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Role-Playing Is the Practice That Makes Perfect

Working on a hypothetical deal with a teammate is a low-stakes way to identify issues, development areas and strengths.
Role-Playing Is the Practice That Makes Perfect
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VIP Contributor
International Sales Expert
4 min read
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You see athletes overtraining all the time. You see basketball players practicing with masks over their faces to restrict their oxygen flow -- simulating working out in a high altitude. Why would they do that? Because they reason that if they can play three hours at high altitude they’ll be in great shape to play an hour and a half at sea level.

The same holds true for sales. If you can successfully close a deal in an extreme situation, you’ll have the right mindset and be emotionally ready for a normal negotiation.

Practicing is a must. During an actual negotiation, you need to focus on the deal itself -- the goals, objectives, potential issues, etc. This isn’t the time to try out a new strategy or technique. Working on a hypothetical deal with a teammate is a low-stakes way to identify issues, development areas and strengths.

“Quizzing oneself on new material, such as by reciting it aloud from memory or trying to tell a friend about it, is a far more powerful way to master information than just re-reading it," according to work by researchers including Henry Roediger III and Jeffrey Karpicke.

The more ways you can learn will help you master the skill faster and better. Speaking, acting and interacting allows you to pick up the skill being learned faster.

Related: 5 Tips to Reduce Presentation Anxiety

Role-playing is great practice. It allows you to see how your team delivers a pitch while you measure their ability to problem solve and think on their feet. Even the rock stars on your team can learn something and push themselves further.

When role-playing, go over everything from the greeting to the demonstration and even get into the closing material. Don’t be afraid to actually do some of your training over the phone if that’s how you do your deals. If you do use the phone, then it will help you by being more realistic, and you can record the call for review later on.

Role-playing is also a great way to practice responding to difficult situations like unreasonable requests or demands.

Role-playing will also help you find your development areas – areas that might be your personal negotiation shortcomings. Maybe you tend to forget to establish a connection with your buyer or you aren’t as personable as you think. Maybe your awareness and listening skills need a polish. Or maybe you get nervous at objections and cave too quickly, offering discounts when you don’t need to. Or the opposite, and you strong-arm customers and don’t negotiate or give in on simple things, causing a potential customer to walk away from the deal.

Related: 3 Ways To Perfect Your Pitch

Role-playing allows you to explore and master the hundreds upon hundreds of negotiation strategies and scripts out there. You can discover which ones your company or industry uses, which ones have been effective, which ones you want to try out, and practice them until you are comfortable using them.

Role-playing allows for everyone on your team to be trained in the same manner. It ensures that your sales process is being run consistently, professionally and how it should be according to your targets and goals. It eliminates customer confusion by getting a different approach and deal by speaking to a different team member on staff. This, in turn, will bolster your brand and customer satisfaction because trust will be established.

Role-playing allows you to practice your material, get the bugs out and allows you to see the customer’s point of view.

Related: 10 Questions to Answer Before Pitching Investors

Some tips for successful role play:

1. Use a script to start off.

2. Run through the entire scenario.

3. Remind everyone that rejection isn’t personal.

4. Test everyone’s listening skills.

5.  Decide to get out of your comfort zone.

6. Commit to role-play daily.

7. Do it at the start of the day to get warmed up for your real sales calls.

8. Practice getting out of uncomfortable and challenging situations.

9. Take turns playing the customer so you can understand that viewpoint in the process.

10. Commit to being great.

Grab a fellow salesperson and start role-playing. It might be stiff or awkward the first few times you do it, but those feelings will quickly disappear when your sales and income start going up and you feel more confident about your job.

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