In 2023, sales training simulations address a new concern that sales managers are just beginning to face return anxiety. As employees return to work after extended periods of remote work or reenter the workforce after COVID-related interruptions, companies find they can resolve return anxiety through experiential learning. Sales training simulations fit the bill: they provide experience, let salespeople of all skill levels practice new-to-them skills, and foster an experiential learning environment.
Of course, correctly implemented sales training simulations can do much more than restabilize employees anxious about work norms and recent gaps in their work skills or resumes. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at what sales training simulations are, their tangible benefits, and how conventional processes got in the way of those benefits. Then we’ll explore the best ways to integrate sales training simulations into your skills training program for the best return on investment.
What Are Sales Training Simulations?
Sales training simulations are immersive exercises in which a trainee takes on the role of the salesperson in the marketplace, with other figures acting as competitor salespeople, clients, and prospects. Sales training simulations can simulate any scenario that salespeople will encounter, including:
- Cold calls to potential prospects
- Sales pitches
- Sales demos
- Follow-up contact points throughout the sales funnel
- Communications with key accounts throughout the service cycle or leading up to a renewal period
- Upselling and cross-selling scenarios
- Interactions with displeased prospects or clients
These simulations task trainees to respond in real time to actors within the simulation, requiring them to put skills into practice to “win” the scenario. Sales trainers can take part in conventional simulations (often taking on the role of the prospect), or they can observe the simulation to assess performance and give feedback.
Today’s sales training simulations can look very different from traditional models. In previous decades, these simulations were one-on-one and face-to-face, or sales trainees took turns performing the various roles. But with modern technology, an emerging focus on AI-powered sales training simulations is growing in popularity. Now, sales trainees can interact with a virtual simulation to practice in virtually endless scenarios. AI-powered assessment tools can also measure performance in increasingly granular areas for fine-tuned, personalized training.
Related: What Is Effective Sales Coaching?
The Problem With Conventional Sales Training Simulations
Sales training simulations are uniquely valuable, regardless of their form, because they allow for experiential learning. Most professionals see the benefits of experiential learning and training over most other options. That includes seeing the value in different learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.) or positive results of the 70:20:10 learning framework that cites experiential learning as 70% of our learning experiences,
However, traditional sales training simulations without AI-powered tools have severe drawbacks. These include:
Slow and Sporadic Practice
When sales practice relies on booking a session with a sales trainer, there are only so many simulations each of your sales reps can participate in. Sales trainers will be busy onboarding new hires, providing remedial attention, organizing learning and development resources, and assessing sales employees’ performances. Each rep may only get a few simulations each quarter, and they won’t be able to practice any tips they receive.
Even the best trainers have biases and outdated information; they also might have distractions and fatigue that influence their assessments. This can make it challenging for reps at any experience level to sift through feedback to find real value that guides measurable, objective improvement.
Simulations Are Behind the Times
Scripted, in-person simulations have a significant delay from research to implementation. Whatever scenarios a sales training course provides, they’ve taken a long road from initial generation, scripting, editing, revisions, and publishing to reaching the hands of your sales team. But sales situations and customer experiences are changing faster than ever before. That means the scenarios, let alone the feedback for optimizing performance, will be behind the times.
5 Benefits of Sales Training Simulations
While you can imagine the benefits of sales training simulations, the logistical problems we discussed above might be enough for busy executives and HR directors to pause the whole thing and not be motivated to invest in a solution. However, the benefits that consistent sales training simulations can provide your organization (at the sales team, RevOps team, and organization-wide levels) are hard to overstate. Consider these five business-critical benefits:
Moving Theory Into Practice
Salespeople can learn the theory of good sales strategies and tactics. However, even actionable guides and clear-cut tactical advice are still just theories. Sales reps need to practice those skills for them to come naturally. Soft skills, negotiations, and conversational abilities are all trainable aspects. With simulations, salespeople are much less likely to freeze, come across as artificial, or misspeak when they speak to their next prospect.
