5 Tips for Training Your Sales Team to Practice Sales Calls

Sales skills take practice. But having new—or even experienced—reps practice sales calls on hard-won qualified leads or referrals can make anyone balk: what if the call goes badly? It’s not just the sale on the line; it’s also your business’s reputation. At the same time, giving reps cold leads to practice on can quickly burn them out with the series of annoyed ‘no’s and straight-to-voicemail calls.

The obvious answer is artificial practice—but that can make everyone balk just as much. Conventional role-plays are dysfunctional from start to finish, with multiple problems such as discomfort, lack of reality, deep dislike on the part of sales reps, and inconsistent feedback.

But with the proper restructuring and resources, salespeople can practice sales calls and get more value for their time. Here, we’ll briefly explore the importance of sales calls, even in modern sales environments, and why practicing those calls is still valuable. Then you’ll see five tips for making roleplaying-based practice more efficient, helpful, and likely to stick.

Why Every Team Should Practice Sales Calls

Sales teams only have so much time in the day, and organizations must carefully weigh the value of different objectives to ensure everyone prioritizes profits without jeopardizing work-life balance. Companies do this by automating manual tasks, implementing AI programs supporting human performance, and identifying functions with minimal value. On the sales side, adding cold calls to the list of things with minimal value can be tempting.

But in today’s markets (both B2C and B2B), sales calls matter more than ever. Recent research shows that 82% of buyers that accept a meeting with a salesperson say they were initially engaged through a cold call. Also, making six calls instead of stopping after just one or two can increase conversions by 70%

Related: A Guide to Building a High-Performing Sales Team

These results are impressive, but it is about more than just phoning it in. Instead, sales reps need to be able to launch quick, efficient conversations, actively listen to prospects’ concerns, and provide empathetic, practical answers. That takes practice.

What about Practicing Cold Calls? 

While cold calls are vital for reaching prospects most salespeople straight up don’t enjoy them. In fact, 63% of salespeople describe cold calling as the worst part of the job. Many of the reasons for this tie back to the frequency of rejection (even for experienced reps). But by providing regular practice and updated resources, sales enablement teams can build confidence, and improve the odds of successful cold calls. .

3 Barriers to Effective Sales Call Practice

Many training managers and sales directors know practice is the key to better sales calls and performance. While the right CRM, internal documents, and USPs matter, the most important thing is building an effective relationship with prospective or return clients, often through phone or video calls. However, there are several challenges to making practice and role-playing sales calls a regular part of the business day.

These barriers include:

  1. Time: Role-playing takes time out of the business day. When organizations narrow their focus to quotas and daily to-dos, many salespeople simply don’t have time to organize and meet up for role-playing sessions. Managers and trainers feel the time crunch even more, as multiple one-on-one practice sessions can quickly fill their week.
  2. Discomfort: Role-playing exercises are often embarrassing and annoying. People simply don’t like simulating sales calls, especially if they know they’re being judged for their performance or there’s an audience (even if the audience is just their manager). As a result, many people will put off or avoid the exercise.
  3. Low value: Simply practicing can make people more confident in their performance, and that’s good news. But many manual and in-person role-playing suggestions don’t result in objective feedback or helpful tips. Also, sales reps can’t immediately implement the input if the training session is too short.

These factors can quickly derail any ambitious training program and prevent even the most diligent salespeople from getting into good role-playing practice to improve their performance significantly.

How to Practice Sales Calls: 5 Tips for Better Training and Results

Sales calls are simply too important not to practice, even if logistics keep getting in the way—after all, 57% of C-suite prospects prefer receiving sales calls over other forms of communication. But instead of simply scheduling more blocks of time for sales managers to train sales reps or requiring reps to do more and more in-person role-playing scenarios, it’s better to strategically resolve the barriers that prevent your teams from practicing sales calls. Try implementing these five tips and see how they address practice challenges (time, discomfort, and limited value) so your team can practice sales calls more and get better results.

1. Provide Product Training

Start addressing the resistance against role-playing by giving sales reps the knowledge they need to succeed. While sales calls are primarily about skills and active listening, providing the right messaging and accurate product details are fundamental. Your team should have access to product features and specifications, the line items in every service you provide, and the details about current promotions and offers. The more the team knows about the product, the wording, and how the products fit into customers’ lives, the better they can deliver that information and understand prospect pain points.

2. Prioritize Effective Role-Playing Scenarios

One big complaint with role-playing is that it isn’t realistic. Participants know that they’re role-playing, so it doesn’t often capture the experience sales reps need to practice. Instead, identify real scenarios that sales reps often encounter in each type of call (discoveries, follow-ups, cold calls, etc.)—the more granular, the better. If you can pull from real scenarios your sales team has experienced, that’s better. The goal is to ensure reps practice in situations they have encountered before and are likely to meet again. 

AI-based training simulations are a powerful tool here. Artificial intelligence programs can iterate endless scenarios that encapsulate real-world call scenarios. They can use wording that customers are likely to use, bring up real questions or points of contention, and continue to role-play without breaking character. Sales reps can then run through simulations again and again until they’re satisfied.

3. Practice Active Listening

Active listening is crucial for every sales call, but it can be difficult to assess without adopting an “I know it when I see it” approach. However, several granular cues indicate a sales rep actively listens: repeating key phrases, affirming or assenting sounds, and not launching into a perfunctory script. 

Using AI role-playing tools that measure for these and countless others in real-time allows sales reps to practice active listening, get meaningful and objective feedback, and then try again. Active listening is a learned skill that takes practice to use naturally, and it’s a time-intensive process.

4. Provide Constructive Feedback

A frustration that both managers and sales reps can have with role-playing exercises is centered around feedback: 

  • For managers: Providing detailed feedback takes a lot of time. In one-on-one role-playing, there’s limited time to implement feedback and try the exercise again.
  • For sales reps: Feedback can feel arbitrary, unhelpful, and vague. If they find in-person role-playing excruciating, they might not have the right mindset to listen to constructive feedback.

Instead, adopt tools that provide concrete feedback based on actual data. Everything from the number of ‘uhh’s to the length of pauses and the degree to which they stayed on-message while frustrated can give reps the real insight they need to improve. When the feedback consistently focuses on known criteria, that’s even more beneficial.

5. Use Data to Show Progress and Opportunities

Appropriately implemented, each role-playing exercise can become more helpful and give reps the feedback and practice they need to become better sellers. But a series of training exercises is much more powerful. 

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

When sales reps can participate in multiple sales call role-playing sessions, whether focusing on the same skill repeatedly or moving through numerous scenarios and skill sets, they have far more insight into their strengths and weaknesses. Even better, they can target areas for improvement and continually improve. That’s more feasible with AI-powered resources constantly available for practice and analytics.

The Right Resources Will Help Your Sales Team Practice Sales Calls

Conventional, in-person role-playing has several fundamental drawbacks that stop salespeople from practicing sales calls—but the exercise is just too valuable to eliminate. Instead, consider the possibility of adopting AI-based role-playing. With an AI coach and endless iterations of sales call scenarios, your reps can practice, get feedback, and improve.

At Quantified, we’ve developed a sales call role-play and coaching platform that is always ready for salespeople to practice with. Schedule a demo today to see how it fits into your sales training strategy.