Sales Enablement Needs Virtual Role Play for Sales Readiness


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The days of the traditional elevator pitch delivered in an actual elevator are long gone. In the Digital Age, sales pitches are more likely to happen where the customer or prospect spends most of his time — on text, email or even through LinkedIn. Not only has the medium changed, but the recipient has too. Today’s prospect or customer is likely a multitasker with a shrinking availability to listen to a sales pitch. Against this backdrop, the modern sales rep must make their consultative introductory conversations informative, yet concise and effective, across mediums.

Crafting and delivering the right message for maximum effectiveness is more difficult than one would think. Therefore, virtual role play emerges as a helpful tool to make reps more successful in their customer interactions. Ideally, this capability will be integrated with an organization’s overall platform for sales effectiveness, which promotes and reinforces knowledge development.

Virtual role play should enable reps to practice voice-over-slideshow, video role play, email and task evaluation, and voice-over-screen share (product demo/walkthrough, etc.). And, an integrated role play approach should allow users to practice their skills in specific use cases (such as leaving voicemails for the customer, tradeshow messaging, product demos, handling objections and managing procurement) throughout all sales stages.

Meeting customer needs at scale and variety of use cases is only possible with a two pronged approach. First, a need to commit to leveraging leading-edge innovations, such as AI and automation assistance to drive adoption among reps and timely reviews by managers. Second, managers, admins and sales coaches need to be enabled to manage this virtual role play program through the appropriate configuration, management and tracking of skills practice capabilities. Above all, this should be done without compromising usability and by taking into account the varied processes that are unique to each organization.

Let’s take a look at three specific users — the enablement administrator, the sales manager or coach, and the rep — all of which are involved in the configuration, launch and adoption of virtual role plays

Enablement administrators
The enablement administrator is the lynchpin of the entire skills-practice workflow. Following are some of the key needs to ensure successful adoption of skills and virtual role play.

Target all forms of customer interactions. The buying and selling process has become quite complex, requiring sales reps to engage successfully with customers across a range of mediums. Therefore, enablement administrators must identify and create environments and scenarios for virtual role-play practice that span all the different ways sales reps interact with customers, such as emails, phone calls, web conferences and LinkedIn messages.

Match evaluations to mapped desired capabilities and use case. Evaluation criteria of a message certification skill are very different from that of a “success story” skill. The criteria also vary based on the profile of the target sellers (such as between BDRs and experienced account executives). A one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t work. Rather, think about which knowledge and mix of hard and soft skills are desired and need to be practices. Then configure your evaluation criteria to these desired results

Ensure unbiased and consistent responses across all reviewers. If reps are being compared by their performance across a set of practice skills, their evaluations by different people in the organization should be as objective as possible. To help achieve this, admins should include guidance to reviewers that ensures good data quality and perspectives from multiple reviewers so anomalies can be quickly identified.

Drive accountability and adoption of virtual role play. Often, getting reps to practice their skills is the most difficult of tasks and usually requires a combined ‘carrot-and-stick’ approach. Fortunately, enablement admins using best-in-class virtual role play have multiple options at their disposal. These options include notifications (through Slack, text or email, for example) that the rep has been invited to complete a virtual role play or has completed it; visibility around managers that provide the most constructive feedback through text analysis; and reports that show admins who their most proactive and diligent managers are so they can be scored and the results can be shown to their direct reports. Taking it a step further, some best-in-class platforms integrate certification data into their HRMS systems like Workday.

Reviewers typically include sales managers and coaches. Quick, consistent and high-quality feedback is critical to the effectiveness of the program. To assist their experience with virtual role play should be optimized with AI assistance. Beyond simply ensuring that the role play exercises they are assigning are being completed, they should be looking at the bare minimum in terms of how reps are performing on length, speech pace and use of filler words. Ideally, evaluation criteria will show inline guidance on the meaning behind ratings and the difference between each value on the rating scale for maximum clarity in feedback. Machine analysis of the virtual role play submission around keywords that were important can help the process. And a text transcript will help reviewers quickly browse through the submission so they can focus on the parts where the machine shows weak coverage of the keywords. Once reviewers pinpoint issues, they can quickly add contextual feedback using inline commenting.

With reports bookmarked by the admins, managers can also quickly get a sense of how their team stacks around the key evaluation parameters skills so they can understand competency gaps.

For sales reps to derive maximum value from their virtual role plays, their experience must be tailored according to scenario. Feedback on their submission must be quick, actionable, unbiased and contextual.

Leveraging AI enables instant responses to give the rep input on their use of filler words, length and talking pace of the role play. This allows them to keep practicing before submitting their final attempt for review to their manager/reviewer. In the end, this approach leads to a higher rate of long-term proficiency. For areas of improvement, sellers should be able to see the remediation assigned by the reviewer tailored to the evaluation criteria that need improvements.

In 2020, enterprises must up-level their sales reps’ effectiveness by adopting best-in-class virtual role play programs and approaches integrated with their sales enablement programs. In doing so, they empower their sales reps with a greater chance of mastering customer interactions in every use case, across every medium.

Himanshu Bari
Himanshu Bari is the Sr. Director of Product Management at MindTickle. He has over 15 years of enterprise software experience in a diverse set of roles spanning product management,software development, user experience for security, fraud, and data center products. Recently he’s focused on the big data space where he led the data platform and machine learning driven products for ThreatMetrix, a LexisNexis company. Himanshu holds a Masters in Computer Science and MBA from UC Berkeley.


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