Role-Playing and Sales Simulations

I’m not a big fan of asking the candidate to "sell" me something like a pen, a coffee cup, a glass or whatever. Most salespeople don’t like role-playing at the best of times and a job interview is certainly not the best of times.

That said, over the years, I have come to realize that the use of role-playing and sales simulations, properly done, has merit.

The advantage of this approach is that it gives you an opportunity to see how fast the person can think on his feet. This puts a great deal of pressure on the other person and, if he survives the ordeal, he probably deserves the job.

The disadvantage of this approach is that too often the interviewer doesn’t really know what to watch for. If the candidate doesn’t "sell" the way the interviewer "sells," the candidate fails the test.

Nevertheless, the "sell me" exercise can often give you interesting insights into how sharp a person is.

I remember one time when I was interviewing a candidate in a restaurant and I asked the fellow to "sell" me an ashtray. I should point out that this took place a long time ago when smoking was still allowed in public places.

In any event, he began by extolling the many benefits of the ashtray, one being that it was virtually unbreakable. At that point he demonstrated by dropping the ashtray on the floor where it shattered to a hundred pieces.

The salesperson looked at me and calmly said, "We need to tighten up on our quality control a bit."

Now that’s fast!

I hired him.

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One Response to “Role-Playing and Sales Simulations”

  1. tim hagen September 8, 2010 at 7:49 pm #

    Awesome blog entry !!! This is critical to any development. people do NOT arbitrarily get better because we tell people to; rather, skills are developed through practice but preferably in direct correlation with their real world

    Great post brian!

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