From Knowing to Doing: How to Implement!

By Steve Finkel

Have you ever tried to implement new techniques – and found difficulty changing habit patterns?

Have you ever exposed your new people to correct methodology – and found that they just weren’t doing what you’d taught them?

Have you ever identified an error in your own skills or that of others – and found that it just somehow didn’t get corrected?

If the above problems sound familiar to you, you’ll find the solution right here. “The step from knowing to doing,” wrote Emerson, “is rarely taken”. In our business there is only one way to take that step. First, identify the right techniques. Secondly, implement the material – through the use of correct role-playing!

What is “correct Role-Playing”? There are many misunderstandings surrounding this invaluable training tool. Role-Playing is not just “practicing out loud” and certainly not imitating material in front of others.

Rather, correct role-playing is the systematic building of correct habit patterns in a low-stress environment, followed by individual critique and correction of errors through rehearsal.

The Low-Stress Environment
In adults, nervousness impedes learning. Absorption and improvement occur most rapidly in a familiar business situation. This means at your desk, on your phone, with all necessary notes in front of you and calling a person whom you know, but who is playing the part of candidate or client.

It is remarkable how often this basic principle is violated, possibly because managers have seen totally inept speakers attempt face-to-face role-playing in front of an audience. This is blatant incompetence, and a sure sign of a speaker who doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Let’s draw an analogy. If you were an outside sales rep and wanted to role-play presentations in front of a customer, would you do so on the telephone? Of course you wouldn’t! Why not? Because the activity won’t take place on the phone; it will take place face-to-face. Therefore, that would be how you’d role-play to match a real-life scenario.

Role-playing, if done correctly, is real. Or at least it’s pretty darn close. Thus it should approximate “realness” as closely as possible. That means you should be at your desk, on your phone, with any notes, scripts, or outlines in front of you that you require. This isn’t a “closed-book test” and there’s no reason to memorize anything. In fact, you don’t want to memorize anything too early. If you do, you’ll start making mistakes in the material and you’ll be role-playing your mistakes. Not a good idea. Stick to the verbatim script until you are solid on the material. Role-play on the phone with the scripts in front of you.

No more than one person can listen in.
While you may be slightly hesitant and will of course make some mistakes your first few times role-playing new material on the phone, this would escalate to full-blown panic if you were erroneously forced to role-play with lots of people watching you. When you’re nervous, you won’t learn a thing, other than that you don’t want to role-play any more.

In a multi-person firm, you should break up into two-person teams (in a sales meeting format) with everyone role-playing simultaneously. A four-person firm (or department) should break up into two two-person teams. A ten-person firm should separate into five two-person teams, all going at once on the phones. If you have an uneven number of people such as five or seven, the “odd man out” should listen in to a call and participate in the critique.

The first reason for not letting more than one person (other than your partner) listen to you role-playing is that this will greatly impede learning (see first paragraph in previous sub-section). The second reason is that they (the observers) won’t learn a thing either by watching you. You don’t really learn by obtaining the correct material, seeing it “modeled,” and then by doing it yourself. I refer you to a gentleman named Confucius who wrote 2500 years ago, “What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. But what I do, I understand.”

Change Role-Playing Partners Periodically
Two people could have the same role-playing scenario in front of them, yet “play the part” completely differently. Taking the part of the client or candidate requires a considerable ability to act. As each person will put his own personality into the part, you must change partners fairly often if possible. Otherwise, you’ll get to be terrific with that personality, but less than terrific with others.

If you have only one person with whom you can role-play, be sure to write “personality” into the scenario. You’ll have to insert “you are grumpy,” or “impatient,” or “convivial,” or a “non-talker,” or something to remind your partner that he must take different roles to reflect the different personalities you’ll encounter.

Set Pre-Written Out Traps for the Consultant
Role-Playing is not just a way of polishing a pre-determined script to perfection. To the contrary, once that pre-determined script is mastered thoroughly, it’s a way of shoring up areas of weakness. If done properly, this invaluable training tool will greatly enhance your flexibility, your alertness to opportunities which you may now be missing, and will infallibly identify areas where you could improve.

