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5 Sales Role-Play Scenarios to Use in New Hire Training

Jake Dunlap
Jake Dunlap  |  October 25, 2019

Sales role-playing is the number one activity new hires can do in order to be set up for selling success. 

Our brains learn by doing, forming habits, and creating neural pathways from those actions. Playing out different scenarios of a sales call is the best technique new hires can use to prepare for being in the moment. So the quicker you can get them to think on their feet and create these neural pathways, the quicker their brain will start to know where to go over time and confidently run a call or demo.

It also gives managers a really good opportunity to see what a rep can potentially be like in the field and help them identify where their weaknesses are. Different reps are naturally better at different parts of a sales call. Effective sales role-playing isn’t just about role playing in a group or using the hot seat technique, it’s about practicing each step or phase of a discovery or demo in order to hone and own it as a whole.

Many reps are great at specific parts of a demo such as the introduction, discovery questions, handling objections, and pushing to next steps. To set your reps up for success, help them understand where they are naturally strong today and what areas they need to prop up before their first call.

Sales role-play scenarios to boost new hire productivity

Sales reps skills as negotiators can only improve with constant practice. Especially if they are early in their career. Make it a habit for them to spend about an hour a week role playing these 5 scenarios to get those extra at bats.

Let’s say each rep runs about five meetings in a week, that means if a rep role plays once for about 45 minutes to an hour a week (and that’s longer than a typical call), that’s one whole extra week every single month of at bats they’re getting. So over the course of their first six months, they’ll already have had seven and a half months of at bats and practice. Over the course of a year, that’s three months of extra at bats.

“John Smith” running just his five appointments a week got 12 months of calls and practice, while a rep constantly role-playing technically got 15 months. In setting these expectations, not only did you set new hires up for success during the onboarding process by role-playing, but your reps are ramping up faster and becoming better salespeople.

In their first six weeks of boarding and beyond, reps should always be role playing these five scenarios either with another rep, a manager, in a group, or by making it a team exercise. 

1. Discovery

Discovery is the most important sales role play you can do, period. It gets new hires comfortable in always asking “next layer questions” that will have an immediate impact on the quality of their discovery process. 

The first step of the discovery or any call is showing value and setting the agenda. 85% of prospects are dissatisfied with their phone experience with reps, and with a Discovery being the first real connection with a prospect, it can set the tone for the rest of the sales process.

Rep: “Hi Thomas. Looking forward to the conversation today. From our work with XYZ and ZYX there are definitely a few areas around [value statement] that I think will be good to talk through.

But first, every single organization we work with is different and has their own unique challenges. I want to spend the first 5-10 minutes talking about your challenges or upcoming projects at [Company], then we’ll spend the bulk of the time talking about what we do at [Rep’s Company], and then if it seems like a fit, we can talk about next steps, does that work for you?”

Once a rep can smoothly set the stage for the call, discovery role-playing is really about teaching them to not just read they’re discovery questions off the list they have in front of them, but peel back what a prospect is saying and ask those next layer questions to really dig into a prospect’s needs. Asking the right questions from the beginning and peeling back challenges also sets reps up to better handle objections later in the call.

For example, you’re an ag tech company talking to a vegetable greenhouse farm who is already using a ton of systems to run their business. 

Rep: “What are your top 1 or 2 challenges you’re having today?

Prospect: “We’re looking to optimize our org in order to scale our acres of greenhouses across regions.”

Rep: “Ok, what do you mean by optimizing your organization? Is it the process you have in place from seed to harvest?”

Prospect: “Optimizing our technology. We use a lot of tools, but they’re not really integrated.”

Rep: “Ok, and what challenges is that causing?”

A good exercise for this scenario is to have one rep keep asking another rep (playing the prospect) “why” and “what challenges is that causing?” This can be a bit difficult for new reps who aren’t very familiar with your product or buyer, so providing info sheets surrounding the scenario first is best.

2. Problem-solution mapping

Part of new hire trainings is really understanding your company’s different buyer personas who have different problems and pain points. Role playing from the perspective of these different persona’s will help new hires provide the right solutions and address the specific needs of each type of buyer they may encounter.

Reps need to know how to speak to solutions and how your company solves problems versus just talking about the product. We must train reps early on that when doing a demo it is important to listen and hear the problem in order to provide the right solution as opposed to saying “for that problem, we have this product.”

For example, you’re a real estate CRM software company and you’re talking to a national home builder.

Prospect: “Our sales teams in each community aren’t following up with showing requests quick enough and our reporting isn’t very accurate.”

Rep (Solution): “So it sounds like you need a better way to route leads and send your sales team instant notifications so they can catch buyers while your homes are top of mind. And by accurate reporting, I’m assuming you mean you can’t pull your lead-to-tour or tour-to-sale ratio reports very accurately?”

VERSUS

Prospect: “Our sales teams in each community aren’t following up with showing requests quick enough and our reporting isn’t very accurate.”

Rep (Features): “So it sounds like you need a CRM that sends text notifications to reps so they’re instantly notified and some out-of-the box reporting.”

The exercise for this scenario is simple. Reps will sit or stand in a circle with one rep in the middle at random to start. How a rep stays in the circle, is when a problem is yelled out, they only talk about solutions. If they mention a feature, then the rep who tripped them up enters the circle. Also, set a time limit on how long it takes a rep to come up with an answer.

