Rules for Sales Role Plays

Professionals and performers rehearse. They prepare themselves to do their very best work when it matters most. In sales, it’s easy to pretend that we are too busy to train and to role-play our most important conversations, creating a state of stasis as it pertains to our effectiveness.

One of the ways to create breakthrough effectiveness is to role play the different scenarios to improve and develop strategies and language. These rules will ensure your roleplay improves performance.

Use Real Cases: Case studies are beneficial when you want a group of people all to share the same problem. In sales, you are provided with case studies every day, providing you with an endless stream of real scenarios to work on. Using the real deals you are pursuing allows the salesperson to role-play conversations in an environment where they can improve their talk tracks and their strategy. It can be a bit more work, but it is worth the effort if the outcomes can be put to use in winning deals.

Accept the Premise: This is a rule that all great improv groups know well. If one party provides information, you accept it as true. If the salesperson says, “The last time I called you, you mentioned that you were concerned with potential disruptions to your business,” their partner playing the client cannot say, “No, I didn’t. Instead, the client can say, “Yes, and I still am concerned about that,” or “We believe we can live with the disruption, but we’re concerned about the investment.”

Focus on Principles: Almost all role plays are around objection-handling, something better described as resolving concerns, as there is invariably something real behind the words that sound like objections. Role plays are valuable when you can tie them to principles, like trading enough value to gain a commitment, controlling the process, describing your differentiation, and dealing with difficult situations. The best role plays focus on outcomes that can be universally applied.

Rehearse Language: Sounding scripted isn’t the same as having a script. Good talk tracks are important, and powerful language is better than ineffective language. You want a chance to rehearse your language in role plays, with multiple attempts to go over the same ground and improve your delivery. Even if the talk track is excellent, role plays provide a chance to rehearse (something we don’t do enough of in sales).

Allow Do-Overs: It’s easy to ruin a first—or third attempt—at a role play. Because the person playing the role of the salesperson is trying to find the right words, they are prone to saying things that they don’t like once they leave their mouth. Because it is a role play, the person speaking can start over, adjusting and improving their talk track.

Say No: If the person doesn’t use language that their partner believes would work in real life or violates a principle, their partner needs to “say no,” or whatever words are necessary to let them know they failed to achieve their outcome. The role-playing partner also needs to explain why they said no to the salesperson’s request, giving them the feedback they need to improve their next attempt.

The first time you say something, you might come up with something so brilliant it bears repeating. More often, the best talk tracks are developed over time, after you have iterated and have made adjustments. Follow these rules for role plays, and go into client conversations with excellent and effective strategies and language, the strategies and language that ensure you achieve your outcomes.

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