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Train the Trainer: Harnessing the Power of Role Play

A great way to enhance sales training is with role-play. Critical in mastering the sales pitch, objection handling, and negotiation tactics, role-play is undoubtedly the most important tool for sales coaching. But surprisingly, very little attention is paid to doing them right. Jen Scopo (Instructional Design, WorkRamp) discusses her top five tips to design and execute role-playing scenarios to uplevel your sales enablement program.

Set expectations & relay clear metrics

Training is all about helping your employees develop their greatest potential—and it can only help if you tell them what you’re looking for. Set expectations and goals for the role-playing exercise (i.e. foster longer conversations with prospects or increase demo conversion rates) so that not only your reps know how they’re being measured, but the managers will also know what to focus on when it comes to coaching and giving feedback. 

For role play, bite-sized training works best

When you build out a role-play training guide, it’s much more impactful to focus on pieces of the sales conversation than to test for everything at once. Figure out the ‘easiest’ part of the conversation that most folks master the fastest and use that to test your reps and build their confidence. Then take the most important part of the conversation (i.e. overcoming objections, identifying pain points, delivering business value) and tackle that in bite-sized scenarios. Finally, nail the rest of the conversation in chronological chunks, sprinkling in transition statements to tie it all together. 

Stay in character, no matter what

There’s no doubt that role playing is impactful, but we can’t ignore the fact that it’s also a super awkward experience. It feels silly to stay in character for an entire discovery call, but how you role play (and how seriously you take it) will set up your reps for success in the real deal. In live calls, reps don’t get to say, “Ugh, I hate the way I said that. Let me hang up and call you back with a better pitch”— so don’t let them do that during the exercise. Embrace the awkwardness, stay in character, and power through those scenarios. 

Acknowledge the awkwardness; pause as needed

People have a tendency to talk through awkward silences. If your rep is struggling through the conversation, resist the temptation to say “You got this! It’s OK!”. Stay silent and give your rep time to jump back in when they’re ready. Over time, those pauses should get shorter and shorter until the rep can seamlessly transition from one topic to another. Allow your reps to navigate their way through the conversation and figure it out. Learning to stay calm during fumbles is a key part of the role play. 

Use gamification to track progress

Add a little gamification to the mix! Instead of leaderboards, try using punch cards (or if you’re using WorkRamp, we have badges) to track key milestones and the training progress. For example, if the goal of the role play is to address all sides of the sales experience, each ‘punch’ should represent the different customer personas—with the rep playing both the customer and the salesperson during this process. From “I’m interested but,” champion to the argumentative VP, your reps will know which scenarios they’ve aced, which conversations they need to work on, and what’s left to master in the training.

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