Everyone who is truly dedicated to improving a skill and hopes to eventually master it understands the value and importance of practicing. While artists, performers, and craftspeople can often gain mastery by practicing alone, when it comes to skills in which human interaction is involved, it is necessary to have someone else to practice with.
Sales is one of those professions in which mastery of skills requires practicing with someone else, this is often called role playing. For the sake of senior living sales, role playing is practicing a sales skill with another person who is pretending to be a prospective resident.
If you’re reading this, you are most likely a sales professional in the senior living industry. Your company probably has a sales system in place that you are expected to follow and to master. Mastering sales skills takes many hundreds of repetitions, so expecting to get there by only working with actual prospects is going to take a really long time – like years – AND you’re probably going to lose a lot of prospects along the way because you didn’t handle them well. How do you get better in a much shorter period of time? You role play.
How and with whom to role play sales skills
Perhaps the most challenging part of role playing is finding someone to act as the prospect. The best place to start looking for someone is by asking your sales manager or your executive director, they both understand the importance of mastering sales skills and should be willing to role play with you or help you find someone else who can do so. You can ask your friends or relatives too, you’d be surprised how many people would be willing to help you out.
Next, establish some general guidelines for prospect personas, and let the person get a little creative. For example, start with having them ask themselves if:
- They are a senior, or the adult child or loved one of the senior
- They are calling to get some information and/or rates for active adult/independent living/assisted living/memory care/other for themselves/their loved one
- They or their loved one has a health condition that requires care like COPD, diabetes, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease
- Their reason for considering a senior living community, like they need assistance with some of their daily activities, maintaining their home is too demanding, they can no longer drive, or they have trouble remembering things
They can “mix and match” to come up with a variety of personas you can role play with. Then, the sales professional just needs to practice handling inquiry calls from the prospects using their sales system.
The most important skills to practice by role playing
3 of the skills that sales professionals find most challenging are getting comfortable with asking the “hard” questions, drilling down with open-ended questions to uncover needs and wants, and active listening.
Asking “hard” questions that may feel too personal or uncomfortable are necessary to paint a complete picture of why the individual is considering the move to senior housing. They help us to build the relationship with the prospect, establish a connection on a deeper level, and help to move them further along in the senior living sales cycle. Check out the “Asking the Hard Questions” blog to learn more.
Drilling down with open-ended questions helps to gain a greater understanding of the prospect’s reason to pick up the phone or walk in to see the community. Open-ended questions are paths to ask more related questions (to drill down), compared to yes/no or single, unrelated questions that offer very limited opportunities to drill down further. (Find out some great open-ended questions to use to drill down in the blog “Drilling Down – Asking Questions for Deeper Understanding”.)
Of these 3 skills, the one that can be the hardest to master is active listening. Active listening is a remarkable skill for bringing about changes in people, which in sales is a powerful tool to have. Active listening at its simplest has 3 parts: comprehending, retaining, and responding. Why is active listening so hard for many of us to master? Because we tend to talk too much, which is counterproductive to building rapport with your prospect. We take a closer look at active listening in our blog, “Active Listening – An Essential Sales Skill”.
If you’re serious about mastering your sales skills, role playing is definitely a technique you will want to incorporate regularly into your schedule. By finding a willing partner, preparing them with some realistic prospect personas, and focusing on practicing a few key skills, you will find your skills improving and your confidence increasing in no time.