How to Develop Sales Role-Play Scenarios Your Sales Team Will Actually Use

How to Develop Sales Role-Play Scenarios Your Sales Team Will Actually Use

The devil is in the details when it comes to successful sales calls. Simply switching from starting a ring with “Did I catch you at a bad time?” to “How have you been?” can increase a sales rep’s chances of success by 660%

But having a script of hundreds of tidbit tactics won’t help, and many of your employees may veer toward the first question when faced with a harried “Hello.” 

To really break through, the granular phrasing, messaging, and responses must be practiced to become routine, second-nature habits. Sales role-play scenarios are an excellent tool, as reps can do that without experimenting with customers.

However, conventional sales role-playing is far from perfect. The scenarios themselves can be unrealistic or unhelpful; manager feedback can be equally unhelpful if vague or arbitrary. Even the inherent dis-likability of live role-playing can interfere with the utility of the practice. 

That’s why it’s essential to drill down into and resolve those challenges, strengthening your organization’s training processes and results. This guide will explore why choosing the right scenarios should be a priority fix. Then we’ll give you seven actionable ways to make them better.

Why Choosing the Right Sales Role-Play Scenarios Will Make or Break Your Training Efforts

You can imagine hundreds and even thousands of sales scenarios, and your employees can do the same thing. General cold calls, follow-ups, and more specific examples of when a prospect asked a particularly tricky question; every different type of call requires strategic planning and practice. Even this list of ten generic scenarios will require significantly different approaches, and getting each one right is essential. At the same time, some simply don’t matter to your reps:

  • Unrealistic scenarios: Practicing responses to questions that prospects are unlikely to ask is a waste of time and can disengage all of your employees.
  • Basic scenarios: If experienced reps have to run through basic techniques that don’t provide them with valuable feedback, they aren’t going to participate meaningfully.
  • Scenarios with the wrong audience: Different reps address different markets and types of clients. Exercises that aren’t tailored to their needs can feel like a waste of time.
  • Scenarios that don’t practice the specific skill at hand: Some practices are simply poorly crafted, especially if there’s a particular objective you’re trying to achieve.

Salespeople already struggle to engage with role-play training—it’s virtually universally disliked. So if that’s compounded by training scenarios they don’t find value in, it can be particularly excruciating and ineffectual. Instead, it’s important to select or generate role-play scenarios that your reps often encounter, see value in, or need to stay on message for precisely. 

Related: How to Upskill Your Sales Team with Role-Play Simulations

However, another major hurdle to consider: sales reps don’t like role-playing with their manager. Like any form of acting, it can be embarrassing and off-putting for participants who don’t enjoy it. Representatives may be nervous, distracted by the setting, and anxious about making a mistake “live” in front of their manager.

There are a lot of stressors besides the scenario itself, which can drastically impact the quality of their performance. Many salespeople may also dislike it because it leads to arbitrary and unhelpful feedback that they can’t meaningfully use—feedback like “don’t be nervous” and “focus on active listening” simply don’t help.

How to Choose Sales Role-Play Scenarios That Matter

There’s some value in knowing why specific sales role-play scenarios shouldn’t be applied to a particular rep’s training—or even be in your company’s playbook. But knowing how to choose the right interactions is far more valuable. Follow this three-step process to identify or lay the foundation for meaningful and helpful scenarios.

1. Identify Challenges Your Team Faces

Before creating or selecting role-playing exercises, start by assessing what challenges your team needs training for. Some common challenges may be:

  • How to follow up after a fourth “no.”
  • Suddenly dealing with a frustrated client during an upsell or cross-sell call.
  • Telling a prospect that your product isn’t a good fit without ruining the relationship or leaving a negative brand impression.
  • Answering technical questions with educational responses.

Your business may see these scenarios and dozens more. You can start collecting a list of challenges by considering past emails from sales reps, commonly repeated concerns, and interactions that your learners suggest. If you have a robust CRM, you can also analyze the data to see at what points prospects are most likely to drop out and then use those points to craft targeted scenarios.

