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The Interchange: Kelly Dowd

In this episode we speak with Kelly Dowd about role playing, and sales as it pertains to learning and development.


Kelly is a learning and development consultant from onespan. And she describes herself as being curiouser and curiouser.


Her ideal future is less about achieving certain milestones, than it is about finding new ways to spark creativity, and use her imagination.


She strives to be a lifelong learner, amused to others, and never be bored or settle.


Her top three achievements are surviving and thriving after open heart surgery at a young age, having the guts to pursue acting fearlessly, and the judgment to quit when it no longer brought her joy. And being the only woman in a male improv troupe.


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Link to Podcast



Transcript:

(edited for clarity and grammar)



Matt

Hello everyone and welcome to the interchange with me, your host, Matthew Heinecke. And today's guest is Kelly Dowd.

She's a learning and development consultant from onespan. And she describes herself as being curiouser and curiouser. Her ideal future is less about achieving certain milestones, than it is about finding new ways to spark creativity, and use her imagination.

She strives to be a lifelong learner, amused to others, and never be bored or settled. Her top three achievements are surviving and thriving after open heart surgery at a young age, having the guts to pursue acting fearlessly, and the judgment to quit when it no longer brought her joy. And being the only woman in a male improv troupe. So welcome, Kelly,


Kelly

Thank you so much for having me. That was a very nice intro.


Matt

Thank you. So today's topics, we're going to talk about role playing, and sales as it pertains to learning and development.


Kelly

Yes, indeed. So I have, I have worked with salespeople for most of my career. And actually, my father is a salesman, a lifelong salesman. And if you've ever trained salespeople, you know that they are a unique learning audience, and they don't tend to love trainers.


So I have found new approaches to training them and supporting them. And particularly, I've found a methodology to roleplay and roleplay coaching that I find to be very effective, and works really well over zoom, which with our remote environment, so it's an interesting beast.

My dad wonders why I've chosen to work with salespeople. And I must admit, I sometimes ask that question, but I have a deep respect and love for what they do and helping them to get better at it.


Matt

Yeah, that's interesting. I think. I'm happy to hear more about the challenges and the differences working with salespeople. My father was actually a salesman, their salesperson himself. For many years, he worked for the Yellow Pages.


Kelly

The ads in the Yellow Pages, maybe some younger viewers out there don’t know the Yellow Pages. So it's a book that has phone numbers. You used to have to memorize phone numbers. Now, if someone asked me someone's number, I don't know. Unless it's mine, which I, you know, is questionable sometimes.


Matt

Yeah, you had to look up the phone number. The book had the pages yellow. That's why it's called the Yellow Pages. And they had advertisements for all the different businesses. So, I'm from Utah. So he traveled around like Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, etc.


Kelly

Like a door to door salesman. Yeah. Wow. Similar to my dad, he's with Empire carpet. And I always say when I'm talking to salesmen that my earliest memories of him in sales is when I'm at the breakfast table, and he's on the phone complaining about his crappy leads. And, you know, for salespeople, it's not a good lead, unless you are writing the check and in the room with them, so I can relate.


Matt

And it's interesting, my dad, he was a very outgoing, personable guy. You know, I guess you have to be to be a salesperson, yeah, myself, I was very introverted. But now later in life, I'm realizing that you need to get out there and meet new people and kind of put yourself out there. So hopefully, some of that rubbed off on me a little bit.


Kelly

I think so in my experience of you so far, it's interesting that you mentioned, you know, how outgoing you need to be. I think with salespeople, one of the misconceptions that is made is, you know, we're all trying to get away from this idea of the used car salesman and the checkered coat.


Salespeople today can be highly emotionally intelligent, because they're constantly interpreting behavior. And I think part of the reason that I was so drawn to working with salespeople in particular, because of my background, as you mentioned, in acting, which is you also mentioned, I am no longer doing very happy to have left, but it gave me a lot of skills that I discovered were very similar to what a salesperson does. So for example, in acting, you have an objective that your character is playing, there's something they want out of someone else or that they want to achieve.


