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Is it Time to “Argo” Your Sales Team?


“Argo” is the 2012 movie about a high-stakes rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis. Ben Affleck stars as CIA operative Tony Mendez, who is charged with getting these diplomats out of the country safely.

They do so by pretending to be film crew members making a science fiction movie. There is a compelling scene where Mendez is quizzing – well, drilling — the diplomats about their new personas. He asks rapid-fire questions about their birthdays, where they grew up and details of the science fiction film. His goal: Put them under extreme pressure to see if the can recall the information, regardless of the situation.

This was a different type of role playing, one where your life depended on your ability to give the right answer. I still remember one particular pressure role play where the diplomat gave the wrong answer. Mendez replied, “Wrong. You’re dead.” Wow!

So, what does this have to do with sales development?

A lot.

How many sales managers have watched a salesperson conduct a role play, one where he or she did a really great job of executing the right selling skills? And how many sales managers have watched this same salesperson conduct a sales conversation with a tough prospect in which none of those selling skills showed up? The salesperson stumbled, bumbled and secretly wished a New York power outage would end the sales call. Emotions, not effective selling and influence skills, were running the meeting.

It’s time to Argo your sales team.

Once your team members have mastered the basic selling skills, elevate their skill development by raising the pressure associated with role plays. You elevate pressure by asking the tough questions:

  • Why should we buy from you when we’ve got a good internal team that does the same thing?
  • Your company looks and sounds like our current vendor. Why would I want to shift?
  • We’re not sure we need to do anything. Convince me that we need to.

This type of role play involves Sales IQ, the ability to know and deliver the right redirects or responses.  It also involves Sales EQ, the ability to manage emotions in order to deliver the right responses. Without the combination, there is a very good chance your salesperson will show up and throw up, oversell, get defensive or simply shut down during their next difficult conversation.

Block out some time at your next sales meeting to show “Argo.” The best salespeople know how to deliver, even under pressure.

Good Selling!

Colleen Stanley is President and Founder of SalesLeadership, a sales development firm.  She is the author of Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success, now published in six languages, and Growing Great Sales Teams.  As an international sales keynote speaker, she ranks in the top five and has been recognized by Salesforce as one of the top 7 influential sales experts in the 21st century. She is the creator of the Ei Selling® System, a unique and powerful sales program that integrates emotional intelligence skills with consultative selling skills. She has also been named as one of the Top Sales &Marketing Influencers from Top Sales World, Top 10 Women in Sales Experts to Follow and is one of Global Gurus Top 30 Sales Professionals in 2019.

Prior to starting Sales Leadership, she was vice president of sales for Varsity Spirit Corporation. During her 10 years at Varsity, the company was named by Forbes as one of the 200 fastest growing companies in the United States.


One Response

  1. Great article! Thanks for helping me realize I am being “too kind” during role playing. Time to up my game to better support and prepare my clients for the difficult sales calls they are surely going to have.

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