Feb 182011

Verbal Skills Mastery; Role-playing 2.0

Verbal Skills Role Play By: Tom McDonald, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC

Verbal skills role play, if properly implemented, is a proven way for participants to learn new things and to practice those things in a non-threatening risk-free environment.

Participants use those verbal skills best practices experiences, to appropriately and effectively apply the new information learned.

This dramatically boosts individual confidence levels, along with individual performance improvement, which advances the business bottom line.

The Linkedin, October, 2010, ASTD Group discussion, titled, “I’d Rather Die than Participate in Role-Playing”,  had comprehensive,  interactive, dialogs on how to overcome “this dread”.

The most significant obstacles to overcome were participant focused; How to effectively engage, facilitate and coach individual participants who came to the training, inherently scared to death of the unknown. The real participant issue to overcome, beyond the fear of public speaking, was the fear of being judged negatively by their colleagues.

Due to this inherent individual resistance and participant anxiety, there is the real risk of low skills transfer, if the only participant association is through a one time live event.

Also individual practice, practice, practice makes perfect and provides participants with information fluency.

Enter learner focused, web-based, Learning Performance Improvement Technology (LPIT), with integrated recording technology and affordable, verbal skills (role play) simulation (See figures 1, 2) :

  • Best Practices are identified
  • Individual participants access and practice, best practices, in the comfort of their chosen environment, pre and post live training to ensure individual mastery
  • Individual anxiety is put aside due to elimination of the unknown – note that some apprehension is healthy for learning
  • F2F training time is optimized
  • Participant engagement is appropriate, individualized and over time
  • Reinforcement is individually coached, online, over time, to ensure appropriate application and behavior change
  • Individual and organization outcomes are advanced  

Figure 1; Affordable Verbal Skills (Role-play), Simulation

Figure 2; Affordable Verbal Skills (Role-play), Simulation

Please find, below,  validating research on the importance of verbal skills, role-playing: 

“By role-playing a sales situation your staff will learn to empathize with customers and overcome sales resistance”. 1

“Role playing is an underused sales tool. When employed correctly, it can increase your sales team success, identify sales skill gaps and allow you to develop an esprit de corps amongst your sales team as they experience sales education as a team”. 2

“Conversely, when incorrectly used, it embarrasses your sales account managers, produces poor sales/management interaction and hides sales training requirements from your executive staff. It is estimated that only 21% of sales teams actually role play sales issues and objections during the sales year”. 2

“Never make role playing easy: Salespeople must learn to be able to handle pressure (and stress) in the form of difficult inbound questions from prospects based on the prospect’s probing need to know about your value, price, competitive positioning and feature/function offers. Being tough in role playing makes salespeople ready for any outcome”. 2 

“Tape record all role playing sessions: Role playing is a reusable, educational tool that should be listened to over and over again. By recording your sales role playing session, you can later document great sales objection responses and disseminate them in written form to your sales team”. 2

“Role-playing is one of the most effective ways to teach your salespeople how to sell. You’re dealing with both a visual method and a participative technique, two of the most powerful training methods you have”. 3

“You will realize several important benefits from role-playing:

  • It puts trainees into realistic situations, yet affords them the opportunity to make mistakes that don’t cost anything
  • It validates the selling principles to your salespeople
  • You reduce the learning gap. Not only do your salespeople learn how to do something,  they get the experience of actually doing it
  • Your salespeople will be able to anticipate the problems and objections in real selling situations and will know how to overcome them
  • It’s a great way to reinforce the basics”. 3

“Uncomfortable things to over-come when role playing:

  • Putting the role players on the defensive
  • Individual Resistance to Constructive Criticism ”. 3

“If you take the right attitude, this dreaded training method will go a long way in improving your sales skills”. 4

“One of the most effective training methods is role playing. Not just for sales or customer service training, this technique is an excellent way to achieve a number of benefits for employees, management and support people. Role playing is not just “practicing working with an imaginary customer out loud.” Role playing allows a group of employees to act out work scenarios. It opens communications, and for the amount of time when it puts a player ‘on-the-spot,’ it also gives a great deal of confidence and develops camaraderie among those participating in (doing) the role play situations”. 5

“Role playing is the systematic building of correct habits while learning the acceptable system and the best way to communicate your ideas to the customer. Role playing should be done in a low-stress environment, which makes it easier to learn”. 5

“The first few times a person ‘role plays,’ they will be nervous and unsure of this training method. You will hear the statement, “This is harder than working with a real customer.” This is true, because the real customer does not know how the system should work, or how the message should be given. Each section of role playing should be simple and not introduce difficult role-playing situations with lots of strong objections or difficulties. The right way to learn material rapidly is to repeat it, then practice it in the role play format, and then gradually add more difficult situations. With more and more diverse objections this will quickly enhance skills without putting excess pressure on the employee”. 5

“If an employee has performed proper role-play training they will almost never be presented with a question, concern, or comment from a customer that they haven’t already received in their training. In other words, they will start the race running. They will come out the gates making money for themselves and their company. And they’ll likely love their job”. 6

“Much sales training is about teaching new skills, and as with any other skills such as sports or technical skills there is a process which underlies successful skill acquisition. Understanding this process will reveal exactly why role playing is so important in Sales Training”. 7

“ Now they no longer have to think about the skill, they do it without concentrating, no longer even aware they’re doing it, it comes naturally; in short they have mastered the skill”. 7

“…Well, the only guaranteed way to achieve this mastery is through practice, practice, and more practice. This is why role playing in sales training is so important. Quite simply it’s the only way for trainee sales-people to practice new-found skills in a non-threatening, risk-free environment”. 7

“Practice may not make perfect, but in terms of sales training, it’s an effective method to improve selling skills; role play truly is the best way”. 7


Tom McDonald, tsm@centurytel.net; 608-788-5144; Skype: tsmw5752

verbal skills, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLCCredits:

1. Dance, James;  How to Get the Most Out of SALES MEETINGS;  NTC  Publishing Group, Chicago, IL.;  Page 85.

2. Paul Di Modica

3. Gart Sutton

4. Jamie St. Peter

5. Sales Creators

6. Marcus Sheridan

7. Ian Stevenson