2. Create Learning Objectives

You’re translating the problems into meaningful objectives and solutions at this stage. What specific skills should your sales reps practice? What messaging choices need to become second nature? This can be challenging, but it’s essential to take what went wrong in a scenario and identify the ‘right answer’. Otherwise, role-play scenarios focus on pointing out what a rep did wrong, which can be incredibly demoralizing.

Some potential learning objectives you might prioritize are:

  • Practicing and displaying active listening: If prospects are frustrated and feel like they aren’t being listened to, a goal might be to practice active listening. More than that, your reps should act so prospects feel heard: affirming sounds, using the same phraseology, and meaningfully addressing their concerns.
  • Accurately portraying products and services: If prospects feel your company is overpromising and underdelivering, that may start in the sales calls. You can train reps to stick to messaging without stepping outside the specific features and benefits.
  • Switching from “I” to “we” language: Objectives can be as broad or as granular as you need, and sometimes very granular goals are helpful. For example, switching out words and removing certain words entirely can significantly improve results.

3. Focus on Relevant and Realistic Scenarios

This is less of a step and more of a mantra throughout the process. If a scenario seems contrived, it’s not practical. If some interactions are relevant to one sales team but not another, ensure they’re only offered in applicable training sessions.

Related: What Are Sales Training Simulations and How Can You Integrate Them Into Your Skills Training Program?

While this should be a constant focus, it’s also helpful to regularly sit down and review the training scenarios your team is using. Some scenarios will become outdated as products, services, and customer behaviors change. Others may need to be tweaked or expanded into multiple exercises. 

How to Develop Your Sales Role-Play Scenarios for Better Results

Those three steps above are about cultivating a “library” with robust sales role-play scenarios. There are a few best practices to remember when developing, using, and putting that library to good use.

1. Identify the Challenges of Manual Role-Play Training

First, it’s important to note that good scenarios don’t solve all the problems of role-playing. People can still fall out of character. Reps can still feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. Managers can provide arbitrary or unhelpful advice that changes based on the time of day, the representative, or even other events that impact their mood. Even worse, managers may not have time for consistent role-play practice, and random, intermittent sessions have limited value.

2. Implement Technology Solutions for Those Challenges

Instead of relying on manual one-on-one training, consider alternatives like role-play software that records salespeople’s performance, AI tools that generate personalized scenarios and extensions of those scenarios, and virtual “prospects” that reps can engage with repeatedly, no matter how busy managers are.

Modern solutions can offer benefits such as:

  • 24/7 availability based on salespeople’s schedules and training requirements
  • Endless iterations of specific sales scenarios so they don’t feel canned or memorized
  • Privacy—reps get to practice without an audience or feeling like they’re on a stage

3. Use Data to Refine Scenarios and Build New Ones

It may not be a data-backed process when you first start creating or selecting sales role-play scenarios. You might be guessing what scenarios are essential, which objectives matter most, and what challenges hold back your team the most. But when you switch from manual to software-based role-playing, you suddenly have access to more objective and granular data—and much more of it. 

Using the metrics you collect over time, you can identify the scenarios that bolster performance, find the connection between different exercises and real challenges, and refine the training courses to maximize efficiency. 

4. Prioritize Accessibility and Employee Engagement

Just like prioritizing realism and relevance is critical for creating scenarios, prioritizing engagement is critical for implementing the training. It is crucial to cultivate an environment where sales reps value role-play training; otherwise, learners won’t participate or get value from it. Instead of continuing to use in-person role-play exercises, switch to a platform that reps can access whenever they have time. You can also build individualized learning tracks and provide unlimited practice time so representatives can control their progress.

Develop Stronger Scenarios—And Stronger Sales Skills—With Help From Quantified

Role-playing is a valuable exercise. Sales reps of all experience levels can practice critical skills or tactics without practicing on real customers. With the right software, you can maximize this value by removing the most common barriers: discomfort, lack of relevance, and lack of access. At Quantified, our AI-powered role-playing training tool can generate the sales scenarios your team needs to practice. Schedule a demo to see how virtual sales role-play scenarios contain all the positives without the negatives.