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September 27, 2018

3 Video Role-Play Strategies to Supercharge Your Sales Onboarding

An old superstition among people putting on theater productions says that bad dress rehearsals lead to great opening nights.

Whether you’re superstitious or not, you can’t deny the value of getting mistakes out of the way during practice sessions. Once reps get out of sales onboarding and start actually selling there’s a lot on the line. It’s not the time to try out new techniques.  

Role-playing, when done well, is one of the best methods to train, coach, and improve sales reps’ skills during sales onboarding. Sales managers, trainers and enablement professionals get the chance to observe new reps operating and offer insights into why a particular technique or approach might not work—and then shift the reps to a better way.

Modern sales learning software supercharges role-plays during onboarding by giving new hires’ future sales managers the chance to engage in role-play remotely, and observe live role-play sessions from bootcamp for later review. Plus, sales reps get objective audiovisual benchmarks of their skill level in addition to their manager’s coaching and feedback. Over time, they can track how those skills grow.

Here are three strategies to help you create roles-plays that actually build skills during sales onboarding:

  1.  Single Skill Practice

This drill takes a very thin slice of specific skills you’d like your rep to practice. For example, instead of having your reps practice a whole prospecting call, you might consider asking them to practice an individual aspect of that call, like making an empathy statement or closing for next steps. This strategy is especially helpful with new reps because it sets them up for small wins that build confidence.

  1. Case Study/Scenario Role Play

This drill increases the complexity by simulating an entire conversation. For this exercise, your rep could practice their sales presentation or product demo. Once they’ve got their basic script down, make it more challenging by surprising them with “difficult” customers. What do you do when a client seems overly quiet, distrustful, or unhappy? Get new hires to practice handling these situations now so when they get out in the field and emotions run high, they’ve got training to fall back on.

  1. Process Simulations

This advanced drill spans a series of key client interactions over time. Think of it like flight-simulation training. Your reps are prospecting to a specific company in a situation where they face multiple roadblocks, just like they will in real life: competitors, changes in the marketplace, customer objections, and more. In this multi-day drill, your sales team must create an attack plan and identify which decision-makers to contact and how they’ll message to them.

Regardless of which approach you use, provide sales reps with quality feedback. You should give feedback immediately when the behavior occurs to drive home the point. Clearly communicate parts of their role-play where the sales rep could improve and then engage them in a dialogue about those moments. And always be sure to give them praise for the aspects of their efforts that you like, even if there are several areas of improvement that you also need to discuss.

Role-playing lets new reps “test drive” their presentations and talk tracks during sales onboarding well before they get in front of actual customers. Doing these face-to-face is fundamental to sales training, but often video role-play solutions give reps more structure. Managers get the chance to participate in early onboarding while training and enablement professionals can provide feedback on specific moments of a role play without having to interrupt the rep.

For a deeper dive on role play, watch how Pat d’Amico, learning and sales development expert at About Face Development, uses role-play and modern learning sales practice to improve the sales onboarding process


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