The one element that is consistently listed, in pre-training questionnaires, as the least favourite sales training activity is role play. The one element that is consistently listed, in post-training feedback, as the most useful sales training activity is role play.
I wrote recently about the importance of structure in sales conversations for consistent success and today I’d like to draw your attention to another key element. Too often, salespeople and their leaders fail to recognise the power of practice. In every other walk of life, every other activity, every other learning process, we all rate practice as one of the key ingredients. Preparing for a piano exam? Practise the pieces. GCSEs coming up? Practise exam papers. Big presentation on the horizon? Practise to an empty room / mirror / friend.
Yet most sales teams do not dedicate any regular time to practise. Why?
At the heart of the problem is the myth that because every person is different, every sales conversation is completely different. This is simply not true. If you have hundreds of conversations with your clients or prospective clients, somewhere between 60% and 90% of the content will be very similar. You will have similar questions to ask in most conversations; key points about your company and how it helps will be said again and again, mostly in the same fashion. Either side of the questions and the selling will be introductions and agreements to next steps, neither of which will vary as much as people think.
You can’t prepare and practise for everything but this does not mean that you should prepare and practise nothing. Once you recognise that a large proportion of each sales conversation can be practised, the question becomes simpler: instead of ‘Why should I practise?’, we ask ‘How and when should I practise?’
The best in most fields of human endeavour practise every day. That would help every salesperson and every sales team today and every day thereafter but, even if you can’t find a way for daily practice, could you find 15 minutes once a week? If you really want to improve performance quickly and effectively, the answer is yes.
Practice in the form of role plays forms an integral part of all our sales training programmes because we believe that structure plus practice helps every one of us to be better in any activity. This doesn’t take away the ability of the experienced salesperson or the raw promise of a newcomer but, rather, it enables them to repeat the right habits to make the most of their ability. Whether an experienced professional like Rafa Nadal or relative newcomer like Emma Radacanu, the best in sport, entertainment and business put in the hours of practice. It’s time that salespeople caught up.