Week 52 – Leadership – Chapter 13

The most important aspects of leadership in sales have little or nothing to do with numbers, because the three most vital pillars of selling are prospecting, sales pitching and price negotiation. On these three points you can achieve quantifiable results through targeted leadership.

By now you know how to approach prospecting and cold calling—but do you actually put it into practice? You know that closed-ended questions are not a good idea—but do you really refrain from asking them? You know that a buyer is often known to bluff—but do you call his bluff when it comes down to it?

Top view of six people, men and women, drawing bright yellow light bulb on a large sheet of paper or placard. Conceptual of teamwork, research, education and innovation.

Work together and never stop practicing your skills © Fotolia

Instead of leading energy-sapping discussions on unimportant details, invest your time in a sales simulator. By that I mean, for your next meeting, have every employee bring a potential, planned or expected customer situation to the table, then have colleagues play the role of the customer.

Now film the ensuing dialog. Ask all other employees to make notes and a write down their feedback. The conversation should last between ten and fifteen minutes. The big advantage here is that you can try out new things and experiment with different formulations. At the end conduct a feedback session including arguments, facts, statements, moods, chemistry or other observations. This will teach you a great deal, because in practice there is rarely an opportunity for precise feedback.

From time to time, every pilot uses a flight simulator. Many times this is not a pleasant experience. No sooner does she get into her seat than the first part of the simulated plane catches fire. And for the next four hours things will only get worse. Who enjoys this kind of ordeal? Nobody does. But the pilot knows that the simulator has a purpose. This is where she can put her skills to the test and hone them.

Why are sales professionals seldom this insightful? Why do they often say, “Boss, don’t be angry, but this isn’t a real customer situation. Nobody would be filming, taking notes or giving feedback.” But experience tells us that what you do in a role-playing game is what you are bound to repeat in real life.

That is precisely why sales training sessions are indispensable. Use this time wisely! Practice the following crucial sales dialogs over and over:

  1. Cold calling
  2. Conversations with the decision maker
  3. Price negotiations with professional buyers

Try to create realistic conditions for these three types of customer exchanges. Make sure that the role players on the customer’s side offer lively resistance, without being too antagonistic. The “actor” who actually takes the role of the customer should try to play the part naturally and not contradict simply for the sake of it.

Above all, before the dialog she should ask herself: What is my problem? What consequences does it have? And what am I really after? She should note down the answers on a piece of paper, fold it and put it aside for later, when the answers are read aloud. That’s one way of ensuring that the role playing doesn’t degenerate into a circus.

If the dialogs concern the issue of price, the “buyer” can privately decide beforehand what price he wants to target. That way the salesperson can later see if and to what extent the buyer bluffed. In cold calling scenarios, the “prospect” can establish what is of interest to him prior to the scene and the salesperson’s task is then to glean this interest. In another instance, the “decision maker” notes down what problems she actually has and what consequences she fears or has already suffered due to the problem.

Initially you might encounter resistance from your team with experiments like these. Some employees will claim they don’t need this kind of thing. Don’t be discouraged. In time it will become routine, and part of an important ritual.

It is clear that companies that pit their skills against real-life situations on a regular basis have a better chance of staying ahead of the pack. In the field of sports this has long been standard practice. Every athlete knows that he has to continually measure his performance in order to improve on it. With the aid of the training sessions you can also measure your sales performance in the three most important areas of dialog. Hone your skills so that you and your colleagues can continue to progress. Never stop learning!

Companies that pit their skills against real-life situations on a regular basis have a better chance of staying ahead of the pack.

At the end of the day, it isn’t the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake that counts, but what you actually put into practice. So make it happen!

More Profitable Business

Fifty-two new ideas. Perhaps you’ve already incorporated some of them into your daily sales routine. Some of them you might already have mastered, and if during the reading of the blog you were diligent about putting them into practice, they will already be stored in your subconscious skill set. You will implementing them without thinking twice.


Other ideas and tips might seem reasonable to you, but maybe you haven’t found the right approach in applying them to concrete situations. Do you see the method, but the practical steps are still not clear to you? It is especially in cases like these that I urge you to stick with it.