An alternative approach for those who despise sales role playing

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Novice sales trainees and undergraduate selling course participants often are required to participate in selling role plays. The role plays usually involve pairing-up participants and asking them to engage in a formal mock dialogue in an attempt to simulate a "realistic" professional selling conversation. One student plays the role of the "seller" who endeavors to converse with another student who is playing the role of a "buyer." The formal role play performances often take place in the front of the classroom while the performers' peers look on. Or, the role plays may be captured on video for later critical review by the instructor, or possibly, to provide an "instant replay" for audience members to review, discuss and critique the performance. The author has facilitated role play learning activities for 15 years. In recent years, we have noticed an increasing portion of participants have voiced a negative opinion about being required to perform selling role plays in front of their peers. And they are less receptive to having their performances critiqued in the classroom. So, we implemented an alternative pedagogical approach. Rather than perform stilted formal role plays at the front of the class, we instead invite audience members to engage in spontaneous role plays while staying in their seats. We have found that the "informal" approach entices students to participate voluntarily in classroom learning dialogues. Audience observers are encouraged to critique the dialogue "in-the-moment" so that participants receive immediate feedback and assistance from the facilitator along with their peers. Many students have noted that they consider the collaborative stay-in-your-seat approach to be less off-putting and more supportive. We contrast the two approaches to sales role playing and present a list of benefits and drawbacks for each.