There’s a reason for pre-game warmups

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

Depending on where you live, spring arrived last month. But if you reside in Florida or Arizona, spring training had been going on for weeks.

Millionaire ballplayers gather with struggling rookies and the barely over-the-hill gang to prepare for MLB’s 162-game season. They participate in 35 games where their performance has no reward other than a roster spot. The players treat these contests with the same importance as the last game of a playoff.

That means showing up to the ballpark a couple of hours early. There’s batting practice, tossing the ball in the outfield and pitchers warming up in the bullpen. Before taking the field, managers discuss game strategy to optimize performance.

It’s an hour of role play before two-and-a-half hours of real play.

About 1,300 players get to participate in spring training, vying for 830 paid positions. These guys are the best of the best. They hit, pitch or catch better than anyone else on Earth. Yet they still devote an hour a day to honing their skills before the game.

If they can do it, so can we.

In our retail world, there is a general reluctance to participate in role play exercises. Salespeople dislike it and store managers don’t take the time. We roll into the parking lot 15-20 minutes before the store opens, grab coffee and gab about life outside the store. The doors swing open. We greet the shopper cold off the bench.

If millionaire athletes know that they perform better by stretching and warming up, shouldn’t we do that too?

Retail selling is no longer a “numbers” game. We used to be able to let a shopper walk without buying. Another shopper would arrive soon enough. Today there are less “ups.” We need to make each one count.

Retail role playing doesn’t have to be stressful or embarrassing. Pre-game is the time to make mistakes. Coaches show athletes performance improvements; retail coaches can do the same thing.

Let the Pre-Games Begin: Sales teams need to arrive at the store no less than 30 minutes before opening. Start your daily role play training 10 minutes after that. Fifteen minutes is adequate. That leaves five minutes before unlocking.

Role Play Exercise No. 1: Review the advertising and in-store special items. Walk the floor so everyone knows where they are. The manager should update the team on inventory of those items.

Role Play Exercise No. 2:  Each sales consultant needs to describe a feature-benefit-advantage of a product. Without mentioning price or warranty. In case you forgot, feature is what it is, benefit is what it does. Advantage is how it makes the shopper’s life better. (See “Beyond Product Specs.”)

Role Play Exercise No. 3: Resolve the price objection. Building value and using finance terms should be part of this.

Role Play Exercise No. 4: Resolve the delivery time objection. Once shoppers make their decision, they hate to wait.

Role Play Exercise No. 5: What’s your best greeting today?

Role Play Exercise No. 6: What’s your best way to introduce extended service plans and mattress, bedding and decorator accessories into the sale today?

You may hear your salespeople say, “I can’t do it in practice, but I can do it on the sales floor.” Your easy response is, “You can’t do it on the sales floor until you show me that you can do it in practice.”

Don’t accept poor responses. Coach your team for logical, effective sales dialogs. Get the other salespeople to help by asking if anyone has a different response. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Major League Baseball started for real last week. Every game and all the plays in those games count in determining which teams will win and lose. Your games are for real every day. Every shopper counts. You’ll win when your team is sharp and ready to hit the sales floor running.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at

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