Improvising and Thinking Under Pressure
Client-facing sales activities are stressful. The psychological impact of constant rejection and distrust is the subject of endless guides and resources. The Sales Health Alliance says, “Rejection can start to snowball and push us further into emotional distress that will make us less effective at selling.”
The pressure to avoid rejection can be a considerable barrier for salespeople, especially at the start of their careers. They may let the conversation end after the initial “no,” not have a solid response to the first rejection or question, and bend too much. Simulations allow salespeople to adjust to that potential rejection and pressure in a low-stakes scenario that gives them opportunities to push past it and develop strong responses.
Getting Detailed Feedback
AI-powered sales training simulations solve more than just the need for interactive counterparts in a simulation scenario. The AI itself can assess every microsecond of the simulation, gauging factors such as:
- Accuracy of information
- Delays, hesitations, and “um”s
- Soft skills and conversation ability
- Tone of voice
- Ability to address customer pain points
This powers far deeper insights that non-AI training can provide. Sales reps can zero in on the most needed skills, optimize their personalized learning course to be as efficient as possible, and get detailed notes about what went right and wrong.
Gaining Conversational Experience
Conversational skills, or C-IQ, are a learnable area. Salespeople aren’t naturally talkative or great active listeners—or at least, not all of them are. With training simulations, reps can practice approaches, transitions, new tactics, and active listening until they become second nature. While “people skills” can seem conceptually intangible, guide after guide breaks the art into quantifiable skills. AI takes it further and can test and assess professionals again and again.
Not Practicing on Real Customers
One of the essential benefits of sales training simulations isn’t what it provides but what it removes: salespeople have to practice on someone, and it will be on your prospects and clients if you don’t offer an alternative. This means a statistically significant portion of your leads and clients will receive gaffes, inarticulate first-time pitches, fumbles, and awkward pauses. Once that happens, you can’t turn back the clock. Let your salespeople practice on artificial leads instead.
How to Get the Most Value Out of Sales Training Simulations
Optimize your sales training even further by implementing sales training simulations correctly. By investing in sales enablement tools and training platforms that round out your tech stack, your organization can benefit by:
- Showing employees that you value their learning and development
- Collecting data about progress and performance
- Salvaging client relationships by (i) not using them for practice and (ii) connecting them with practiced sales reps
Use these tips to make it happen:
Make Them Available 24/7
Today’s working professionals have wildly divergent schedules and training resources should accommodate that. Give them apps and online platforms available 24/7 (especially if simulations and learning sessions are available in microdoses). This lets reps run simulations whenever they have free time or need to practice a specific skill.
Power Them With an AI That Gives Detailed Feedback
AI training tools give more detailed, objective, and helpful feedback than sales managers because the devices can assess performance against dozens or hundreds of available metrics. Entry-level reps can ramp up their learning, experienced representatives can fine-tune a specific approach or skill, and no one has to worry about a bad day or office politics.
Managers Need to See the Results
The right platform is excellent for the organization, not just individuals. AI-powered software can compile historical learning tracks for each employee, analyze progress for the entire team, and identify strengths or weaknesses based on statistically verified trends. This information can help your leadership teams determine internal promotions, necessary training resources, and even forecasted revenue reports for upcoming months.
Focus Simulations on Granular Skills and Personalized Learning Tracks
Traditional simulations are often broad and overgeneralized. But when every sales rep can run through dozens or hundreds of simulations based on availability, they don’t have to pack many skills or variables into each session. Instead, they can develop granular skills, see the readouts from different approaches, and develop a highly personalized approach to learning.
Use Quantify to Integrate Valuable Sales Training Simulations Into Modern Skills Training Programs
Sales training simulations are central to your skills training program, meaning Quantify should have a place in your tech stack. Our AI-powered sales enablement platform provides AI coaching, a focus on boosting your sales reps’ conversational IQ, and the enablement resources you need for every stage of the sales funnel—and clients’ lifetime cycles with your business. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule a demo and see how our sales training simulations perform.