Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Wisdom of Role Playing (Shhh!, Not So Loud) for Sales Success, Part II (please read Part I first)

In Part I of this article, I explained why sales people should role play. Here in Part II, I offer the following guidelines for structuring productive and skill-based developmental role plays:

The Rehearsal: Developmental Role Playing Guidelines

1. Identify challenging client situations.

Common sales challenges might include:

  • Responding to tough objections
  • Differentiating yourself and organization
  • Selling value over price
  • Positioning products and services
  • Asking need-based questions
  • Gaining an appointment with a prospect
  • Closing business or gaining action steps

2. Ask a colleague or manager to play the role of a client or prospect, depending on the situation.

This person will also be the “coach” who provides feedback after the role play. This is a good time to agree on role play and feedback ground rules:
  • Feedback should be balanced with strengths and areas for development. The coach should be prepared to provide both.
  • The role play should be viewed as a developmental process and not a performance evaluation. It’s a perfect time to go out of the comfort zone and try something new.

3. Verbally set-up the sales situation and the events leading up to the practice moment.

For example, you might use a set-up that reflects a first meeting with a prospect who has a tough objection:

Right now we are meeting for the first time. You got the meeting using a third party referral. After a brief introduction and agreement on a meeting agenda, the prospect says: “I appreciate your taking the time to meet with me, but I just want you to understand that we have been with our current provider for several years and we are quite satisfied with our relationship.”

4. Start the role play at the moment the prospect makes the statement.

5. Conduct the role play until you feel you’ve completed the dialogue with the prospect role.

The role play most likely will take 5 to 10 minutes. Do not interrupt the role play, unless it goes way off course.

6. After the role play, use the following feedback process.

  • The person in the role of the sales person provides a self-assessment of strengths and areas for improvement, providing specific examples of each.
  • The coach provides balanced feedback on strength and areas for improvement, providing specific examples of each.
  • Both discuss the key learning points and how to apply them to real life.

7. Re-do the role play to rehearse learning points.

Remember, role play is rehearsal, your practice before the big game or race. It creates patterns in the brain that you can rely on during stressful or challenging sales situations, giving you a been there, done that confidence. Now, go rehearse your next sales call!

The Wisdom of Role Playing (Shhh!, Not So Loud) for Sales Success, Part I

OK, here they are, the dreaded words: role playing. You may be tempted to skip this article because you detest the thought of role playing and dismiss its value as a training technique. Role playing has such a bad reputation that I’ve had clients ask me to refer to it as skill practice on sales training agendas. Based on my experience with thousands of sales professionals, role playing is the training tool most often met with fear and dread.

Just the thought of role playing can cause heart rates to increase and temperatures to rise. I’ve heard salespeople say it can make them do and say things they claim they never would in real life
. Playing roles, many complain, is not real-life. Remarks such as, I don’t like to act, or, it doesn’t happen like this in real life, are common.

I agree that role playing makes sales people nervous, uncomfortable, say strange things, and that it is not real life. That’s why it’s called role playing.

Despite the complaints, it’s remarkable how often sales people who were initially resistant to role playing later comment that they would have liked more role playing. After the training, they admit they like the practice and feedback and that it’s useful to have the opportunity to practice and refine how they will say things during sales calls.

The question then is why should sales people role play? The answer is simple. It’s a fact that you will perform better in real life after you’ve rehearsed.

Let’s look at why and how role play rehearsals can give you a competitive advantage.

Role playing is a process requiring reflection and self-assessment. If designed with the right objectives and with as realistic as possible situations, role playing gives people the opportunity to experience scenarios they may face in the future. As a rehearsal for real encounters, role playing allows sales people to make mistakes in a safe environment. It is an invaluable tool for testing multiple and successful sales strategies.

According to Amanda Ripley, author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes, the brain works by pattern recognition and when it’s in an extremely frightening situation it sorts through a database for a script. Even though sales transactions are not usually considered extremely frightening, the brain responds in a similar way, looking for a memory or script to use in a challenging situation. Ripley further states: Your brain relies on that memory and responds to it much more quickly and fully than words. Rehearsing with role play creates the pattern the brain needs to trigger a successful response.

