Role-playing. Love it or hate it, you should be doing it.

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Practicing makes you better“You look like a dork.” OK, maybe she has a point. I’m walking around town with a 50lb. backpack on. (And wearing a shocking green fleece jacket, to boot.) But that’s OK. I’m training for an extended backcountry adventure, and I need to spend time hauling a heavy pack around so it becomes easy. So I don’t have to think about it while I’m scrambling over a boulder or tying into an anchor to lower myself down a 100′ cliff. I’m practicing now so at “game time”, I’m ready.

Which gets me to the point of today’s post. Role playing. Anyone in your company who talks to customers—and that’s probably most people should practice talking to customers.  But most don’t. Few people really like this. Many hate it. But like with just about anything else, we get better by practicing. And practicing and practicing.

In our industry, role playing often seems like a foreign concept. Few do it. Most ignore it. As a result, most miss a big opportunity to excel. Not role-playing means you’d rather experiment on your customers then prepare yourself. Yes, you can certainly learn in “live” situations. But that is way too expensive to be your primary form of practice. You’re guaranteed to screw up and lose customers, wasting leads you’ve paid for and losing potential business.

On the other hand, if the people on your teams—not just sales, but also CSRs, service techs, and more—make role playing a routine part of their ongoing training, they are much less likely to be caught completely unawares by a customer. They are more likely to have thought about questions and concerns raised by customers and more likely to be able to respond in a way that can help the customer understand.

For example, you need to be able to explain what you’re doing with the blower door—in a way that makes sense to the customer not to a BPI-certified building analyst. And what the air-leaks mean. Why you’re testing the water heater when they called you for new windows. What the audit process looks like. Why you can’t just give a furnace quote over the phone. And how you can handle that price objection or why their Uncle Joe rolling out a few more batts in the attic isn’t the best solution. And so on and so on. You’ve got to practice the routine until you’re beyond comfortable with it. Thinking about this stuff helps. Actually saying it out loud, responding to pretend customers (one of your colleagues) throwing a few curve balls and making you stretch is better.

The more your team is comfortable with, the better they’ll be able to handle to occasional surprise. While life can be exciting if every conversation is a surprise, that approach doesn’t necessarily lead to sales.

OK, this is easier said than done. In large part because we don’t want to seem goofy in front of our peers. Maybe we prefer to seem goofy in front of our customers? In any event, until it we practice role-playing (practicing to practice!!) role-playing is awkward. So, most people in our industry just don’t do it. They should. And you should.


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About the Author:

Mike Rogers is the President of OmStout Consulting. A nationally recognized expert in residential energy-efficiency, he works with contractors and programs to scale sustainable market approaches to improving homes. More on Google+

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