One of the more controversial methods of industrial sales training is the acting of mock interviews between 'buyers' and 'salesmen'. Sometimes the instructor plays the role of 'buyer' and the trainees take it in turn to play 'salesman'. These performances sometimes take place in a room before closed-circuit television cameras, while the class watches it all happening on a screen next door. Afterwards, both audience and players sit through a replay while the instructor discusses the performance.
The value of these sessions can vary widely and is dependent upon the circumstances in which they are held and the manner in which they are conducted. Charades among a party of friends is one thing: as part of a programme of instruction for men of character and intelligence, quite another. However self-reliant and extroverted one's class of trainees may be, few will appreciate making public spectacles of themselves for the amusement of their fellows. While it may be true to say that nearly all good salesmen have something of the actor in their make-up, there are not many experienced salesmen who can carry off impromptu a performance of this nature without embarrassment both to themselves and to their audience. The creation and maintenance of confidence should be a vital aspect of sales training. One must question the merit of asking a man to expose himself to the almost inevitable ridicule which play-acting of this kind is bound to create.
On the other hand, there are many very experienced in-structors who believe that mock interviews, properly conducted, can make a valuable contribution to the salesman's training programme. They contend that the very point we have discussed, namely, the difficulty of encouraging trainees to act out a part in front of their colleagues, contributes to the men's confidence when they are faced with the need to interview real customers as part of their normal duties.
It is a matter of opinion. If it is one's object to demonstrate different methods of conducting sales interviews, there are some good training films specially made for this purpose. They have the advantage that the parts are played by professional actors and they are scripted to demonstrate the use of both faulty and correct selling techniques. Alternatively, if one's purpose is to form an assessment of an individual trainee's ability to conduct a satisfactory interview, the charade method is doubly suspect. Because he will be conscious of acting a part before a critical audience, the trainee is unlikely to behave in a natural manner. His approach will bear little comparison to the way in which he will react in a real-life situation.
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