A common fear that people in business have (sales people in particular) is a fear of getting on the phone, particularly with people they don’t know or people they know are upset. It seems a little irrational, because if you don’t talk to people then you are not going to uncover their business issues and if you don’t know their issues then you are definitely going to have trouble selling them a solution!
However when you are new to sales you are worried that they might ask a question that you can’t answer, they might be “short with you” for disturbing their day, they might make you feel stupid or any number of actually reasonable concerns! All salespeople need to get through that “fear stage” in order to have any success.
The same thing can be said for all kinds of jobs … the customer service person gets irate people talking to them all the time. if they are sensitive by nature that can be tough. The teacher who doesn’t want to talk to irate parents. The bank manager who doesn’t want to deny loan requests etc.
One of the best ways to overcome this fear is through practice … and one of the best ways to practice is by role playing. It is not a very popular activity with many salespeople, but it is much less stressful than learning on the job AND it has no impact on those potential clients you might turn off by learning on the job!
I liken it to my boxing experience from a couple of years ago. I was asked to take part in a charity boxing event in Ottawa … as a former CEO of the Year in Ottawa, I was considered a decent draw (translation: lots of people would like to see me get a beating).
I had no boxing experience … and the end game would see me climb into a ring with my protagonist and go three rounds in front of 600 people who had paid good money to be “entertained”! I make no bones about it, it was an intimidating prospect.
The coach was great … we role played at increasing levels of intensity for 5 months leading up to the big event.
In the boxing world role playing equals sparring.
As we got closer to the big night, the sparring intensity increased and I became more comfortable that I would be OK. In fact a couple of weeks before the event I climbed in the ring with a friend of mine who was 15 years younger, a few pounds heavier and 4 inches taller. After 3 rounds I had my first black eye and a bloody nose … but it was strangely fun!
If I was a young salesperson and this was the culmination of my role playing … I would be ready to go and sell.
In this case I was ready to go raise some money for a great cause … by donating some blood!
Role playing does not have to mean spilling blood, but it is a great way to get ready for “the main event”!
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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