Want to dramatically improve the performance of your sales reps? Learn how to role-play. Successful Sales Managers include role-playing as a vital part of coaching every week. Without fail, they know how important role-playing is just like practicing a sport or playing an instrument.

Here are 7 strategies that successful Sales Managers use to when role-playing to develop their salespeople:

1. Focus on a single skill
Rather than attempting to develop multiple skills across the breadth of the sales process, stick with just one. Pick one that your salesperson really needs to develop and stick with it. Don't crowd or confuse their development with too much training and coaching on a variety of skills. Development should be done singularly.

2. Role-play repeatedly
Successful Sales Managers see role-playing the same way athletic coaches see practice. It's a critical part of the work week and vital to improving performance. Role-playing should take place during sales meetings, prior to a sales call and during one-on-one sessions. Role-playing should be an integral part of your work week without exception.

3. Start simple
When role-playing, don't start with complex role-play scenario's Instead, start with easy one's to help your sales rep gain a level of comfort with the process and earn some quick wins. Introducing complex scenario's too early in the skill development process leads to sales rep frustration and self-doubt. Instead, build their confidence first and create conditions for them to become more engaged in the process.

4. Add complexity over time to stretch further develop skills
Once your sales rep gains confidence and competence, begin adding in more complex scenario's. This way they have strong foundation to build on while you introduce variations and challenges. This is where mastery begins to take shape. For example, in prospecting, start adding in gatekeepers with defensive attitudes or who are overly protective of their bosses.

5. Do not stop until the sales rep demonstrates competency
Successful Sales Managers stick with development over time. Be sure to help your sales reps develop competency--the ability to consistently perform a certain skill at an acceptable level without your involvement. If this takes six days or six months--stick with it. Only when they achieve competency can mastery follow. When developing prospecting skills, be sure they can not only complete the objectives of the cold call, but also communicate with the gatekeeper without sounding scripted.

6. Track and measure along the way
Be sure to record role-plays so your sales rep can see and hear their improvement. This is a strong motivator when they can compare where they started to where they are today. It helps to keep them focused on getting better. The biggest boost will be when they handle selling situations differently (and successfully) as a result of the role-playing exercises.

7. Allow for mistakes
Finally, allow your sales reps to make mistakes when role-playing. Never be critical when they foul up. Just respond with, "Let's try that again." Criticizing someone while they are first attempting to learn a new skill is demoralizing and accelerates their desire to quit. Avoid it at all costs. Exercise patience. It will most certainly pay off.