Role Play for Profit

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In training there are certain things that can make people start to groan and generally not want to participate. Probably top of all of these has to be when you announce role-play. It has got to the point where I now introduce that we are about to do an activity and explain the activity exactly the same way as I would explain a role play activity without using the word. It is incredible how merely dropping a simple phrase can make such a big mental difference.

In this blog I wanted to briefly touch on why it is so powerful to do role-plays - even if they make you initially feel like you would rather run for the hills or set your hair on fire.

The human brain is designed primarily to keep us alive and anything that it perceives is dangerous, it will generally tend to avoid. Role-plays are often perceived to hold a lot of danger: the risk of embarrassment, there's the risk of looking silly, of messing up, you've been asked to do something you don't know how to do etc. It is for this reason that so many people want to avoid it. However the human brain is also an incredible creation and once it has done something once and ascertained that it is both possible and not fatal, it has an amazing knack for being able to do the activity again a little bit quicker, a little bit smoother and more effectively.

I recently have had a number of clients attend expos, field days and trade shows. There are three parts to this: there is the preparation before-hand, the actual event and, of course, the follow up after the event. For teams who put the effort in before the event and practice role-plays, the effect of the result speaks for itself. Ironically the very thing that people fear inside of a role-play is totally eliminated in real life if they have practiced well. What so many people (who dread what a role-play might bring) end up finding is the reality of being prepared in a real world situation with real customers when it really matters.

Doing a role-play allows us to fully understand who we are and what we bring to the situation. It gives us an opportunity to understand the value that we offer and why people might be interested. It also enables us to practice how to engage, how to answer questions and how to use the short space of time we have effectively for both parties.

An effective way of doing role-plays is to set some clear goals for the salesperson and then have the customer come on stand with a backstory, as well as the interests that they have. For example, they could be the buyer for a large organisation who is under a huge amount of pressure to find a new supplier who can deliver on time because they have been badly let down. However the main KPI on a day-to-day basis is the GP. Added to this, the person could be having troubles at home with the kids and maybe has just received a request to go and see the doctor after some results have been received in and they are are worried what this might mean.

The rest of the team then observes how the role-play pans out. The Rep obviously guides the client through the stand that is on display in the practice room and asks the questions that they've got prepared. The rest of the team observes and makes notes. It is important after a role play to ask each party what they believe was done well. I often find the people immediately want to jump to what was done badly but we need to rewire people's brains to know that they have done things well. You get more of what you focus on, so focus on what you want more of. The very fact that they have done it, is good and so therefore the only feedback we want to know is: "What did you do well?" and "What will you do differently and or better next time?".

Ideally the salesperson should have uncovered that the key driver for the person was around reliable delivery and while price was important, it wasn't the deciding factor. Depending on the amount of time you have in the role-play - whether you are planning for a face-to-face meeting, a presentation or an event, being very clear on the design and outcome is important.

Once you've done this a few times it becomes easier and easier to do. When it is acted out in reality, the confidence levels it gives will often see role-plays being added as a stable part of a sales meeting - which is what indeed they should be. If you've never done them before, I strongly encourage you to give it a go before your next big meeting, presentation or event and watch the results speak for themselves.

Here's to your success!