HMC Group, an approximately $16-million architectural-design business in Ontario, Calif., holds dress rehearsals for sales presentations--with an audience. The head of marketing directs the team as they run through the presentation. Senior staff members act as customers and ask tough questions culled from past client meetings.

Afterward, the audience critiques the cast and gives advice. "They judge more harshly than a client ever would," says CEO Robert Kain.