Participate in Sales Role Plays? I’d Rather Poke My Own Eyes Out!


If you have ever been a part of a Role-Playing session with a sales organization, you’d agree that it’s no place for a nervous person. Are the participants excited to do it? Nope. Is it awkward at times? Yep. Are most people dying to get it over with? Oh, hell yes! Does it help them? Absolutely.

It’s not uncommon for salespeople to really dread role play. After all, as Jerry Seinfeld says in his stand-up act, “You know the #1 fear for most people in the world is public speaking. The #2 fear is death. In a way that only Jerry Seinfeld can pull off he says, “You mean to tell me that most people in this world would rather be in the casket than up there giving the eulogy?” Its classic! Problem is, it’s also true.

If you can shake off the few seconds of awkwardness & let go of the fear for a while, sales role play is some of the “best learning” you’ll ever get. Where else do you get to practice your craft? On sales appointments? Bingo! That’s exactly where some salespeople get their practice in – right in front of a juicy prospect or current client. It’s hard to believe if you stop to think about it.

Why would you wait for a prospect to bring up an objection before you figured out how to handle it? Why would you wait for a client to ask you a tough question before role playing a few options of how to answer it? The real zinger that we have the hardest time understanding (for many of our auto suppliers here in Metro Detroit) is why in the world would you wait for your customer to ask for discounts or give backs (cost downs) before practicing your reply with your management & colleagues. Baffling at best.

It’s gotta be that most salespeople would rather be in the casket, too.

You don’t need to work with a Sales Training & Coaching Company to do role playing in your sales meetings. You should be doing it in every sales meeting. Best learning your team will ever get.

Here’s how: One person plays themselves (salesperson). In joint call scenarios two people play the salesperson role. If this is real-life then it should be this way in role play – perfectly fine. Another person (or people) plays the prospect or customer. This is often a buyer, purchasing agent, engineering manager, etc. For some companies it’s not uncommon for the prospect or customer role to be a CEO, president, vice-president, director, general manager, etc. Rule of thumb: If you are calling on a buyer, make sure whoever plays this role plays the role of a buyer (make it real-life). You can kick it up a notch & have two or three people in the prospect or customer role. If that is what happens in real-life then it should happen in role play.

Careful. Make sure whoever plays the prospect or customer role isn’t just looking to “get back” at all the prospects & customers in his or her life. In other words, the person who plays this role can’t be a complete jerk – (we get it… you call on complete jerks every day). In role play the prospect or buyer role should be played as true to life as possible.

Role Play Topics:

Again, since the role play needs to be as real-life as possible the topics must be practical. Some common topics for sales role play:

  • Customer asking for discount or cost downs
  • You are up against an incumbent supplier
  • Prospect asked you to “sharpen your pencil”
  • Damage control or have a difficult conversation (deliver bad news, late delivery, quality problem, etc.)
  • Prospect has an alternative solution/supplier & asks, “Why should we go with you?”
  • Asking for a referral/ introduction or sponsorship
  • Prospect likes you but needs you to “sell my b0ss or supervisor”
  • Buyer or purchasing agent is only interested in the low-cost provider
  • Customer used to buy but stopped (& nobody knows why)… now you are in front of her
  • Customer used to buy but stopped due to quality or delivery issues… now you are in front of her

There are dozens of scenarios that can be played out. Be practical. Pick the most common & dig into it. Practice in front of your own team. They know how to play the prospect or customer role. Best learning you will get.

Or maybe you’d rather just be in the casket…

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Dave Tear

Dave is passionate about selling & helping others understand the sales process. Whether a client company has a 5 person sales team or a 300 person National sales force, Dave can Coach & Train them to be the best in their industry.
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