficult. So, how can you make role plays a good experience and an effective learning tool. 3 principles to make role plays  REAL and worthwhile: 1. Make content real Generic content , like generic training, doesn’t work. It is too abstract. The role play scenarios should be created by sales people. This is the only way we compare how things were in the past – and how new approaches can lead to different outcomes.  The before and after is crucial. If role plays work on real customer war stories  – they will capture not only the interest of sales people, but also lead to confidence in new techniques. 2. Sales People NEVER play the customer It is not a realistic expectation that sales people can play convincing and credible buyers. They lack typically demeanour and knowledge. Most importantly the project their perception of a buyer into the role plays. This makes the whole exercise pointless. In addition, they are not well positioned to provide constructive feedback. Most importantly, they cannot create a “persona” that creates a realistic situation for specific learning outcomes.  Corporate actors are best positioned to represent the right buyer persona with realistic behaviours and provide objective feedback. 3. Feedback and re-run  The most effective learning moment is the feedback after the role play. It is crucial to allow enough time for planning and the subsequent feedback. The feedback delivery must have objectivity and deal objectively with learning outcomes. The worst possible form of feedback is: “ what you should have said is…..”.  Every sales person has a different style, to have credibility in front of real customers, the sales person has to have to the opportunity to get their style right and gain confidence in it. This requires re-runs of the same situation to try different ways of applying new ways.

Ursula Dauenhauer founded business backstage pty ltd in 2011. She has more than 10 year consulting experience as well as 15 years’ practitioner experience in high value IT and complex solution markets. She held various marketing and sales positions with organisations like IBM and Xerox in Germany, UK and Australia.