3. Demo without the product or company name

This exercise plays off of problem-solution mapping. The idea is by not being able to use the product name or your company name, you’re only left with talking about how you solve problems. This puts reps in a consultative mindset and tells buyers they are focusing on their particular needs versus focused on talking about and selling a product.

For example, you’re company sells automated invoice processing software that also manages time and tasks for small businesses, and you’re talking to a company whose pricing model is based on an hourly rate. 

Prospect: “We don’t have an issue with sending invoices to our clients per se. Our biggest challenge is tracking hours and invoicing as soon as a project is finished instead of invoicing weeks or a month after.”

Rep (No Company Name): “So it sounds like you need to combine your task management and invoice processing into one platform. I understand how frustrating having multiple systems for proposals, invoicing, task management, and time tracking can be. We help businesses like yours with hourly pricing models and who tend to suffer the most from using multiple systems pull all of their information into one platform.”

VERSUS

Rep (Company Name): “So it sounds like you need to combine your task management and invoice processing into one platform. [Company] built our software to help businesses with these challenges reduce their multiple systems for proposals, invoicing, tasks, and time tracking into one.”

A good way to check reps and for reps to check themselves on their overuse of the product or company name is by recording their sales calls and listening back. There are a ton of call tracking tools that can record sales calls to pinpoint areas of improvement. Listening to calls and providing feedback is a great way to coach new hires and increase productivity on your whole team. 

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4. Rebuttals/objection handling

The purpose of role playing rebuttals is not just to have a quick way to counter argue an objection. But to handle objections in a way that doesn’t derail the conversation. The term rebuttal by nature sounds combative but it shouldn’t be. A good technique is always teaching people how to acknowledge that prospects have an objection.

Rep: “Absolutely, I totally understand. How we think about that is this...”

And to prepare from the beginning of the conversation that they’re going to have objections. The most common objections reps encounter are timing, budget, and decision maker. We know this.

So if a rep runs their Discovery right, they can engineer their rebuttals to where it doesn’t seem like pushback. If possible, you want to engineer the conversation to where they’re aren’t any objections. For example, one of the most common objections is timing.

Prospect: “Oh, this is so great. This is really interesting. Can you follow back up with me in Q1, things are really crazy since it’s the end of the year.”

The key is if a rep has done their homework and if they’ve asked the right questions in the beginning, the prospect has already told them a compelling event, which allows them to come back and say:

Rep: “Well [Name], we talked about this earlier in the meeting and you said you have to get butts in seats by Jan 1. How do you plan to hit that deadline if we don’t start sooner?”

The second common objection is budget, and the best way to handle this objection is to not shy away from it. It’s ok to ask: 

Rep: “Is this something that you’ve budgeted resources for? People, dollars, etc.?”

The third most common objection is the decision making process. In this case, it’s the same as timing and budget. A rep should have asked about this in Discovery and infer what a prospect is going to say.

Rep: “I work with a lot of marketing managers and typically when you’re looking at a social platform, you’re probably looping in your Head of Social or VP. Is that right?”

This sets you up for next steps and getting on the phone with that next person. A good exercise for these types of scenarios is the objection ball. Someone starts by saying a common objection, and then throws it to someone randomly and they answer with a rebuttal. Then the person who answered with the rebuttal says another objection and throws it to someone else.

5. Driving next steps

Driving to next steps or the next meeting is probably one of the most difficult parts of a call for new reps. You want to get them in the mindset of not just ending a demo and saying “Ok, so this is what’s going to happen next,” but driving the prospect to next steps naturally. End driving to next steps with an open question so prospects feel like they have made the decision and weren’t told what the next step is. For example:

Rep: “Ok, we’ve talked about about XYZ, and we’ve talked about ZYX, and here are the problem sets that you said you currently have. I think the next best step is talking to our expert in [Department/Service] who I think would be really good at explaining more about how we can help. Does that sound good?”

Prospect: “Yes that sounds great!” 

man celebrating

Always be role-playing

Sales role playing is just practicing before the game. If you think about any professional athlete, they never stop practicing. Baseball players hit up the batting cage; golfers go to the driving range. Business is like sports in that aspect. If you’re not practicing, it would be like studying golf or studying the mechanics of a right swing but never teaching your body and brain to perfect it.

The same thing goes for salespeople and executives. Whether you’re new to the game or a company, or your a senior sales exec who’s been with the same company for 5 years, we all role play in our heads or practice our presentations before it’s time to go into the meeting. There are a lot of variables to sales calls and demos, and anytime you have a lot of variables, role-playing can help to simplify what you actually should do. 

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Jake Dunlap
Author

Jake Dunlap

Jake Dunlap designs repeatable, sustainable sales models and processes that outperform industry standards. As the Founder + CEO of Skaled Consulting and Skaled Media, Jake helps executives around the world accelerate business growth with data-backed sales solutions. Before building Skaled, he held the roles of VP of Sales at Nowait (acquired by Yelp), Head of Sales + Customer Success at Chartbeat, and VP of Sales at Glassdoor (acquired by Recruit Holdings for $1.2 billion dollars in 2018).