Ad Salespeople Need to Role-Play for Real

Questions: Why do you think Michael Jordan shot hundreds of free throws each week? Why do the top Hollywood actors have coaches?

Answer: Because being the best requires practice, mentoring and coaching.

Half-hearted role-playing stinks. 

To be the best ad salesperson in your niche, you need to practice regular role play sessions. This means setting aside time and taking it seriously. (I am always amazed at the number of ad sales reps that never, ever practice their trade in an effort to improve—what’s up with that?)

Especially when sales reps treat it as a joke.  It should never be treated as such.  Start role-playing one-on-one in a private office and then move to group role-play. Be consistent and don’t just make it up as you go. Make sure you have notes to follow until you get it perfect. You can do this.

Here are 7 top tactics to improve your role-play: 

  1. Create a flow chart.  Each step of the sales call has a purpose.  Create a road map in your mind of the conversation, mark it out visually and then follow the map.
  2.  Set a schedule.  Commit to a schedule of 2x a week for the first two weeks, then once a week for the following two weeks. Graduate to once per month.  Don’t stop practicing!
  3. Find a practice partner that you trust.  Practice with someone you respect who will give you quality feedback. This is critical.
  4. Create real world scenarios.  When practicing scenarios, you can sometimes encounter advertising clients who act like fictional characters. But the majority of advertising clients are smart and savvy and you should always practice to that.
  5.  Don’t leave any steps out of the sales meeting.  If you find yourself saying “…blah-blah..” as a filler, stop.  This is a mini-play rehearsal.  Don’t skip anything.  Rehearse for real.
  6.  Tailor your pitch.  As you roll out new products, develop a practice for them.  If you have legacy products that need sales growth, create a practice just for these legacy products.
  7.  Prepare for the runaway client.  In a role-playing scenario, your partner will normally not take you down the odd rabbit hole like an advertiser might.  So build this type of behavior into your role-play. Build in serious objections, u-turns, issues and road blocks that are applicable and real. You’ll learn to be ready for anything!

Finally, be prepared to flop.  

The first time you role-play it doesn’t all go smoothly. In the very first role-play session, just walk through the steps in a robotic way. This helps get your feet under you and you find your composure. Breathe. Practice makes perfect……..if you perfect the practice.


P.S. Here’s a Pro-Tip–Record or video the role-playing session.  There may be things you are doing that you are not even aware of. Hearing and seeing yourself afterwards can really help you improve your sales approach.


Editor’s note: This post has been updated from the original article.


About Ryan: Ryan Dohrn is an award-winning ad sales training coach, a nationally recognized internet sales consultant and in international motivational speaker. He is the author of the best-selling ad sales book, Selling Backwards and the President and founder of Brain Swell Media and 360 Ad Sales Training, a boutique ad sales training and sales coaching firm with a detailed focus on ad sales training, internet consulting and media revenue generation.


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