When Does It Make Sense to Role Play with New Inside Sales Reps?


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I’ll admit it: I never liked role plays. I wouldn’t say that I’m necessarily in the minority here. Remembering back to my first few sales jobs, role plays were inevitably part of the training and were what I always dreaded the most. Don’t get me wrong: I saw the value in going through the exercise, but I never felt that I put my best foot forward. How can you when you haven’t fully absorbed the service/technology you were tasked with calling on?

Potential candidates interested in coming to work for us are definitely put through the paces. Assuming they do well with the on-site interview, we then set up a role play with them over the phone. The scenario we set is relatively basic. You work for a social media firm, and the task is to contact a marketing director and get four qualification questions answered. We expect them describe what the firm does, how they differentiate from others, and then close on the meeting. While we want to make the role play challenging, we don’t expect them to be perfect by any means. The goal is to get a feel for how they react when we throw a few small curve balls at them and most importantly, whether they can handle the call with confidence. You can’t teach confidence… but we can coach them on everything else.

Assuming they did well on the role play and we’ve decided to hire them, after our first week of training here at AG, we ask our newest reps for their feedback. Is there anything they would like to see added, anything changed or subtracted from the training week? The common things they find benefits from are call shadowing senior reps and our ‘mock calling scenario’. With call shadows they can hear how the best reps at our company work through our call plan, how they navigate our CRM, how they handle objections and ideally hear when a lead conversion takes place.

The mock calling piece was something we recently added to our training program to replace the traditional role play. Again, this has helped to give them a much better sense of what a normal day of calling would look like. The scenario we set is that we’ll give them 5 mock prospects to call from the same company. We want them to navigate through the org chart to find our ‘contact indentified’ AKA the decision maker. Once we are able to get the decision maker live, we want them to again give a high-level overview, handle basic objections, then qualify and close on the meeting. The benefit of walking through the mock calling scenario is that it mirrors what it’s actually like to pass a prospect. For me the important pieces of a first week of training starts with the team mastering our call plan along with adapting their style to our process.

Setting up isolated role plays after a week of training does not give reps a real sense of what calling will be like. Sure, they are going to deal with jerks who want to rush them off the phone or who will throw detailed technical questions at them they can’t answer. While they should know that selling isn’t necessarily always going to be puppy dogs and ice cream, setting particularly difficult scenarios too early in a training may set reps up to fail. I’ve never understood the point of that. Plus, it never gives you an accurate gauge of what you’re working with. Some of the best reps on my team took a little time to rear up. Once they did, their work spoke for itself.

No rep is going to be perfect their first day on the phone. Doing difficult role plays where you expect them to be perfect is virtually guaranteed to let you down, especially if they haven’t made one call. Consider doing the tougher role play a month into the job. Then it’s safe to say you know what you’re working with at that point.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Craig Ferrara
Craig Ferrara is a Director of Client Operations at AG Salesworks. He joined the company in 2004 as a Business Development Manager, transitioned to Client Account Manager, and was promoted to his current position in 2007. Craig's daily responsibilities include inside sales team oversight, reporting, training, ongoing contact list development and refinement, and managing daily client engagement from a high level.


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