And to get that objective. They're leveraging what we call tactics. So you know, one of the examples I always give is like Romeo and Juliet, if you're Romeo, your objective is to kiss Juliet, your tactics are to climb a bait, you know, climb about me to say lovely things to her to dress a certain way. So as a salesperson, they have objectives and they use tactics. And so so many of the, you know, vocabulary learned in acting and improv. I've used it in sales, and I've discovered that over the years, it's become more acceptable to do so.


So when I first started in my career, a recruiter told me never tell anyone that you used to be an actor or that your degrees are in musical theater. And now it's absolutely my competitive edge. And you'll see in many cities there are, you know, second cities that will have a corporate focused improv training or sales focused in practice. So it's become like an acceptable thing now, which is nice.


Matt

No, I, I've seen that yet. There was a lady here who used to run an organization called like, fearless women or something like that, but she would teach for business women. And it's really for anybody. But yeah, I think that's about that.


Kelly

Yes. And it's interesting. You mention that, because I have friends who, you know, we're college friends from theater that have now transitioned into using theater in their careers. Most of us are not in the theater anymore. Sorry, Illinois Wesleyan for the bad advertisement there. They do have some that are like Broadway stars, but the vast majority are corporate trainers and the like. So it's really a reasonable transition. Yeah.


Matt

Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, you know, when you're acting, I guess you're using those skills, especially improv, you have to kind of improv as you're speaking with the customer, you don't know how that customer is going to react or what kind of personality they have. Their emotional state. So that's very interesting. So tell me more about this. roleplay? How do you use role playing?


Kelly

So most salespeople, I always say roleplay is a bit like kale. It's disgusting, but you have to do it to get better. And I think part of the reason role play is so painful is because it's awkward, it feels uncomfortable. And generally, you know, you have a less tenured person working with a more tenured person, it's intimidating for them.


So what I tried to do is really put some rules and framework in place with the roleplay. So rather than just, hey, let's get together and talk about this scenario, we have a focus, and we discover that focus by identifying patterns of opportunity from salespeople. So ideally, what you would do is you would meet with, so I work a lot with sales development reps, where you know, the front of the funnel focused members of the team, and I'll meet with their manager, he will, we'll talk through what is so and so working on. What are three areas of opportunity we see?


And then when we do the roleplay, I'll meet with the person playing the decision maker first as well. So these debriefs are really essential, you don't want to just hop into a roleplay cold, even if you email back and forth with different scenarios. Look, we don't read emails, so you have to get a 15 minute call, I usually sneak attack it, you know, I don't put it on the books because salespeople have no time for anyone. But if you call them they're gonna pick up their phone. And we talked through, hey, you're going to be role playing with Matt next week.


And the focus of this call is relationship building. I'm going to instruct Matt that what I want you to do is get this caller to like and trust you, I don't care if you get into features and functions, I don't care if you do a pitch. Your main objective here is to get them to like you. So the salesperson has an objective, the decision maker has an objective. And usually I also use a theater technique where the decision maker has some sort of subtext.


So it might be that we've done an RFP and your third vendor, we've already made a selection, you know, it might be that they're actually, you know, have already put in their notice, and they're not really the decision maker anymore, but they're just taking this call something to give them something to work with, make them feel like this is more realistic. And that way when they come into the call, it's just a richer experience. It's more real, it doesn't feel as silly. The other thing that I find is such an obvious tip but seldom gets done, you know, on a zoom call.


If you and I are coming into a zoom call to roleplay and we start out by having small talk for a while and then switch into banana phone mode. It feels very weird. So I instruct them that you know when I usually come in so I'm the moderator and you know as soon as the sales person joins the decision maker joins We're not we're not starting with small talk, we're going into the scene as we call it. And then you know, they have a certain amount of time for the call.


And then we do coaching. And the coaching always starts with the same question, which is to the role player who's, you know, the one that is being coached? How did you feel that went? And then we let them talk about it. Because generally people are pretty self aware. And coaching is so much more impactful if you can.


Let them come to their own conclusions about what might be better to do. And generally they get it right. And then we talk through how they might have done better. And then the improv rules that we use, are that when you coach an improv, you don't want to say to an improviser? Well, it would have been funny if you said this. Okay, but you didn't say it's improv, you know, what we want to say to them instead is, you had an opportunity where you could have picked up on XYZ, you need to listen more for what your counterpart is things that you can build off of them, you want them and this is like Sandler method training as