Despite the saying “everybody sells,” professional salespeople improve with the support of coaching, role-playing, and reinforcement. It’s especially true in large, geographically distributed, and fast-moving teams. For sales managers and team leaders, here are five timely tips.
Sales proficiency is typically a learn-by-doing process—notwithstanding the MANY good books and seminars on how to sell. We get better with practice, especially with the guidance of an experienced coach or mentor. The problem is time. Even the best sales teams are “too busy mopping the floor to turn off the water” when it comes to training and development—and especially when it comes to effective role-playing practice.
The following techniques usually apply in a live, in-person context. However, distance, workloads, and travel schedules make it a challenge. Fortunately, they also work well when aided by technology, such as truly interactive, on-demand video.
1. Enable Sharing & Mentoring
In most sales teams, there are star players—sharing and learning from their techniques with the right kind of encouragement can be to benefit of all. (It goes without saying that star players who have a good coach will be less likely to hoard their secrets.) Again, the problem is time. Even when your top people understand how role-play benefits their own performance, and helps everyone succeed, it’s hard to schedule that precious face-to-face time.
Technology can help, but only if it makes the process easy, and rewards the participants with immediate feedback and reinforcement. A good video role-play approach is asynchronous (fitting the user’s schedule, not vice-versa) and has a clear, straightforward user experience.
Also, like it’s live counterpart, virtual role-play must be a rewarding experience—recognizing the prowess of the superstar while also rewarding others’ progress.
2. Reinforce Good Messaging
A company’s message is far more than a mission statement. The words (and the nonverbal cues) salespeople employ must resonate consistently with prospects, clients, and partners alike—giving them good reason to work with you. Messaging can be general, aspirational, product/service-specific, or a combination of all three. But it can’t be by rote or mechanical. A good salesperson has to get the details right, but he or she must also master the art of connecting.
Of course, we can learn this kind of “flow” by working with actual prospects, but the cost is high—literally. To reduce the potential for lost sales, realistic role-play and reinforcement can up our messaging game.
In lieu of (or to supplement) live sessions, virtual role-play should include short, focused assignments, plenty of opportunity to practice with a webcam, and an easy way to record and upload video or audio. It must also have an intuitive process for feedback by managers and/or sales team peers.
3. Train Them to Listen
In live sales situations, a good salesperson will listen more than speak. If they can hear the need—even when it’s phrased as an objection or a complaint—they must respond with far more than a canned pitch.
To actually become such a listener requires LOTS of practice. In a real or virtual role-play situation, that means planning the exercises to match real-world scenarios. (You don’t need an elaborate, scripted production. Just record yourself playing the role of a prospect with questions or objections. You know them well.) Keep each assignment concise, give your team members a way to rehearse and record their response, and be sure to note in their practice video where they recognized the “ask” and gave a good response.
4. Facilitate Best Practices
Role-play (real or virtual) is a great way to improve comfort and perfect the mechanics of the sales process, like gathering requirements for a proposal—or asking for the order! Having team members watch and listen to each other, and provide in-context feedback, will give them new and valuable insights.
When your team is separated by distance, schedules, and time zones, an asynchronous video approach is best—if the tools make it easy to assign, record, and review these practice exercises.
5. Build and Unite Your Team
There is no substitute for live interaction, but virtual role-play technology can make occasional live training more effective and sustainable. To do so well means that a video role-play system must provide not only the tools to assign and record sales exercises; it must also reward everyone who participates, and increase their sense of purpose in moving the whole team forward.
This can take several forms—from recognizing and highlighting superior performance to tracking improvement with further rewards over time. A good system must give you a way to rate and recognize good performance, and call attention to it within the team and to the larger organization.
Consider enabling your team’s professional growth with a consistent practice, sharing, and rewards process. There’s no better way to boost team confidence and performance.