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Tips on Selling

Role-play real scenarios in training
Role-play real scenarios in training

Telling ain't selling, nor it is managing

Telling is not selling, but telling is not coaching either. GRETCHEN GORDON discusses why telling is an ineffective way to train a sales team.

Too frequently managers tell salespeople what to do and how to do it. This is particularly popular during sales training sessions but people rarely learn by being told, “Do this” or “Do that.”

In sales training, a manager will typically break salespeople into groups and give each group a scenario. The group must make a list of the questions it would ask and then each group reads them out. Usually there are a few really good nuggets, such as:

  • “Why are you even considering other options?”

  • “Under what circumstances would you change providers?”

  • “How much is that <problem> costing you?”

However, most of the questions are lame, geared directly towards trying to sell something. These questions are generally focused on a specific function of the product or service being sold and frequently feel like they are designed to back the prospect into a corner. Yuck!

Unfortunately, managers can have difficulty helping salespeople understand the difference between great questions and poor questions. They might tell salespeople what to say or provide feedback, but this will not ensure salespeople can do the right thing when it matters.

Playing for failure

Next comes role-play, which, if done well, can be great, however often a sales manager conducts the role first to demonstrate how to do it. This isn’t horrible as long as all of the salespeople get to actively participate, otherwise sales staff lose interest and don’t really learn anything.

Unreal expectations

Things never go perfectly when I meet with a prospect; there are always twists and turns and one must be able to think on his or her feet and be able to chat with the client and find what really matters to them while determining which product can solve their problems and meet their needs.

"No sales situation can be fully scripted so salespeople must practice having conversations rather than watching or being told what to do"

Sadly, after salespeople attend this type of training, they are subsequently sent into the world to do it the way that was demonstrated. This may do more harm than good for two reasons.

Firstly, the salespeople don’t learn how to navigate around challenges that occur in the sales process. When they hit a roadblock, they struggle to get back on the right path. They may have learned some phrases but they don’t understand how to get to where they want to go. Without the tools, their sales conversation lacks agility, they don’t differentiate themselves from competitors and, consequently, wins are scarce.

These salespeople do not develop the confidence to use their own words. When they see demonstrations by experts, they may think, “That sounds good; I can do that.” However, it won’t be natural for them because they have not made the words their own. When these salespeople fail, they will feel worse about themselves because they weren’t able to do it the way it was demonstrated.

How to do it right

What can a business do to improve sales training meetings?

Push back if salespeople are putting forth poor efforts or if what they are doing is not excellent. Hold them accountable to a higher standard and don’t accept mediocrity.

Get each salesperson practising, practising and practising. If not in front of everyone, then have them practise in small groups. If product presentation or demonstration is part of the training – as it should be for jewellers – get feedback from the group on what should happen next.

Have staff present situations they wish to role-play. Have them pick a scenario that has happened before so the group can help them work through potential pitfalls. Practise real situations and make sure someone adopts the persona of the prospect.

No sales situation can be fully scripted so salespeople must practise having conversations rather than watching or being told what to do. They must overcome their fears about saying things that don’t come naturally and this takes practice.

Recognise good manager-coaches

If salespeople are underperforming, it’s not always the sales manager’s fault. Too often, good salespeople are promoted to sales manager with no training and are expected to know how to be a great manager, coach, taskmaster and trainer. Without guidance, they revert back to what they have witnessed regardless of whether or not it was effective.

You can’t tell managers how to be good leaders, but you can recognise which ones are well equipped to coach. These are the ones who will hold salespeople accountable and build better sales teams.

Gretchen Gordon

Contributor • Braveheart Sales Performance

Gretchen Gordon owns Braveheart Sales Performance, a company helping clients to improve sales. Learn more:


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