The new GM of a ski resort had a problem. A real problem. Sales had been stagnant for years. With fixed costs rising, he had to do something. Anything. Margins were razor thin. At this rate, he would be the last GM of this resort.
The resort had cycled through four GM’s in two years. From what he learned, each GM tried different techniques to raise revenue and profits. Some begged their staff to sell more, while others tried to put the fear of G-d into their bones. Some demanded that they work harder, and make more calls. While another demanded that they work smarter (whatever that meant).
Nothing seemed to help. Sales did not budge.
He remembered something he used to do at a successful telemarketing firm. There, he was lucky enough to work under a manager who understood the secret sauce to helping the reps get better day in and day out.
So let’s talk about what this big secret is. And why you don’t know the first thing about it (although you think you do).
It’s called Sales Role Play.
This is something dreaded by sales people and I know why. It’s because 99% of companies, if they even do role play, do it incorrectly. No one gets taught how to do it correctly and how to use it as a tool to increase closing rates, build good will, and help their staff make more money.
So if it’s even done, sales reps hate participating. The reason is simple – most sales leaders focus on the negatives.
A typical scenario works like this:
Someone pretends to be the customer. Another person in the “hot seat” plays the role of sales rep. A meeting begins. Sometimes the customer is too easy on the rep, other times, too hard. The play goes on for 10-20 minutes. The rep is exhausted. He feels judged. At the end, the manager and probably others point out what went wrong. The sales rep dreads the next time he has to do this and starts sending out his resume on Linkedin.
I could go on, but what’s the real problem here? There are many. So I will list a few.
- Did the sales leader focus on “Excellence in Sales” when facilitating this role play? Or did she point out the negatives? Did she point out the moments that everyone can learn from? Or did she just make everyone nervous and scared to make mistakes?
I have rarely seen a sales leader facilitate role play in a manner where the energy of the group will go up during the exercises. Yet, that’s exactly what should happen in an environment where you want your sales reps to improve their game. If they dread making a mistake, and worse still, in a public forum, in front of the whole team, where they may even get embarrassed, how the heck do you want them to grow their selling skills?
Focusing on negatives creates fear and resentment in a sales team. It breaks people down, not build them up.
- Was the role play longer that 3-5 minutes?
Role play shouldn’t go on for too long. It should be a quick drill, perhaps done every day, but it should be done by everyone on the team. If you spend fifteen minutes on an exercise plus time for feedback, how can everyone participate? By keeping the exercises shorts, everyone is attentive, and “on” because they will all get to play.
- Was there a specific topic to role play during the exercise? What was the goal?
Role play should go something like this. “Today, we are going to take a call from a customer whose merchandise is three days late on delivery. He is upset. On a scale of difficulty, this customer should be a medium intensity.”
After three minutes, everyone participating gives one specific example of something that the sales rep did correctly. This is key. The big key. By pointing out good things, the whole team can learn from each other. Perhaps the rep started the conversation really well, trying to ask the right questions to find out exactly how to rectify the situation. Or perhaps the rep ended the call well, assuaging the frustration of the customer with a promise of a quick resolution and timely follow up. Whatever the good moments were, we need to point these out specifically.
- They will build the confidence of the rep in the hot seat. We know very well that confidence is a big part of the game.
- This will teach everyone in the group about the excellent selling moments during the interaction. Just because you know that the rep did this or that well, others may not have heard what you heard – or had no idea that thing that the rep did was actually an effective way of saying something or handling a situation.
- After everyone takes a turn pointing out positive moments, then the rep in the hot seat answers the question “What could I have done better?”
- Finally, the facilitator summarizes the learning moments.
Again, after every short exercise, EVERYONE finds something positive about how the rep in the hot seat handled the SPECIFIC TOPIC at a SPECIFIC LEVEL of difficulty.
If you have six people on your team, you should easily be able to do twice weekly role plays in about 45 minutes.
Now going back to our eager new GM at the ski resort. What happened with his positive reinforcement role play sessions? Without changing any staff, he was able to increase sales by 300% in twelve months and since the fixed costs (the resort) remained virtually unchanged, profits grew by hundreds of percent as well.
He did role play not only with the sales reps selling season passes, special event tickets, summer golf packages, etc. but with the service staff – receptionists, wait staff, and other service staff. Every FRONT FACING EMPLOYEE was involved in weekly role play.
Anecdotally, I know of companies where sales went up by 500%-600% or more using “positive” role play to strengthen sales ability.
Are you ready to implement excellence of selling at your company?
Andrew Grinbaum’s half-day workshop is available for sales teams of any size where they learn the 15 components of effective sales role play. He will Train the Trainer at your firm to ensure that sales role play is effectively adding to your your top and bottom line revenue.
Find out more at: http://sales-professors.com/solutions/
(Andrew Grinbaum is a Sales Engineer and Marketing Automation Expert who helps small companies turbo-charge their sales team, hire top performers, and create a culture of winning – he can be reached at 786-440-7486. or Andy at sales-professors dot com.)