While researching new training material I came across Gary Player's (the golfer) famous quote; "the more I practice the luckier I get” and it got me thinking as to the importance of our role as trainers and consultants, more importantly the effect that "role playing" has on developing and improving our clients talent and skill levels. It is not uncommon during a typical visit or end of month review at our client's dealership to limit the visit to a simple review of the "numbers" followed by a discussion over areas that need improvement and close the review by putting an incentive in place to move specific products in an effort to increase profits. Sound familiar? If so, it's time to change it up a bit and get more creative and decisive. What better way do we have to ensure all our efforts to increase proficiency are paying off without inspecting what we expect? So what does "the more I practice the luckier I get" have to do with it?
When do most business managers practice? Unfortunately the answer is when they are in front of a customer! That is a big problem since the only critique a customer gives to a business manager is when they say “no, I don’t want any of that stuff” or they typify it by an "x" marked on a survey. You will you never see or hear about a customer telling the business manager "Now Johnny, that wasn't so bad but if you just slowed it down a little bit and instead of saying 'but' say 'and,' I think it would have been much more effective on me. Now, let's try it again Johnny." If we continue to allow business managers to practice on their customers, it is like telling them to run five laps then hit the showers after they failed to sell anything, discipline with no resolve. The point is when practicing a shot, throw or swing in front of a coach - it is examined and a plan of action is determined to make it better. That's how you develop talent (the aptitude) into skill (the ability). Without "role play" and the critique that accompanies it, the only time the business manager gets to develop his talent and improve his skill is in front of a customer and when they miss a shot, screw up a throw or strike out, the customer is not going to tell them what they did wrong or right for that matter. So do you feel lucky? Do you…?
As Agents, Regional Managers, Representatives or whatever title you may go by, you have a monetary stake in the business managers' successes and failures, therefore when visiting you are with your clients' managers you need to clearly affect the bottom line. You know how to get it done, now it is a matter of getting the managers to take action and adhere to your claim. For your ideas, techniques, tips and tactics to stick or word tracks to transform into natural responses, it is going to take practice, practice and a lot more practice. It's been proven over and over again that one of the most effective ways to develop sales ability is through role play. Unfortunately, a lot of the managers as well as sales consultants I've worked with have had an intense aversion to role playing. Their reasons (excuses) have ranged from not having enough time to telling me they are not comfortable role playing but not to worry because they are more relaxed in front of their customers. My all-time favorite, the one excuse I hear the most is, "you caught me off guard." YOU CAUGHT ME OFF GUARD? That's ridiculous! It has been my experience that their reaction to role play and their performance during role play is pretty much the same thing that happens when they are in front of a customer. It is time to get serious; if they do not have the time for you they most likely will not have the time for their customers. If they feel uncomfortable in front of you they are undoubtedly uncomfortable in front of their customers and if you caught them off guard, well just think of how they handle a customer telling them “no.” The difference between them being good and great is in their willingness to role play, to practice amongst their peers. If they conquer their fears and overcome their resistance to role play with you, the better they’ll be in front of their customers. It is that simple.
The greatest challenge in front of us is our ability to get them to embrace role playing. My experience with role play is that is has to be creative and fun in order for the participants to engage willfully. There are many ways to make role playing a more enjoyable and even fun experience! It's been proven that we learn and grasp techniques better when we are having fun. Just think back to the best training sessions you have attended or participated in and you will know it is true. So why wouldn't you want your clients to have fun while they're learning? The more they enjoy what they are doing, the more they are going to get out of it and the more you will benefit from it. There are three participants in an effective role play session. They are the Associate (the person trying the skill), the Customer (the person reacting to the skill), and the Coach (the person observing and giving feedback). Of the three, the most important by far is the Coach. The Coach can also be the Customer but it's usually more effective when you have three or more people working and learning together. The more people you have participating, the more feedback you'll get. Here are a few role play techniques I use which yield much success:The Round Robin:
You have three or more participants who play the role of the Manager (associate) and you play the role of the Customer (coach). Create a scenario or select a variety of customer objections that you present one at a time. Have each manager follow along by keeping pace with the dialog as you select a manager at random to continue where the previous manager left off. Each time a manager fumbles, go back to the start of the scenario or objection until you go full circle without having to make any corrections.Flash Cards:
Rather than having to make up scenarios or come up with objections on the spot, prepare a few flash cards in advance. If you write the scenarios or objections on index cards, they will provide a clear structure for the role play and help keep you and your participants focused on the objective of the role play.Video or Tape Recording:
Nobody likes to see or hear themselves on tape, and the camera does add some pressure and opposition, but if you can get past those issues, being videotaped can be an invaluable part of role playing. When you're done, you have the chance to watch the tape and make valuable critiques. The camera never lies; you're going to see what is being done wrong as well as what is being done doing right. Want to eliminate pressure and resistance they may have to taping? Try lending them a cassette recorder or video camera so they can record or video tape while no one is hearing or watching them. Have them critique themselves and re-tape until they are satisfied with the results and proud to present the video or recording to you.Catch Them Off Guard:
Rather than asking managers what they would do in certain situations or how they handle specific objections, out of the blue present the manager with a situation or objection and see how they respond to it. If you “just” ask them how they respond or act during certain situations they will always give you the answer they know you want to hear. You will be amazed at the responses catching the manager off guard by popping an objection on them without warning such as "Do I have to take it now?" will reveal.
Next time you visit with your client, try one of the techniques I have shared with you. These little suggestions will make role play more bearable, and who knows? You may even end up liking it! Perfect practice makes a perfect presentation - it's not luck!