I had a two-hour "reinforcement" session with a client this week.  Instead of suggesting we do some sales call role plays and receive some eye rolls and slumped shoulders, I used a "Turn the Tables" approach.

Here's how it went:  

I met with one sales manager and three of his direct reports. Each sales rep had to bring one opportunity to discuss. The opportunity could not yet be in the "proposal" or better stage. 

First, I gave the group a list of 15 opportunity debrief questions purposely leaving a couple out and room for enhancement.   After giving a couple minutes to review, we brainstormed on missing elements.  This forced the reps to think about how they would debrief an opportunity themselves rather than being dependent on their manager.  Somewhat surprisingly, they came up with nearly a dozen more questions!  In the end, they had a list of questions they can use as a checklist when analyzing opportunities on their own.

Next, it was time to play "Turn the Tables."

I had each rep take a turn as the "manager" debriefing another's real opportunity. The actual manager, me and the left -out rep took notes on plusses and deltas for each role and the opportunity itself.  So, it was a role play (without the reluctance) and a debrief at the same time. 

After giving everyone a chance to be both manager and rep, we identified and documented a few areas of strengths and some very important areas of improvement. 

 Through these three opportunity debriefs, we unearthed two major areas for improvement:

1) Just because you jotted down "headings" for the challenges or "pains" doesn't mean you understand them thoroughly or have created the necessary emotional connection with the prospect.  It can come off as merely going through the motions.  The rep thinks they are in alignment, but the prospect doesn't feel the important emotional connection to needing the seller's capabilities or to the seller himself.  As a fix, ask for examples of when the enumerated issue or challenge has occurred.  Give proof that you "get it." Recap the highlights of what you've learned in the conversation.

2) When competing against free or virtually free alternatives, aggressively qualify that other decision-makers are informed that the champion is looking at a "NOT free" alternative to the status quo.  Actually ask, "Although our clients do tell us we provide an excellent cost v. benefit, does everyone who you will involve in having our capabilities funded and implemented understand that we are not free."  You'll learn a lot by noting the time it takes for the prospect to respond as well as the content of that response. 

Getting out of their expected comfort zone helped the reps appreciate the "Whys' "Hows" and "Whats" for this important manager-rep interaction.  

Next time you are meeting with your sales team, try playing "Turn the Tables" and let me know how it goes. 

Good Selling.