Apologies for another sports metaphor, but this is too apropos to pass up.
The NFL doesn’t have a minor league system. To say that the players on teams’ active rosters are valuable in a multibillion-dollar industry is a massive understatement. Injuries can happen at any time — both on or off the field. Taking players off the field for a few critical snaps can mean the difference between winning or losing a game. And if too many valuable players hit the injured list and are unable to play for longer stretches, that could mean the difference between winning or losing a season.
Even professional athletes need conditioning. They need to rehearse plays. They need to work on their timing. They need to build muscle memory. They need to get comfortable with their teammates, knowing that they’re all working from the same playbook.
And they need to do it in a safe environment to minimize risk.
How do they do that? Avid fans are well aware that there’s a practice squad for just such a purpose. These are players who know football, have skills, and are talented enough to not only work alongside and against active roster NFL players, they very often fill the roster gaps when players are injured. Sometimes on their own team, and other times they get picked up by another team. They often are a stop-gap measure until the “A” player returns. But every so often, as in the case of Travis Fulgham on the Philadelphia Eagles, they shine and earn their spot on the team.
The analogy for giving sales reps a safe environment in which to practice is nearly perfect. Your sales reps need to:
- Practice all the aspects of the offense and defense in a safe environment so no one (in this case, no relationship or deal) gets hurt. Teams literally make the quarterbacks wear a bright red jersey to stand out from everyone else on the practice field as if to say “Do Not Touch!”
- Prepare to perform at their highest level on game day when it counts — in front of clients and potential clients.
This year has shown across all professional sports the importance of getting warmed up before hitting your stride. In the case of the NFL, while the regular season has not been shortened, they sacrificed the preseason. Many would argue that preseason games are meaningless in a regular year, so no big loss. But it deprives coaches from seeing how players on the roster bubble will (or won’t) perform. It also denies the opportunity to simulate game situations against other players “in a safe, preseason environment” before it counts.
Virtual Sales Simulations: Your Reps’ Practice Squad
And that brings us back again to the importance of The Practice Squad.
The traditional practice situation for sales reps to learn, train, and receive feedback has been through in-person training and roleplay exercises. As we’ve noted in another post, roleplays have their own shortcomings. And no one has been nor is likely to gather together for large team meetings, trainings, or roleplays. It’s just not feasible.
Virtual simulations provide your sales reps the perfect opportunity to practice in a safe environment. The scenarios they encounter mimic their typical everyday selling situations. And just like not wanting to injure your high-priced players or sacrifice a deal, making a modest investment in your Practice Squad is the sensible, logical path toward success.
This post was authored by Jeff Meyers.