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How effective role-play gets my new sales reps effective within one week


We’ve been on somewhat of a hiring drive here recently at Refract. With hiring new sales guys comes the responsibility of getting reps up to speed as quick as possible. I speak with a lot of Sales Leaders who talk to me about ramp times in excess of six months. SIX MONTHS to get somebody effective. Whilst appreciating every company is different, with the complexity of their product/s varying significantly- I find that taking at least half a year to start returning results is one hell of an expensive exercise. That’s why at Refract – the aim is to get new hires effective within their first month.

How do we do it?

Well actually a lot of the success we have had is down to leveraging our own coaching technology. For myself personally – the experience of observing a recent role-play at a Sales Conference I attended really did expose the immeasurable impact of rapidly accelerating skills development of a sales person. So I combined this experience with our coaching platform, and in turn conducted a series of ‘Discovery Call’ Role-plays, to take a new Sales Rep from inexperienced software sales person to managing her own live prospect conversations within the space of a week (and having successful calls).

This is how I did it:

  1. Provided a common Refract sales situation to the sales person. One example I gave was a prospect responding to a cold outbound email, agreeing to an initial call.

  2. Sales rep calls me (acting as the prospect), recording the conversation using the Refract platform

  3. A ‘discovery call’ is conducted where the sales rep follows our discovery call sales process. I provide common objections and a mix of standard and left field responses. Sales rep attempts to identify challenges/opportunities, and aims to book a demo.

  4. At the end of the call, I review the call recording – breaking the call into key coachable moments, and drive feedback against each ‘coaching moment’

  5. I share the call with the rep to review, and then schedule time with them to review the ‘coachable moments’ together, and to elaborate/probe into any feedback areas.

  6. Ask the sales person how they thought they did, what they did well, what they didn’t do so well, and lessons learnt for next time

  7. Feedback is recorded and tracked to measure improvements after the next role-play call. i.e Was the coaching actually effective?

  8. I share best practice discovery call moments from our shared library from other sales reps on the team, to help provide ideas and inspiration.

So why does this process work so effectively? How did I get my new sales rep from being a discovery call amateur to having successful calls within such a short space of time? Well really its success is on a number of levels:

  1. The call is completely natural. Its being conducted over the phone with both individuals in separate locations – as a normal discovery call would be conducted. There is no awkwardness of being face to face, or not having the conversation via the phone. It provides a REALISTIC environment for the sales rep.

  2. Without the ability to play back the recording of the call, myself (as the coach) will not realistically be able to remember all of the coachable moments of the conversation and so my feedback is going to be weak and lacking in context. Remember -if you aren't listening to your reps, you're leading blind.

  3. Without the ability to play back the recording of the call, the sales rep will be unable to self-reflect on what happened at key moments of the conversation. The conversation will simply be lost in the memory.

  4. Tagging of key moments provides monumental impact of profiling areas of improvement. When did the rep not ask a further discovery question when they could have? What are the ‘crutch words’ they repeatedly use? How did they misphrase certain things, which negatively affected the conversation? How could they have better handled an objection I threw at them? Without pinpointing these moments, your feedback simply becomes a verbal, ambiguous, summary.

  5. Calls are stored to review and re-visit ahead of the next role-play call. What were the objectives for the sales rep to address and are they making improvements? If you’re not recording and measuring this, then you’re simply coaching blind.

  6. What better and more impactful way of coaching somebody to improve, than actually SHOWING them somebody doing it so well? If you aren’t able to demonstrate best practice then you’re falling behind the rest.

I’ve heard so many examples of awkward, poorly executed role-play exercises that its no wonder it takes so many companies so long to get sales reps up to speed. The old traditional process of plugging a sales rep into three weeks of calls being made by a more experienced head is backwards, inefficient, and lacklustre.

Embrace the power of effective role-play and watch your new reps flourish.

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