Say “sales script” to most salespeople and watch their eyes roll. Everyone associates “script” with the singsong voice of a bored telemarketer trying to sell you something while you’re trying to make dinner.

But there’s a different kind of sales script, and studies show that it can be an enormously effective training tool, especially for new hires. It’s a good way to capture the knowledge of your most successful salespeople and transfer it to others.

Here’s how it works.

You present a scenario to your top reps – for example, the first face-to-face meeting with a new prospect. Ask them to write down, step by step, everything that happens in the scenario. It’s not a “script” in the sense that they write out all the dialogue; it’s more like a “script” that a computer program uses to figure out what to do next.

Here’s a real-world example of an initial industrial sales call:

Buyer: Looks up and notices you
Seller: Smile
Seller: Extend greeting
Seller: Extend handshake
Seller: Introduce myself

That’s pretty dull stuff. But deeper in the script, the interactions get more interesting:

Seller: Ask buyer what he perceives as best mode of action
Buyer: States his plan
Seller: Agree with him
Seller: Stress his plan as positive
Seller: Offer him additional actions
Seller: Suggest he contact persons involved

Now, new reps could use such a step-by-step breakdown to rehearse their own actions. But where these scripts can get really powerful is by identifying best practices. Ask several of your top salespeople to create scripts independently. Then look at the steps and actions that the different scripts have in common. Those are the key interactions that other salespeople should learn and master.

Notice that these scripts reflect what actually works for top salespeople. They’re not based on a particular theory of selling. That means you’re likely to get more buy-in from learners. You don’t have to “sell” them on a sales methodology.

An added bonus: They give sales managers deeper insights into the selling process as well. That means they can be used not only for training, but also for other sales-management functions, such as evaluating prospective hires and designing incentive and compensation plans.

Source: Leigh TW (1987). Cognitive selling scripts and sales training. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, vol. 7, pp. 39-48.

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