7 Sales Training Games That Actually Boost Your Skills
You may read every book there is on riding a bicycle; it won’t be as effective as grabbing one and wobbling your way to routine.
Sales is a lot like that. Sales books may sound slick, but you need practice to hone your skills. Games offer a fun, true-to-life learning experience.
Becoming the best sales person you can be requires perpetual practice. You need to study the game mentally, physically and emotionally pretty much every single day of your life.Steli Efti, close.io
Games make education experiential. They bolster the sharing of theoretical knowledge and reinforce its application in an enjoyable setting. They allow us to interact, make choices and compete playfully. They make us learn more and take pleasure in it.
Here are 7 games to spice up your sales training.
Goal: Correctly applying sales techniques on random products.
Purpose: Learning sales techniques by heart.
Requirements: Letter spinning wheel, pen and paper, logical thinking.
As the name suggests, this game works pretty much like Scattegories. Difference is, in our game the categories translate to steps of a direct sales technique with clear structure. I suggest Features - advantages - benefits, Gather - respond - deliver - close and Questioning the status quo for a start. The technique has to be set before the game.
Instructions: At the start of each round, one player spins the wheel and thinks of any product beginning with the letter that came up.
After five minutes, or less for higher difficulty, teams or individual players decide for and announce questions for each category column. A neutral game master then fills them in on the game sheet publicly, on a laptop plus beamer or on a chalkboard. Then all players discuss whether an answer was correct.
Discussion stage is about argumenting for or against an answer, thereby discussing the sales technique behind it. For every answer found to be correct by the "jury," a player or team gets 10 points. The overall best answer per column per round is rewarded with 20 points.
2Selling generic products
Goal: Delivering a persuasive sales pitch for a generic product.
Purpose: Learning to create need for a product.
Requirements: Letter spinning wheel, creativity.
Selling generic products is an advanced challenge because they lack unique features. You can easily advertise a novel describing how its edgy humor will have readers rolling on the floor. Try to sell a pen? Exactly – “damn.”
Dailius R. Wilson wrote a clever post in which he explains different ways to nail generic product sales. His rather provocative sales approach isn’t the go-to-method for most situations. But it’s a useful addition to any salesperson’s skill set. Try it out in this game.
Instructions: Work in pairs. One player is the customer and chooses a product after spinning the letter wheel, the other has to sell it to her. Consider the most generic products, items like the classic pen, a toothpick, a blank signpost or a dish scrubber. A round is won when the sale is convincing.
Goal: Receiving a memento from a stranger.
Purpose: Learning to approach strangers with confidence.
Requirements: Busy public place, pen and paper, camera, courage.
No matter if salespeople deal with cold leads or organic ones, interacting with strangers is daily business for them. Still, when you want something from a stranger, it always demands overcoming a certain reserve. Our brains are wired to quarry for predictably positive results and shy away from the opposite.
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Kio Stark is an expert in the "field" of stranger interaction. This game is based on her selection of exercises to make first contact a snap.
Instructions: Walk in teams of several people (easier) or alone (hardcore) and approach a stranger with small talk. Then ask them for a memento of varying intimacy. Record the memento in writing or via camera to verify a task’s completion.
Before you walk off, set up a list of goals and respective point values. Higher intimacy means stronger self-conquest means more points. Some examples:
- Rhyme: 10 points
- Quote they like: 20 points
- Selfie: 30 points
- Kiss on the cheek: 40 points
- Answer to a disarmingly personal question (e.g. “What’s your earliest memory?”; “What are you afraid of?”): 50 points
In 2012, successful business man Jin Jiang quit his job and invented “Rejection Proof,” a gamified challenge with a similar purpose as “S’up?” He then entered a 100 day long period of getting rejected by random strangers to demystify the very concept of rejection as a whole. His ultimate goal was to conquer his fear with something like a self-imposed exposure therapy
The challenge was born out of his hypothesis that the fear of rejection is a massive impediment to us pursuing and reaching our goals in personal and professional life. By proving to himself that rejection has a much lower cost than one tends to believe and feel, he defeated his own bias and came out a more confident, persuasive person – and a respected book author.
