Using sales rep roleplay to improve performance

During the process of training sales reps over the last 10 years, one thing I learned is the need to improve how sales reps engage with prospects. This needs to be done in a safe setting that gives them attempts to try new things, to fail, and also not to waste opportunities with clients. A natural way to do this is through rep roleplay.

What Exactly is Rep Roleplay

Roleplay is putting someone in a situation, defined by a moderator, which gives them an experience that is similar to the real environment.

Why is Roleplay Important

While a variety of learning modalities exist, I have found that sales reps swing to experiential learning. They learn by doing. In B2B sales environments, every interaction with a client counts. And there may be very few opportunities to actually engage with clients, this is especially true with large ticket items.

So reps learn by doing but they don’t have enough opportunity to practice. Thus the importance of roleplay. Roleplay gives sales professionals a chance to practice so that when they engage with a prospect or customer they execute. And if role play is done correctly, it gives a chance for peer or manager coaching and learning by watching others.

Mechanics of Rep Roleplay

While there are a variety of methods to do rep roleplay, what I generally like to do is to start off with a short lecture on the skill involved, whether it is discovery or prospecting. Then you break into teams of 2-4 to execute the role play. I like to use teams of three. One plays the client, one plays a rep and one observes.

Once the teams are formed, you hand out case studies for them to execute. Ideally, you want to have a case study for each participant, so each participant can play both roles and observe. You write up the case studies and distribute them. Each participant gets their own write-up, and the information contained in the write up for the role is unique. You give instructions for the role play, and then have the teams work through the scenario. They should regroup after each iteration, and discuss it. Then they rotate roles.

After everyone has a chance to do each role, regroup as a larger team and discuss the experience. Depending on the case study involved, you would want to allocate 5-10 mins for each roleplay. So you are looking at close to an hour for groups of three with a lecture, and to also regroup.

Rep Roleplay in a virtual world

While most people think that rep roleplay is best suited for in-person training, that isn’t strictly true. I love virtual training, as I have discussed before. And yes, you can do role play in a virtual setting. I did it during my ad hoc sales kickoff. It can be a bit more difficult to moderate and distribute cases, but it can be done. Use breakout features in Zoom to group people together. Maybe have a moderator rotate between teams to make sure teams stay on track.

The Case Study

The real work in this environment is putting together the case study. A case study can be on any type of interaction, although I tend to like the scenario to require a bit of improvisation. I have done role plays on first calls, discovery, objection handling, and negotiation.

The case study should always have some twist and turns in it, and be slightly above the skill level of your rep. Pressing people to do a bit better yields stronger skill improvement. And don’t be scared to offer aids, such as discovery questions, as part of the case study to make

Here is an example of a Case Study  You can see that three roles are defined – the client, the rep, and an observer. They each have different information and goals for the communication.

In Summary

If this sounds complicated, well, it is a bit complicated. If you pass along feedback to me, with questions, I can clarify it.

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