Sales Management Coaching: Don’t Be Afraid of Role-Play

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Don’t Be Afraid of Role-Play

Many employees, regardless of role or department, learn through trial and error. The problem in sales is with the “error” part, which often occurs in front of live prospects, with actual money and accounts on the line. A simple way of minimizing these costly errors—while getting your sales staff up to snuff—is to engage in regular role-play scenarios.

Questions To Ask Yourself

A quick self-analysis can help you determine if your sales department could benefit from a regular cadence of role-play activities:

1. How many opportunities are lost because your team was not prepared?

2.  What methods, if any, do you have to prepare salespeople for an important client meeting?

3.  Are your salespeople overconfident about their customer meeting skills?

4.  Do your salespeople position their questions in a way to get the most information?

5.  Do your team members have shy, insecure body language?

Many sales professionals think their sales skills are so strong that they can “wing it” when it comes to meetings with clients. Salespeople frequently will say, “I have been doing this for a long time. Nobody can rattle me.” The only thing this proves is that they are over confident and maybe even insecure. 

In no other profession would this be an acceptable attitude; a doctor or lawyer would not walk into a meeting largely unprepared, basing their actions on a “gut feeling” coming from the confidence of experience! Why are salespeople not held to a higher standard of training and preparation? It is an excellent and somewhat befuddling question.

Leveraging Roleplay

Role-play can be a useful practice for sales professionals to improve a person’s questioning, listening, and presentation skills. Developing a plan, crafting questions, and doing research are all critical, but don’t forget to practice.  

Role-play is as simple as a sales manager taking on the role of a customer, running through the different scenarios and responses a client may put forth. How will they open the conversation? What do they ask? How do they sound? What insight do they provide? 

Role-play can be incorporated into any one-on-one or group meeting and can help ease concerns within the psyche of the salesperson. It is up to the sales manager to let the team know that role-play exercises are about constructive feedback and skills development in the following areas:

1.  Handling objections and stalls

2.  Asking difficult questions

3.  Proving insight and value

4.  Progressing the sale

Get The Most Out Of Roleplay

Okay, so you have decided role-play can be a difference-maker in maximizing departmental growth and developing the skills of individual sales team members. What next? Keep these things in mind to get the most out of your renewed dedication to role-play: 

Have a plan. Having a well-defined discovery process that tracks key milestones will help a sales manager coach and guide their salespeople through each hypothetical conversation. How should it sound? What questions should you ask? What information do we need?

Be Flexible. A plan gives you guidelines for the conversation. As the saying goes, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” The word “enemy” may be a bit harsh here, but the conversation will not go exactly how you plan. The salesperson needs to be prepared to be flexible.

Practice, Practice, Practice. Try different scenarios. As the manager, you have been in hundreds of meetings and know the tough questions, objections, and stalls a prospect can offer. Challenge your people during role-play. 

Ad Hoc Role-Play. It is good to practice role-plays during your weekly sales meeting unannounced. If there is an area where a salesperson struggles, ask them to role-play a response to an unexpected question. This practice under pressure helps people prepare for the unexpected.

Role Reversal. Requesting the salesperson to act like the customer while you play the role of salesperson allows your team to hear how you would respond to the stalls, objections, and questions they encounter. This will enable you to suggest the proper responses and identify parts of the conversation where they will need the most work.


Role-play is a valuable technique for sales managers to develop and refine the conversations their salespeople are having. It improves the salesperson’s skills and to test them in a safe environment. The more you practice, the more comfortable all parties will become with the technique—and will ultimately help maximize the growth potential of the individual reps—and the department as a whole.

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