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Eye Rolling Over Roleplaying

“Turn to the person beside you and let’s roleplay.” Those are dreaded words at any training workshop that make the eyes roll. Why are they making us roleplay?! Well, there is some science behind it.

You may have heard of the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell where he suggests that in 10,000 hours of practice you become an expert. While being an expert someday may be the goal, let’s start with being realistic. How about going from no experience or skill to “pretty good”? Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours, says you can achieve this in (you guessed it) 20 hours of practice. OK, now that’s doable.

In the work environment, roleplaying is the equivalent of practice. You would think nothing of going to rehearsal for months before the live performance of your theatre play. Practicing your instrument at home before playing in the band. Or even, simply going to the driving range before playing in the golf outing. But for some reason, the idea of practicing new skills at work seems daunting and most are extremely reluctant.

I’ll admit that role playing in those large group workshops is a bit more awkward. But there are ways to practice and roleplay on your own… without 50 strangers.

Write a script. Writing out what you’re going to say is the first step to practicing. In the staffing world, a sales rep can script out the voicemail they leave for prospects. A recruiter can script out an interview with a candidate. You can even script out difficult conversations, like sales objections or employee counseling situations that come up more often. Think about and write the rebuttals or responses of the receiving party and what you might say in return.

Practice your script. Saying your script out loud to yourself is the next step in practicing and is the beginning of roleplaying. Right now, it’s still a one-sided roleplay, but saying the words has a much different feel than simply reading them on the paper. You can also try recording yourself on your phone or computer. You get a sense of how you would communicate this message in your own style.

Practice with a peer. Taking it one step further, try reading your script to a peer or your manager. We recommend sales reps practice leaving their prospect messages on their managers voicemail. Solicit feedback to make improvements in the wording or delivery. Finally, when you’re ready, schedule a meeting with a peer or coach to roleplay rebuttals and responses.

If you’ve written a script, read it aloud, and rehearsed with a peer, you are so much more comfortable and confident in your interactions with a prospect or employee. As time goes on, you’ll tweak your script, try new deliveries, and adjust your responses. The more you practice and roleplay, the more successful you will be!

We feel so strongly that roleplaying will improve sales results we have incorporated it into our free resource, the Orientation Schedule for Staffing Salespeople.


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