How to create role-playing scenarios for your sales team
Selling isn’t always simple or straightforward. Prospects have unique needs, personalities, situations, and buying motivations—which means that no single technique or script will guarantee a sale. Every sales conversation is different, and you must adapt your sales tactics to the person and context to close a deal.
That’s why sales training is often so difficult to put into practice. Sales reps who know your products by heart—and understand selling tactics in theory—may still struggle to apply their knowledge in the field.
So, what’s the solution? Enter role-playing scenarios. Here’s what role-playing scenarios are and why they enhance any sales training, along with tips for creating effective scenarios that delight and challenge your sales team.
What are role-playing scenarios?
You can think of role-playing scenarios for sales reps as you would flight simulators for pilots. They place learners in challenging, real-world situations that allow them to practice their skills, make decisions, experience consequences, and receive feedback without real risk.
Scenario blocks in Rise: When creating online training in Rise, you’ll find a scenario block explicitly designed for this purpose. This feature enables you to rapidly create realistic scenarios that will help your sales team sharpen their skills. See for yourself:
Why use role-playing scenarios?
Scenario blocks don’t just make your training look good (though they do look good!). They also serve your sales training in three critical ways:
- Drive engagement. Scenarios invite employees to interact with the content, think critically, make choices, and see the consequences of those choices. Learning by doing boosts engagement and participation.
- Foster deeper learning. Role-playing scenarios are practical, realistic, and foster deeper learning. Beyond just remembering and understanding information, learners must analyze choices and apply their skills to realistic situations. Scenarios replicate the real-world conversations and challenges sales reps face in the field, creating rich and relevant learning experiences.
- Track progress and spur conversation. Lastly, you can use scenarios to assess your sales team’s progress and understanding of their training. Sales reps who struggle with a scenario are more likely to ask questions and pursue additional learning opportunities.
What should my scenario be about?
You can create a role-playing scenario on almost any topic. Whatever you choose, focus your scenario on a single challenge, situation, or training outcome. Clarify what knowledge or skill you want employees to take away before drafting your scenario.
A few examples of the most in-demand scenario topics in sales include:
- Handling objections
- Conducting cold calls
- Understanding prospects’ needs
- Building trust and rapport with prospects
- Discussing products and making recommendations
- Talking about the competition
- Getting past the gatekeeper
- Negotiating and closing deals
Example: Check out the following sample scenario built in Rise that tests sales reps’ skills in getting past the gatekeeper.
How to structure your scenario using the 3 Cs
Once you’ve determined a clear topic and goals for your scenario, you can start laying out the structure. A simple and effective strategy for structuring scenarios is called the “3-C Model.” The 3 Cs stand for: challenge, choice, and consequence.
- Challenge. Present a challenge to the learner. For example, you could have a sales prospect ask the learner how their product compares to competitors.
- Choice. Give learners a few plausible choices. Continuing our example above, you might provide the learner with three options for answering the prospect’s question. In the first option, the learner asks follow-up questions to learn more about the prospect’s needs. In the second option, the learner highlights your product’s advantages. And in the third, they discuss the competitor’s weaknesses.
- Consequence. Have the character respond, and then describe the consequences of the learner’s choice. If the learner made the wrong choice, for example, you might reveal the consequence: “The prospect thanks you for your time and leaves the store without making a purchase.”
To keep it simple, you can end the scenario there (after one “branch”). To make it more complex, you can add another 3-C branch. Add as many branches as you like to make scenarios as simple or complex as you want.
Experiment with different models
The above model is a simple and easy-to-follow structure, but feel free to get creative and experiment with more complex scenario structures.
One idea is to prolong revealing the consequences of the learner’s choices. So, if the learner makes the wrong choice, you might give them another series of choices (and an opportunity to correct their mistake!) before providing feedback.
5 tips to maximize sales scenario engagement and effectiveness
The best scenarios feel like “choose-your-own-adventure” stories. Learners are excited to find out what happens next, and they can draw clear connections between their actions and consequences.
To maximize the engagement and effectiveness of your sales scenarios, follow these final, five expert tips:
- Determine your scenario outcomes upfront. Speaking of structure, you’ll find it easier to develop your content by determining your desired scenario outcomes upfront. A common approach is to create choice pathways that lead to a “good,” “OK,” and “bad” outcome. Distinguish these scenario paths early to stay organized and ensure that each scene flows smoothly to the next.
- Make it relevant and practical. Scenarios are only as helpful as they are relevant. Always create scenarios that mirror the most common challenges and day-to-day situations your sales team faces. Don’t create hypothetical scenarios that would never happen in real life. Tip: Consider interviewing team members about their experiences and struggles to inspire your scenarios.
- Be realistic. When it comes to scenarios, art should imitate life. Create realistic characters based on real customer personas. Write dialogue that’s believable and authentic—not stiff, overly formal, or stilted. Also, avoid overly dramatic reactions or outcomes—subtlety champions hyperbole.
- Embrace nuance. Life is rarely as clear-cut as a multiple choice quiz—so don’t make your scenario feel like one. Embrace nuance and help learners explore gray areas where there may not be a single right or wrong answer. For example, you might explore scenario structures where there are multiple ways to reach an acceptable outcome.
- Challenge learners. Nothing kills scenario engagement and credibility faster than obviously correct and incorrect choices. Avoid giving away the answers. Create plausible incorrect options that reflect common mistakes sales reps make in the field. And if you really want to keep sales reps on their toes, then try throwing them into a scenario before providing the training content that accompanies it. This approach can reveal gaps in employees’ understanding and encourage them to pay attention to the training that follows.
And here’s an idea: You might also experiment with scenario role reversals to help sales reps empathize with prospects and imagine a situation from their point of view. For example, you could create a scenario in which the learner assumes the role of a sales prospect. Perhaps you pair them with an aggressive, dishonest, or ill-prepared salesperson. What’s their experience as a prospect?
Role-playing scenarios create valuable, interactive learning experiences for sales reps to practice building rapport with prospects, identifying their needs, recommending products, handling objections, and negotiating deals—among other top challenges your sales team faces.
The Rise scenario block is the best tool for building robust scenarios quickly and easily. Choose from a variety of realistic characters and backgrounds to set the scene. Then add dialogue or text content and create unique pathways that reveal the consequences of employees’ choices.
By providing a risk-free space for sales reps to experiment, hone their selling techniques, make mistakes, and receive coaching, your team can head into the real deal with confidence and competence.
Additional resources for using scenario blocks in Rise
Are you ready to start building sales training scenarios in Rise? Sign up for a free, 30-day trial if you don’t have an account already, and review this support article for step-by-step instructions on using the scenario block in Rise.