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Tips to Improve the Effectiveness of your Sales Role-plays

9 minutes read

What is a person’s biggest phobia in his/her life?

Hint: It isn’t spiders, heights, or even dying. It’s glossophobia, the fear of public speaking or conversing.

This is especially true for sales reps. Even if they are extroverts, it’s natural for them to feel nervous before every conversion as there is a lot riding on the way they lead the conversation.

But regular practice of sales conversations would induce a lot of confidence in them. By practicing their sales conversational skills every now and then, they would be able to significantly improve the way they speak and start to feel more comfortable and confident.

While sales training and coaching are key to getting them ready to sell, reps also need opportunities to practice what they’ve learned, in a risk-free environment. That way, they can perfect their skills before going into the field — where there’s the risk of losing deals if things go south.

A lot of sales organizations incorporate some practice and role-plays into their enablement programs. But what are the best sales organizations doing differently to ensure that these practice opportunities are actually helping their sellers to get ready to close more deals?

Recently, we analyzed role-play activities conducted in various top companies to understand what winning sales teams are doing differently to ensure that their reps are ready to sell. Based on these findings, we’ve identified the top ways in which you can improve the effectiveness of role-plays at your organization and start empowering more reps to meet (or exceed) their quota.


1. Set manageable role-play objectives

Usually, in role-plays, managers try to accomplish too much at a time and end up achieving very little. Avoid this mistake at all costs. Choose specific goals for your role-play.

For instance, directors don’t give feedback to the actors on their entire performance at the first rehearsal and try to improve all the aspects of a play at once. They give them specific and manageable objectives. Like,

  • In one rehearsal they just focus on getting the lines down
  • And in the next one, they focus on blocking, etc.

In the same way, limit the number of goals for your sales role-play to just one or two. Instructions like, “Focus on incorporating our new value proposition into the conversation and making better eye contact,” are manageable goals that will help your reps master one (or two) skill before moving on to the next.


2. Create a specific scenario

Ever seen an actor being thrust on stage without knowing his lines or even what play he’s in? Your sales reps would feel just like this actor in a role-play in which the scenario is not set

Reps rarely go into a sales call blindly. So don’t throw them into a role-play without giving them enough information to work with. Set a clear and specific scenario for the role-play to help your reps ground themselves in the “reality” of the situation and block out distractions.

For example, instead of vague instructions, like “You’re meeting with the VP of sales,” try, “You’re meeting with a VP of sales of a small software company in the market who is looking for a new CRM solution. He’s agreed to give you fifteen minutes and wants to know how your solution is better than their current solution(brand x).”


3. Make sure that your reps know everything that they need to know about the role-play

Sales reps should have a clear idea of what they are being challenged to do and what specific skills are they tested on.

So apart from giving the statements on the objective of the role-play and describing the situation of the role-play, make sure that you also give some metadata related to the role-play.

Like,

  • How far along in the sales process are they with this customer?
  • Are they just beginning to build the relationship?
  • Are they at the discovery stage?
  • Have they confirmed their understanding of the customer’s needs and problem?
  • Is there a specific sales objection that they need to overcome?
  • Are they approaching close? etc

This kind of detailed information helps your sellers to really understand the role-play and give their best performance.


4. Make it as real as possible

The more real the role-playing experience, the greater its value. So, create your role-play scenarios in such a way that they mirror your unique sales environment in which your reps operate.

Your role-playing environment should mirror the most frequent and important sales situations faced by your sales team. Or you can identify the top five sales scenarios that matter the most for you in terms of your sales success metrics and mirror your role-playing environment according to those scenarios.

In order to mirror your sales environment perfectly, make sure that some of your role plays are

  • Over the phone
  • Some are done in a conference room with presentation slides;
  • Some others are over virtual calls
  • And others in one-on-one sessions

Each venue has different advantages and disadvantages. Different environments have different requirements for a successful conversation. Practicing in all these scenarios makes the role-plays more real and gives the reps the opportunity to account for the nuances of the medium in which they conduct their sales conversations.


5. Make sure the “Buyer” sounds real

Good directors know that every role, no matter how small it might be, contributes to the overall performance. Yet in sales, little (if any) direction is given to the person playing the customer.

