Like most things in the life, the time, energy and effort you put into something has a direct correlation to what you get out of it. Mastering your sales skills including sales negotiation is no different. After all, practice makes perfect. The challenge however is getting enough practice. In a sales negotiation there is a lot to consider including your goals and objectives, your customer's goals and what they want or need, and the potential objections and obstacles to overcome before arriving at a win-win solution. Practicing your sales negotiation skills such as applying a new skill, technique or strategy with a real customer is not the ideal time because one little mistake could be costly.
This is why practicing your sales negotiation skills through sales role play is key to success. Working through hypothetical scenarios with your manager, coach or colleague provides salespeople with a safe, "pressure-free" opportunity to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement including teaching moments. Role playing is an excellent activity to practice rehearsing your customer conversations to ensure you're 'conversation ready' and that you develop "skills mastery."
1. Role Play The Most Difficult Sales Negotiations
You've probably heard about Olympic or professional athletes training in extreme conditions. For example, to prepare for running a marathon athletes may train in the high altitude of the rocky mountains to make the training far more difficult than the actual race. The idea is that on race day you will blow way your competition because you've been running at 10,000 feet above sea level and the race is at 600 feet above sea level. IT staffing sales professionals can and should apply the same principle to their sales training. By practicing the most difficult and challenging scenarios you will be prepared for any situation you might encounter. This will boost your self confidence because you know you have taken the time to prepare mentally and emotionally.
- The salesperson (you)
- The prospect (your manager or colleague or fellow recruiter or sales coach)
- Observer to provide honest and candid feedback
- Your smartphone to record the role play
- Write down (or ask someone with far more more experience than yourself to share with you and then write down) the most difficult sales negotiation you've ever experienced (difficult customer, huge deal, legal complications, deadline, difficult candidate, counter offer, etc.). Include all of the details that made the sales negotiation so challenging such as timeline, multiple decision makers, competition, objections, etc. Label this sheet of paper "Master Role Play Scenario."
- On a second sheet of paper label the top "Sales Rep." On this sheet write down all of the information that was privy to the salesperson going into the negotiation including what it is the salesperson believed the customer wanted and what the salesperson wanted. Do not include what the salesperson learned or discovered AFTER the real negotiation.
- On a third sheet of paper label the top "Customer." On this sheet write down all of things the customer cared about and wanted in the negotiation and why they wanted those things (payment terms, legal terms, pricing, etc). Also include all of the questions, and objections that the customer raised throughout the sales negotiation.
- Give the sheet labeled "Sales Rep" to the salesperson. Do NOT let the salesperson see the other two pieces of paper. The salesperson's job is to prepare what questions they will ask, statements they will make and the negotiation trade-offs they will offer to arrive at a win-win solution.
- Give the sheet labeled "Master Role Play Scenario" and "Customer" to the person who will play the role of the customer. This person's job is to portray the role of the customer by saying and doing the things that real customer did in this scenario when it actually took place. When doing the role play, don't share every concern you have unless the salesperson asks specifically. Don't freely volunteer information.
- Observer: The observer should listen carefully and take detailed notes in order to provide positive and constructive feedback. The observer should also make sure the role play is being recorded with a smartphone or some other device.
- Play out out the role play scenario. Once you reach an agreement or arrive at gridlock, conduct a debrief. Ask the sales person to critique themself first on what they feel they did well and what they feel they need to work on. You want the salesperson to self-critique themself first to see if they have the self awareness and recognize the same strengths and weaknesses as the observer (or person who played the customer) did. Ask your observer to share feedback regarding the dialog, questions asked, comments made and the salesperson's tonality and whether or not the salesperson was actively listening. Compare and contrast notes. Which responses worked well? What questions did the salesperson fail to ask? What opportunities were missed? What was executed really well? Were there any concerns the customer had that were never properly uncovered or addressed by the salesperson? How will you apply your lessons learned to your future sales negotiations?
- Repeat the exercise, only come up with a new sales negotiation scenario. Complete the entire exercise as many times as needed until you feel 100% confident you are "conversation ready" and able to execute in the heat of the moment.
How are you applying role playing to improve your sales skills? What do you find most challenging about sales negotiations? Let's start a conversation in the comments section bellow.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.