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Sales Training - Not just the dreaded Role Play!

Quite often, at the end of a sales training meeting, there is time allocated for Role Plays with colleagues. I always dreaded these as I saw them as a test in artificial conditions to implement what I was supposed to have learned. I can see folks now breaking off into pairs, spreading out across a conference room in a hotel somewhere. When they started to video tape these and play them back, I would always cringe. The seller would be so staccato in their delivery, and the buyer would be unrealistically easy or hard depending on their rank in the organization. If you are in sales, no doubt this has a familiar ring to it. In the back of my mind, I always felt that this time was more of a time filler for the sales trainer and, quite frankly, a waste of time for the salespeople. I know some might disagree with this, but nothing substitutes for the live environment. There is nothing like a real sales call to practice and learn.

I have always maintained that sales is an art, not a Science. It is more of a personality than anything else. The art of the sale needs to be practiced, and a live environment is a fantastic tool for achieving that. If you sell the type of product that is somewhat repetitive, in a short space of time, you can hone your skills by making mistakes and learning from them. The repetitive nature of sales and sales calls serves to build confidence, the key ingredient of successful sellers. It stands to reason that the more you do something, the better you should get at it. In sales, this is particularly true, and a watch out for sales leaders, for those that do not.

Early in my sales career, I was accustomed to making 15-20 cold calls a day. 15-20 times a day to practice the pitch, the delivery, and the buzzwords. I never saw cold calling as painful, as it can be a chore. The practice made me better and better every day. Later in my career, I might only do two sales calls per month, and one might think that with less activity would come diminishing skills. During that time, I sought meetings with internal groups to share sales skills. Unbeknownst to them, they were my practice subjects. I practiced my delivery, pitch, and language. There would always be questions at the end of these sessions that served to help me with objection handling, refine my answers and gain confidence.

Sales training is a very key component of any salesperson’s success. If you are going to take people out of the field and away from their selling time, where they earn their living, the training needs to be impactful and meaningful. It needs to be motivational and inspirational, the type that makes salespeople want to run through brick walls to get to their next sale. Too often, it is scripted or comprises of the latest fad system when all that is required is a little common sense. Sales training is not product knowledge, but it is often confused with training for salespeople. When a new sales process or rule is put in place or a mandatory field is added to your trusty CRM system, it should not be billed as sales training when the salesforce gets together. Sales training needs to be tactical, nothing else.

Professional Athletes study video and their opposition every day of the season. They learn about the characteristics of their opponent, their tendencies, and thus their skill and reactions to make them more successful. Those that embrace this the most and apply their art and talent, cash the biggest checks. Telling these very same athletes that another row of seats has been added to the arena they play in is nice to know but hardly germane to increasing their productivity in play. Sales is the very same.

When was the last time your organization trained and discussed your art with you ? When was the last time you looked at the softer skills that really make your personality more successful? So much can be learned and carried from sales call to sales call. What Psychological aspects of the selling process are you missing? What does it mean when your prospects act a certain way? Are you communicating in today’s environment the most effective way with the audience you are trying to reach? Are you practicing “Salesperson Insanity”? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

Sales, by its very nature, should not be complicated. You have a need. I have a product. We meet, form a bond, and discuss the value that can be delivered. A product is sold, and a sale is made. At its simplest, this is what happens. A commonsensical approach to selling that takes full advantage of your art form and personality with an emphasis on as many soft skills as possible, is the best recipe for success. So, leave the role plays and video cameras at the door……. only sales professionals in here.

Roger McNamara Bio:

Roger is a 25+-year veteran of the Payments Industry, most recently as the Director of Business Development with American Express in the US. He has worked on the largest Acquisition targets for acceptance across multiple Industries and across the globe that include : Airlines, Communications, Technology, Cruise Lines, Entertainment, Fractional Jet, Freight, Government, Healthcare, Insurance, Oil & Gas, Residential Rent, Restaurants, QSR’s, Retail, Services, Supermarkets, Travel, Vehicle Sales, B2B and Wholesale. Over that time, he has sold more than $200 Billion worth of Card processing and became an expert in Bankcard Interchange and Discount Rates, how they are calculated and what merchant pay to accept Credit and how this is dramatically different from what they believe they pay. He is an expert in Merchant Statement analysis and payment processing and the rules and regulations associated with payments and the associations. Roger has also developed the insight for Merchant Services Salesforces and salesforces in general to be able to better position their products and gain share particularly in B2B. Let him show you how you can too. He can be reached at

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