“How would you recommend retraining a mature sales force to revitalize the effectiveness of their presentations and improve sales success (ratios)? I am having them do role playing in the group. This results in a negative backlash from the salespeople and also criticism from management for my creating an ‘unhappy’ team.” 

This is a very interesting question, because the solution requires that many dynamics be properly integrated to assure positive results.  It is also one with which I may get myself into trouble with upper management. So be it. 

My advice to the sales manager...

Keep the faith. Don’t give up. You are on the right track. Role play is an excellent way to analyze the overall quality of presentation skills of each salesperson. It offers the opportunity to develop suggestions from peers; which provokes additional thought and introspection within the group; these are all good things.

Once the presentation is outlined and practiced, role playing prepares for the in-home or personal presentation more effectively than most other methods of training. Yes, while it may be initially difficult to present in front of your peers, it offers many benefits to both sales management as well as the sales team. Consider this: it’s always better to practice on your peers than your prospects. By the way, my experience has shown me that complaints about role play emanate habitually from those salespeople who are the least effective with their presentation and therefore need the most help and practice.

Role play is good

It will allow the sales manager the chance to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals on the team.  It will aid in establishing a baseline from which to build a meaningful and relevant training direction.  It also provides insight into the value of the current presentation while allowing options for positive change, updates and adjustments. Generally speaking, if salespeople perform well during role play, in front of the team, they will be even better in front of prospects.

A note to ownership

Great sales managers are very difficult to find. If you are fortunate enough to have an effective sales manager with the talent and drive to do the job correctly while producing positive results, allow him to perform his job with minimum interference. This does not preclude ownership the opportunity to ask questions, offer support and insights, of course.

If the sales manager is doing the job well, there will sometimes be friction within the sales team. This is normal and unavoidable. The only way to prevent this from occurring is to hire a weak, untrained ‘friend’ who will keep the peace while skillfully reducing your sales and profits. Your call!