I Hate Role Play (Issue 851)

In which we are encouraged to break down our sales conversations and work out the sloppy spots.

I’ve been playing acoustic guitars since my 12th year. I logged thousands of hours playing as teenager and I developed expertise in a particular style of finger picking. Largely self-taught, I’ve played and sung for money and I’ve played and sung for fun. Mostly, I just like to hear the sounds that come out of the box.

When I started my first post-college job, the playing dropped off a bit and, over time, there have been years when I might have played a couple of times a quarter.

In an effort to reconnect with the instrument, I’m now playing 15 – 20 minutes at a time, three to five times a week.  And, while a session might include some time ‘free forming,’ moving from bits of one song to bits of another as the spirit moves, I’m working specifically on two pieces – George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” and Doc Watson’s “Old Camp Meeting” –  that were part of my standard set list when I was playing out three nights a week.

I’ve played them hundreds of times. I can play them blindfolded. But, over the years, I hard-wired some sloppiness into my playing. My objective now is to make them … clean and even. No missed notes.

To reach THAT level, I’m having to   s  l  o  w    d  o  w  n    my playing almost to the point that the songs are unrecognizable, thinking about each note and hand position, working out the sloppy bits. This is not “fun” – it can be very frustrating since I am relearning something I’ve done hundreds of times.  I worry that I’ll forget or screw up the parts of the songs that I already play well. I have to squash the tremendous urge to speed up again as soon as I hear the slightest improvement.  And I could hear improvement starting with the first “slow down” practice.

We face the same challenge in our sales and consulting conversations.  We’re successful in our roles. We know ‘the words’ we’ve said hundreds of times. And yet most of us have hard-wired some sloppiness into them (for example, an unconscious inclination to ask a series of closed-end questions).

For all the reasons that slowing down to re-learn familiar music is “not fun,” coached sales practice role play scenarios aren’t fun. My bet is, however:  we’ll hear improvement starting with the first one.

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