Role Play - The Ultimate Sales Tool

By: David Martin

I am often asked what I think of role play as a method to teach salespeople (and others) how to handle their jobs. We have to remember that it can be really stressful to “perform” in front of our peers because no one wants to be self-conscious and uncomfortable.  My answer is usually “Great tool but too often handled incorrectly.” In my opinion, role play can be the most powerful teaching method in the manager’s arsenal. Unfortunately, many of them treat role play as a game of “gotcha,” where they try to catch salespeople off-guard and embarrass them. This reminds me of Zig Ziglar’s statement, “Too many managers try to catch salespeople doing something wrong instead of trying to catch them doing something right.”

When managers handle role play incorrectly, it becomes counter-productive and damages morale and productivity. The purpose of role play is to have people practice certain situations with others in the dealership so they become relaxed and comfortable with those circumstances. The alternative is for them to continue practicing on your customers and you know how expensive that can be. Marine dealers spend far too much money to generate prospects, only to have them meet an unprepared salesperson.

We have all heard the saying “Repetition is the key to learning.” That is actually the psychology behind role play that makes it such an effective learning tool. When an individual has said or done something enough times, it becomes instinctive and natural. That will always be better than “winging it.” There are certain areas of the sales process that require role play:

  • Properly greeting the customer to set the stage for engagement

  • Asking the right questions to uncover needs & desires

  • Making great product presentations to create mental ownership

  • Professionally responding to objections, instead of merely reacting to them​​

There are also ideal days of the week to role play. For instance, it is counter-productive to walk into a sales meeting and announce “We are doing role play today.” It causes most to freak out, especially your weaker salespeople who need it the most. Instead, on Monday morning announce that in Friday’s sales meeting that everyone will be role playing – no exceptions. You pick the subject and give guidance in how the situation should be handled. It may be a good idea to get them to pair up with another salesperson so they will have a “role play partner.” Over the next several days most of them (at least the smart ones) will spend their free time practicing. When Friday comes they are pumped and ready to perform! This goes a long way to reducing the natural resistance we normally get from salespeople. To hear more ideas on handling role play and creating a powerful sales team, attend my workshop “Role Play: The Ultimate Sales Coaching Tool” The workshop will culminate with having the entire audience actively involved in role playing with each other to illustrate how fun, easy and productive it can be. You will never view role play the same again.

Editor’s Note: The Marine Dealer Conference & Expo will take place December 10-13, 2017 in Orlando, Fla. If you find value in this blog post, just think of the value you could receive at MDCE.

Get registered here.

Copyright 2018 by Marine Retailers Association of the Americas