Taking on the role of the customer is a challenge for most reps because they have the curse of knowledge. You can help this rep step into the customer’s shoes by providing them with a specific scenario or buyer persona.

You must describe,

  • What the “customer” does know about your product or service? And what is he expecting to know from the sales rep?
  • What are his current challenges or goals?
  • And what is he hoping to get out of the meeting?

This enables the person playing the buyer to naturally

  • Pose important questions
  • State his (the buyer’s) goals or pain points
  • And present real obstacles for the salesperson to address

The more authentic the customer, the more authentic the rep’s performance will be as well.


6. Allow the rep to get into the role

Actors need a few moments to “get into the role”. In other words, to focus on the specifics of the scene and what they expect to accomplish or encounter in it.

Give your reps this same advantage. Providing them with the scene details well ahead of the role-play, in addition to giving them a few minutes right before their role-play to mentally prepare, reduces their anxiety and sets them up for success.

Pro-tip: Encourage your reps to prepare and keep a written role-play or notes which would help them to remember all the points that they want to cover in the role-play


7. Keep role-plays short and sweet

It’s tempting to cram as much as you can into a single role-play exercise and conduct it at a stretch for one or two hours for each rep. But we suggest that you resist this urge.

Because

  • Firstly, by continuously talking for one or two hours, your reps would be exhausted and disengaged
  • Secondly, you want to get your sellers to practice to perfect their short and high-impact messages

So, the most successful sales organizations keep their role-plays short and sweet: two to four minutes is ideal.

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all role-play length. Instead, you must consider key points that need to be covered and non-negotiable points versus nice-to-haves.


8. Reinforce Positives

Confidence and sales success go hand-in-hand.

So, always reinforce positivity in your role-playing sessions.

First, ask your reps for their positive insights, and then give your own positive feedback. Highlight specific steps or actions in the rep's process that are strong.

Since role plays are about improvement, making this an intentional effort to reinforce positivity helps in guarding against only highlighting areas of improvement.

After your feedback, your rep should have a clear understanding of what he/she needs to do in the real conversation.

Also, make sure that you provide written feedback/instructions to the reps which they can refer to later, and try to implement them in their sales practice.


9. Make feedback focused and actionable

The only way constructive role play feedback is valuable is if it is actionable. The rep should know exactly what to do to perform better in a real conversation.

So, make sure that your feedback is

  • More concise
  • Sounds more natural
  • And use customer examples

You can use phrases like,

  • "Something you may want to try saying in that instance is..."
  • or "Here's something that's worked for me when that happened in my sales conversations"

After your feedback, your rep should have a clear understanding of what he/she needs to do in the real conversation.

Also, make sure that you provide written feedback/instructions to the reps which they can refer to later, and try to implement them in their sales practice.


Role-play exercises benefit everyone on the team

You may ask: These days when most sellers are pressed for time, do you really think that the role-play practice exercises are really worth the time and effort?

To this I say: Absolutely!

In fact, when they’re done well, role-plays benefit everyone on the sales team. Here is how:

  • Benefits to sellers: Between onboarding and ongoing training, sellers get a lot of information thrown their way. But taking in this information isn’t enough. Sellers must also be able to apply it when it matters: when interacting with customers.

    Role-plays give the sales reps the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned in a risk-free environment and get feedback from others. This practice boosts their skills and their confidence so they’re better prepared for any interaction that comes their way.

  • Benefits to sales managers: The success of a sales manager is dependent on their team’s achievements. So managers can’t just deliver training and coaching to reps, send them out into the field, and then hope for the best.

    With this practice and role-play sessions, managers can see their reps in action. Then, based on their performance in role-plays, managers can then provide additional coaching and training to help reps hone their skills before the money is on the line.


Want to gamify your sales role-play sessions?

Read: 5 Sales Role Play Games that Prepares your Team to Win


Here are some sales role-play scenarios that will help prepare your team to handle any sales situation

8 Sales Role-play Scenarios that will help Prepare your Sales Team to handle any sales situation


Want to learn some effective techniques to overcome sales objections?

Read: 10 Effective Techniques to overcome Sales Objections


Want to learn how to efficiently overcome the prospects’ resistance?

Read: How to overcome Prospects’ Resistance?

Published on Mon Jun 20 2022

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