A sales call is very much like a scene in a play. There are actors (you and your team) and an audience (your prospect). Your role as actor is to execute properly and consistently. To execute your lines, while at the same time putting the necessary emotion into the “scene” to elicit an equally emotional response in the prospect.
Real stage actors ensure that kind of consistent performance by rehearsing. They practice without a fully functional stage, or audience, or measured feedback for that matter.
When there is a real deal on the line….
Interestingly, role-playing, when discussed in a sales capacity, is likely not viewed in a similar manner when it comes to preparation. How many times have you rehearsed the process of negotiating? Not discussing the aspects of an actual negotiation you are in, but rehearsing the skills of negotiation.
More likely than not you don’t practice negotiation much just for the purpose of learning and internalizing the skill. You do it when there’s a real deal on the line.
Lean too much on your sales deck? Take this cue from actors…
Stage actors have an almost minimalist approach to props. Just enough to provide context. The director wants the audience to focus on the actors and what they were trying to convey, not the stage collateral.
Keeping role-plays “minimalist” and focusing on the skill or behavior modification is one of several ideas put forth in “A Process-Focused Method to Accelerate Sales Skill Development” by Charles Viosca of Nicholls State University and Chris Cox of Indiana University Southeast.
The authors draw upon insights from Cognitive Load Theory to explain why complex scenarios might be more realistic, but inhibitive to initial skill development. They conclude that in more complex role-play scenarios, learners must devote significant cognitive resources to contextual details related to the product, industry, competitive environment, customer, and the specific sales situation.
So what does this mean for reps?
Simpler scenarios make it possible to increase cognitive load germane to the selling process or skill being learned. And that accelerates the development and reinforcement of those skills. In a nutshell- simplify your role-play rehearsals.
Role-play scenarios also need some relevance to the audience other than the underlying process being taught. For example, similar industry language like a generic technology product name whose specific capabilities are not important to learning the sales skill. Keep it simple.
Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
We don’t want to diminish the need for, or importance of, other skills and knowledge to be successful in sales. Product use case training or business financial understanding is also important, as an example. However, investment in these areas has an element of waste when invested in the rep that isn’t consistently executing good selling judgment when in front of customers.
We believe that practice makes perfect (or that perfect practice makes perfect). So if we’re doing it like the pros, practicing through repetition to internalize the behavior and skills, we might also want to use an approach that successful business people have been employing for years…keeping it simple s-upid.