4"Still don't get it."
Goal: Getting directions from a stranger.
Purpose: Learning to push a stranger’s patience and still get what you want.
Requirements: Busy public place, pen and paper, audacity, persistence.
The ability to read someone else’s mood and temper is super useful in sales. Especially when trying to find common ground with a potential customer, it’s worth a mint to know how far you can go before they back away. It’s a thin line, as Hubspot’s Pete Caputa illustrates in this post.
“Still don’t get it.” is inspired by Kio Stark’s “Get lost” exercise and simulates a situation in which you’re earning more by pushing the envelope.
Hide your phone, play a slow-witted tourist and ask a local for directions. When they’re done, go on to asking for more. Ask them to...
- explain again in more detail because you didn’t get it. (10 extra points)
- draw you a map. (20 extra points)
- give them your phone number in case you get lost. (30 extra points)
- explain again via phone after you got lost. (40 points)
You lose 20 points when locals deny you one of your requests. So, try to sense reactions and gauge how much you can ask for.
5Gamified cold calls
Goal: Making successful cold calls.
Purpose: Learning to cold call with confidence.
Requirements: Speakerphone, persistence, confidence.
Perfect for days on which the clock seems to go backwards, this game makes cold calls much more enjoyable. Simply graft its point system onto your usual sales activities.
Instructions: Work in pairs and take turns making cold calls. While one calls with activated speaker, the other writes down feedback. Get points for closing the deal but also for steps on the way:
- Making the lead laugh: 30 points
- Scheduling a follow-up call: 40 points
- Capturing email address: 40 points
- Closing the deal: 200 points
6The $2 game
Goal: Getting the better part of two dollars.
Purpose: Learning how beliefs and expectations influence negotiations.
Requirements: A few dollars, paper notes, reflectivity.
Negotiations are an essential part of sales. This exercise invented at MIT’s management school “illustrates some basic tools of negotiation theory, in the simplest possible game.”
Instructions: As a neutral game master, let several pairs of two negotiate one-on-one. Ask each pair to split two dollars. Each individual player will play three rounds in different pairs, though they’re not aware of this.
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Also, one or several secret instructions are given to each player before a round via paper note, hidden from their counterpart. These instructions are intended to influence negotiation goals. After each round, there will be an open debriefing: how did the instructions influence expectations, negotiation strategies and eventually, the result?
Secret instructions round one: negative or positive bargaining space.
- Player 1: “Get more than $1.”
- Player 2: “You don’t need to get the full $2.”
Secret instructions round two: intangible values added as negotiation results.
- “If you negotiate too hard, people will view you as selfish and cold.”
- “If you negotiate too careful, people will view you as weak.”
- “The other player mistrusts you.”
- “Speak as few as you can.”
Secret instructions round three: some of the above intangible and money values are mixed. Also, let the same pairs as in round one negotiate once again.
- Players enter negotiations remembering how their counterpart acted in round one.
- Debriefing: impulse for revenge, compensation, concession, preference, levity etc.?
Goal: Not to run out of benefits for describing a simple object.
Purpose: Learning to develop an endless stream of ideas.
Some especially wary buyers are real tough nuts. They require a thought-out win-over tactics like the ones suggested by HubSpot’s Aja Frost. And it takes argumentative stamina. This game will train the latter.
Instructions: Kick off a group discussion about how awesome a random simple object is. Clockwise, participants take turns naming another one until someone runs out of ideas. That person is out for the round. Last player standing wins the game. For a pen it could go like this:
- “Yes, and it has a nice color.”
- “Yes, and it feels light in the hand.”
- “Yes, and it’s still sturdy.”
- “Yes, and it’s small enough to fit in your pocket.”
- ...and so on.
For team-wide sales training exercises, check out our post on sales role-plays.