One of my favorite movies is the inspirational story of Rudy Ruettiger. Rudy, a 5’ 6″ dyslexic young man with only marginal grades, wanted to play football for Notre Dame. You know the story. He eventually attained enrollment at Norte Dame, but could only qualify for the football team’s practice squad.
At least on the college and pro level, football teams have starters, others who play in various positions, and also a practice squad. Each week the starters line-up against the practice squad to experience what an opposing team may do during a real game. The objective, of course, is to improve the team’s odds of winning and achieving success.
Your sales manager should implement this same strategy. Almost all sales training is woefully deficient in real world sales simulation. Your sales leaders must ensure their teams are prepared, not only for each sales presentation, but for unforeseen circumstances that might occur during a real game (sales process).
In my own businesses and with client’s sales teams, the best way I’ve found to create a practice squad environment is to role play. Just like the football practice squad drill, I video-taped the play. I gave the team a yellow flag when a trainee said to me, “I can’t do it with you, Mr. Hequet, but I can do it with a customer.” No, if you can’t do it with me in a friendly simulation, then you don’t get to practice on a real customer.
During the role play, I gave the person playing the customer’s part a script to act out. I based the script on real-life customer interactions. The one-on-one situation appears easy, and I know you understand my brief set-up. But what about a sales team practice squad?
What comprises a sales team practice squad training drill? It’s when multiple salespeople work together on a practice squad project and compete against other members of the sales team. To ensure sales people understand your sales structure and the tools available at your company, you can implement the sample practice squad drill fundamentals below.
Elements of the Practice Squad Drill
Prepare for the practice squad drill by gathering the following elements:
- A detailed description of your organization and its go-to-market strategy and tactics.
- A description of 4 to 7 potential players (employees of your company), titles, etc.
- An overview of the industry in which the company competes.
- A description of desired financial goals.
- Miscellaneous data and other information.
Implement the practice squad drill as follows: The salesperson or team makes two sales calls. The first call with one employee of the simulated customer company. The second call with two different employees of the simulated company. Make each call 10 to 15 minutes long. Have the competing team members use pre-call planning tools and a set of sales discovery worksheets to summarize findings.
The individuals who play the customer roles should have separate scripts that include relevant factors, such as inside political issues, personality styles, and hidden agendas.
Finally, stage a formal presentation by the sales team that includes:
- What they exposed during the encounter.
- Insights of the customer.
- Potential product and service recommendations, including a sales presentation that makes the case for why the customer should buy.
By implementing the practice squad type of training, your sales leaders can view their salespeople in action, observing their skills and testing their determination. Then sales leaders can make any needed course corrections.
I believe in the effectiveness and results of role playing. Depending on the size and scope of your organization, you may have to tweak these drills. Nonetheless, placing sales staff in pressure situations as part of their training will improve their performance. Soon, you can expect to have star players on the practice field…and on the playing field.
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