To do that, however, requires the person taking the part of the candidate or potential client to set up Pre-Written Out “Traps.” Does the consultant fall into the “trap”? Or does he spot it and handle it well? How you respond in role-playing (if your partner is credible in his part) is how you respond for real on the phone.

Let’s take a few examples. When asking for referrals (recruit leads), do you always ask “who else?” after getting a referral? Or do you settle for just one? 40 percent of recruiters are so happy to get one referral that they don’t even ask “who else?” How to find out if you, or others in your firm, are leaving an untold number of referrals behind? Just set up a trap in a role-playing scenario, as follows: “you will give three referrals if asked, but only one at a time. The consultant must ask ‘who else’ before you disclose #2, and again before you disclose #3.”

Or how good are you (or is anyone else in your firm) at dealing with unexpected objections on Follow-Up after First Interview? Here’s a very overlooked area where you can really increase production with no extra time spent on the phone. In fact, when we cover Follow-Up with either Candidate or Client in an In-House Training program, the almost invariable result is an extra 20 percent to 40 percent in production from this area alone! Let’s discuss a “trap” as an example.

Suppose it’s a Follow-Up With Candidate. Here’s a pre-written scenario taken from out In-House Programs: “After a two hour interview, you like the people, company, position, potential. The company said the money would be “no problem at all.” However, your wife (or husband) is getting hysterical over the idea of relocating the 200 miles to the location, even though she originally said there would be no difficulty. You have no children, and have been married for two years. She is employed, but does not earn a great deal. You are extremely interested in the position, but this unexpected reaction has caused you to decide not to proceed to the next interview.”

How do you think you’d do in that situation? Would you handle it correctly, motivating the candidate to proceed to the next interview with a positive attitude? Or would you give up and lose the fee?

The answer revolves around three points. First, do you have the correct words to say? Secondly, do those words rest on a solid foundation of classical selling skills? Thirdly, have you practiced both foundation skills and industry-specific words and rebuttals through role-playing until both become an instant automatic reflex?

Initially, Keep It Simple
The first few times a person role-plays, he’ll be a little nervous and unsure of the material. This is not the time to introduce difficult role-playing situations with lots of strong objections or difficulties. Rather, you should just let the consultant walk through the material until he feels more comfortable with it. The right way to learn material rapidly is to practice it out loud the night before. Only the most motivated consultants, however, will actually do this sufficiently. Some easy role-playing initially, and then proceeding gradually to more and more difficult situations, reluctant clients and candidates, more and more objections will quickly enhance skills without putting excess pressure on the consultant.

Vary Role-Playing Scenarios
It will be important to mix up the role-playing scenarios once the script has been practiced a few times to avoid becoming “pattern trained.” For example, six straight initial recruiting presentations followed by rebuttals would quickly develop reflexes which would lead you to utilize rebuttals when it would not be appropriate. Therefore, to avoid this, you should start eventually “mixing up” the scenarios with situations where rebuttals would be obviously incorrect. Examples might be the candidate being really and truly happy (honest!), or anything else which would render standard rebuttals inappropriate. “Mixing up” scenarios will avoid the problem of “pattern training.”

Voice intonation is so critical to the manner in which material is received that any material to be role-played must be “modeled”, i.e. demonstrated, to obtain benefits. This means either audio, video, or in-house training where the actual voice of the presenter is utilized. Written script alone, such as CD’s, books or flipcharts are appropriate for transmission of concepts and ideas, but virtually useless for implementation of genuine material to be utilized on the phone, due to the lack of “modeling.”

Does correct role-playing sound complex or difficult? It isn’t, really. Think of it as rehearsal for a play or movie. You wouldn’t go in front of a live audience without practicing, would you? Twice-a-week, 30 minutes-a-day will identify problems, correct difficulties, and smooth out pre-determined material quickly and effectively. Every genuine training program should embody some degree of role-playing. That’s how you go “from knowing to doing!”

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