Think about how and why athletes practice (does practice makes perfect sound familar?). A football team will scout each opponent, learning all they can about their schemes and personnel. In practice, the team will simulate playing their opponent, familiarizing themselves on how to react to different situations until it becomes second nature for game day.
The repetitive nature of athletic training also produces muscle memory, the process of creating increased accuracy through repetition. Similarly, a runner will incorporate speed workouts into their training (running at or faster than their race pace), allowing their muscles, lungs and heart to be accustomed to running at a fast pace. Additionally, many athletes use visualization to mentally rehearse their event. None of this is real life, but an important simulation (role play?) for real life.

Of course, not all role playing is productive and valuable. It has a bad reputation because of how it has been misused as a tool. Sales people dread it because their experience has been that it was used as a method to expose their weaknesses in front of colleagues or management, causing embarrassment and pain. Some managers think this is the right way to learn, but I completely disagree.

In Part II of this article, I will offer guidelines for structuring productive and skill-based developmental role plays.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Three Key Questions to Mortgage Originator Survival

You are in the mortgage origination business during one of the most adverse mortgage environments for buyers we've seen in a long time. As credit standards tighten and financial markets wrestle with losses and bad press, your ability to build trust, help the home buyer understand fewer and changing options, and obtain an affordable mortgage, has never been more critical. How can mortgage originators not only survive this market, but achieve new levels of success? Now is the time to reflect on ways to adopt new strategies and tactics to make sure you can be as successful as possible.

Three Key Questions
To help you achieve new approaches and fresh ideas, let's use the power of self-reflection and assessment to gain a current perspective on your mortgage origination business. Please take a moment and answer the three key questions below before you read the text that follows them:
  1. What business are you in?
  2. What are you doing well that's helping you achieve success today?
  3. What do you need to change to achieve greater success?

What Business Are You In?

This question should elicit a client-centered response and not a technical response. If you answered, I am in the relationship business, or a similar answer such as customer service, the American Dream business, you are client-focused. Your answers "speak" from the client's perspective. If you answered I am in the mortgage business, or a similar answer with a focus on your products, you are product-focused with a more technical perspective.

Your perspective, whether client or product focused, matters more today than ever before. However, when you are client-centered, you build and foster trust. Buyers today need you to have their needs and struggles on your mind while you help them. They want you to understand and consider their goals, values and priorities before you offer a mortgage option.

What Are You Doing Well?

It's time to self-assess and really know what's working for you. You should be able to cite at least five strengths that are helping you succeed in this market. For example, one mortgage originator I interviewed answered this question as follows:

  1. I am following-up more frequently on all my leads.
  2. I am taking time to get to know the needs of my referral business partners.
  3. I am joining more professional networking groups to build my presence.
  4. I am re-thinking how I market to my niche solutions and building new strategies.
  5. I am sharpening my ability to create dialogue with buyers and listen more intently.

What Do You Need To Change to Create More Success?

This question is tough because it requires full knowledge of what's working and what's not working and sometimes we have a "blind spot" preventing us from seeing our limitations. Remember, this question is not about what wrong with the market or your company, it's about you and what you could be doing better or differently to change your results. This is what I often hear when I ask mortgage originators this question:

  1. I need better time management.
  2. I need to figure out what to say to a buyer who says: "I'm not interested in your option."
  3. I need to ask more insightful questions to understand needs.
  4. I need to be more persistent.
  5. I don't know what I need to change.

The last response is both sad and insightful. The sad truth is that many people don't know what to change. In this case, it is critical to get another person's perspective. I recommend asking colleagues, buyers, referral partners, and sales managers for help. Ask them to provide feedback on what they observe about your sales process and skills. Ask for strengths and areas for improvement. When you hear something you disagree with, don't defend yourself, but thank everyone who gives you feedback.

There will always be challenging times and change in the mortgage industry; it's part of the package, so to speak. As a mortgage originator you only have control over your process, activities and skills. The important thing is to make sure they are ever-adapting to change. Use the three key questions as a tool to sharpen your game and build your business.