The bane of a new sales rep’s existence: the sales role play. You can almost sense the perspiration forming in the palm of the hands and over the furrow of their brow, can’t you? The heart beat that’s almost bursting out of their chest and loud enough to let everyone else in the office know what’s about to happen. For a rookie business development rep, there’s almost nothing as scary, as training winds down, than the dreaded sales role play. As managers, it’s our job to not only help them get over their fears, but to make the most out of the time that we’ve set aside for training. Here are five tips that will improve the effectiveness of your sales role plays.

sales role plays, training, 1 16 Snell

  1. Use Real Life Examples – It does no good to use this time to put a new BDR “through the wringer.” Many a trainer is tempted to do this because of some sick need to humiliate people, or have fun at the expense of the inexperienced. Don’t do that. If your business is sales opportunity qualification, take examples of real SQL’s that successful reps have passed as templates for direction. Hopefully your more senior reps take great notes so that you can easily identify the objections that came up during their qualification process. As the trainer, you’ll be armed with great information and give the trainee the opportunity to use what they’ve learned about your product in a situation that’s as real as real is going to get.
  2. Use Senior Reps to Help – Who better to tap into sales role plays than your senior reps? They live and breathe your services every day, every dial, every conversation. They know what it’s like to go through the training, and they remember what you could have done that would have been more helpful. They’ll be sure to remind you of that, or they’ll just use that intel when it comes to their turn. Letting your vets help out will also give you the chance to really focus on the new candidate because you won’t be thinking about what you’re going to say next.
  3. Conduct Them Over the Phone – So, here’s where I was thrown for a loop a few months ago. For the last several years, I had always done sales role plays face-to-face, in a conference room. I would bring the new hire in, with my other senior reps, and we take turns, one by one, running through different scenarios. When I hired my newest rep back in October (who’s killing it right now, but I digress), my team told me that I should consider doing the role plays over the phone. They felt like it offered a much truer experience than being face-to-face. I didn’t like the idea, but who was I, especially when I was being outvoted five to one, to dismiss feedback like that?! Bottom line – my reps were right. The role plays were more effective and more true to life.
  4. Let Rookies Use a Script – Oh God, I can hear the Internet cracking now! I know popular convention is thoroughly anti-scripts, but I don’t care, and here’s why: everyone’s different. What works for one rep doesn’t work for every rep. Flame away, but it’s true. I’m all for generating a set of talking points and working off of them, but when they’re just starting, a script can be very beneficial for a new rep. One of the most dependable reps I ever worked with needed to look at his script for years before he was ready to let it go. I sat down with him one day, convinced that I could get him to use talking points, and said, “Mark, let’s get rid of the script. I’m going to jot down some talking points for you, and just roll with the conversation from there.” Mark was willing to give it a go, so he put the script in his desk and readied the talking points as the phone rang. “Voicemail; great,” I thought, “perfect chance to use the talking points uninterrupted.” Wrong! Mark proceeded to just read the talking points, and froze when it was time to leave his name and number. They had always been part of his script! The point is that taking away a script from someone who is successful with it is pointless. Same with a rookie during a role play. Those first few training calls need the direction that a script can bring with them, so let them us it.
  5. Let Reps Sink or Swim on Their Own – There comes a time during every role play, inevitably, where a rep wants to break the training call and talk about it. Don’t let them. Set the precedence before the trainings start that a rep finishes the call, regardless of the outcome and without calling “pause” or “time-out.” You can debrief about the role play once it’s over, but besides actually making real live sales calls, there is no better way to learn how to get yourself out of jam than during this training. It’s like veteran screen actress Estelle Parsons say, “…the wellspring of the character comes from the doing of it, like a trial by fire, but in front of an audience.” Your rep is the star; you and your vets are the audience. Let them perform on their own, without a whisper or prompting of the next line. Your rookies will be better off because of it.

Add these five tips to your sales role playing for better effective sales training. I’m sure there are a bunch of other suggestions that are out there, so share them here! What did I miss?