opportunity_resized.pngRole playing is one of the best ways for sales managers to add value for their team members. Executed effectively, you provide a comfortable environment for a salesperson to practice a pivotal conversation and provide actionable feedback for improvement.

It’s better to practice in your office, than with the customer. Here are five tips for executing an effective role play session with your reps:

1. Make it as Real as Possible

The more real the role playing experience, the greater its value. Make sure the person playing the buyer has fluency about the deal, so he/she can play the role effectively. A knowledgeable participant is going to more naturally present a real setup and real obstacles for the salesperson to address. If your rep can’t prep the “buyer” well, that’s a red flag for you that the rep may need to do more discovery. Also, periodically conduct phone-based role plays. Some salespeople need as much practice on conducting effective phone conversations as they do on in-person meetings.

2. Stay focused on time and benchmarks

Make your role plays concise and high-impact by sticking to specific objectives and schedules. Why are you using a role play in this instance? What is the action step the rep is driving to in the conversation?

3. Allow the Rep to Share Feedback First

Invite the salesperson to share a few positive and negative reactions to his own performance. Doing so causes the rep to analyze his approach and get talking points out before you give feedback. The rep may bring up areas he/she needs to improve, without you having to offer your perspective. It also sets a positive tone for the feedback conversation.

4. Reinforce the Positives

Confidence and sales success go hand-in-hand. Make sure to ask for positive insights from the rep first and give your own positive feedback first. Highlight specific steps or actions in the rep’s process that are strong. Since role plays are about improvement, making this an intentional effort helps guard against only highlighting areas to improve.

5. Make Feedback Actionable

The only way constructive role play feedback is valuable is if it is actionable. The rep should know exactly what to do to perform better in the real conversation. You can use phrases like, “Something you may want to try saying in that instance is…” or “Here’s something that’s worked for me when that’s happened in my sales conversations.” Your rep should have a clear understanding of what he/she needs to do in the real conversation.

A great role play is as close to a real sales meeting or call as you’re going to get. The key to a development experience, though, is making the feedback phase productive. Encourage reps to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, keep it positive, make the goals clear and deliver actionable recommendations.