Practice makes perfect, right? 

In sales, one of the best ways to hone a new skill or behavior is to just...start doing it. It’s that “bias toward action” concept everyone is always talking about: don’t wait for perfect, be okay with “good enough” — then test, iterate, improve. 

But depending on what you’re working on, it’s never a bad idea to do some internal practice, especially if:

  • You’re training a rep who’s brand new to sales

  • You’re rolling out new messaging, products or services

  • The external landscape is changing (think: new competitors, new objections, new personas, etc.)

This is where role play — especially cold call role play — can be an invaluable part of your coaching and development programs. 

If you’re not already doing sales role play with your team, or if you feel like it’s not clicking, read through these best practices, and steal our sales role play tips and techniques to get your team ready for real conversations.


Why Does Sales Role Play Work?

Sales role play has been a tried-and-true sales training technique for many, many years. The reason it works so well is because you simulate the experience of being in a live conversation, but you also get the benefit of real-time, honest feedback. It’s especially great for new reps, who may be tempted to lean way too heavily on a script; putting them into a sales scenario helps them see there’s a whole lot more to the job than memorizing a bunch of words.

Sales role play is also helps managers:

  • Identify strengths and weaknesses on your team: As you engage with or observe your reps in different selling role play scenarios, you can quickly pick up on areas where they’re excelling or struggling.

  • Drive team collaboration: Sales role play is a great team-building activity. When everyone is involved (seasoned and new reps alike), it’s an opportunity to get them connected and learning from each other. 

  • Build confidence: This is huge. Cold calling can be intimidating for anyone, so role playing can make reps more comfortable, fast. It’s also hard to let go of old (stale) messaging and try something new, no matter how experienced you are. Role play gives everyone the opportunity to work out the kinks so they feel 100% prepared.

3 Selling Role Play Scenarios

Below are three key selling role play scenarios you should consider incorporating into your training. 

1. Cold calling

Not to beat a dead horse, but again — cold calling is hard for most people, and that’s especially true for new reps. Granted, it may be tough to truly simulate the experience of a cold call when you’re role playing, given that a cold call, by definition, entails speaking to someone you’ve never spoken to before.

Still, your reps may be surprised just how much pressure they feel when they’re in the hot seat (and that’s not a bad thing)! 

It helps to set it up the role play in a way that feels as real as possible. That means you’re actually on the phone, in separate rooms or locations. Your "prospect" should have a name, title and company. If the whole team is involved, you could make it a blind call, so your rep isn’t sure exactly who will be on the other end of the line. Have your rep use their script, and make sure the “prospect” has prompts. Let the pair run through the exercise multiple times, switching off roles, until they both feel they’ve got a good handle on their pitch (and where it needs to be fine-tuned).

2. Objection handling 

Consider dedicating some of your role play scenarios to objection handling.

Start by outlining the key objections you typically hear from prospects. Focus especially on any new or anticipated objections. For example: did your top competitor just release a shiny new feature? Did you recently increase pricing? Make sure you’ve done some training with your team on the front-end, so everyone has a thorough understanding of how to respond when objections arise. This also ensure your reps are all aligned on key points, so that the market isn’t getting hit with disparate messaging.

Then: role play. You can do this in a simulated setting, like the cold call role play above, or you can gather your team together and throw out objections pop-quiz style, so your team gets used to thinking on their feet. 

3. Persona exercises

When you’re working through selling role play scenarios, make sure you’re not thinking too narrowly about who’s on the other end of the line. You probably have more than one type of buyer, and (at least in B2B sales) you’re talking to more than one person at an organization as you move the buyer down the funnel. 

Make sure you role play with all types of personas your reps may be speaking with. For example, maybe most of your initial outbound calls are made directly to a manager, but as you get closer to closing the deal, you're pitching someone on the leadership team. All of these people will likely have different pain points and goals, which means they’ll have different reactions and objections. Be sure to incorporate each one into your training. (The same goes for different verticals or end markets that you’re selling into!)

4 Sales Role Play Tips

Role playing doesn’t have to be a drag. In fact, it can be a great culture play and a tactic to spice up your regular, ho-hum team meetings and training sessions. A few ideas to keep your sales role play fresh and effective:

  1. Make it a team sport: We’ve alluded to this several times already, but it’s important! Don’t limit role playing to 1:1 coaching sessions. As the manager, of course you can participate, but it’s also a good idea to step back and observe, allowing your reps to learn from each other. Pair up newbies with experienced team members — or go beyond your team, and let AEs and SDRs practice together. 

  2. Build in time for feedback: It can be easy to focus on the exercises and forget about the post-mortem. Make sure every sales role play session includes time for you and your reps to talk through what went well, what tripped them up, and where your team may need to make changes to messaging.

  3. Keep it light: Even if it’s not “real,” role play can be nerve-wracking. It’s not easy to have your peers and managers observe you and follow that with live feedback. Make sure reps don’t feel judged or criticized; keep the atmosphere light and encouraging. Consider adding some friendly competition and making a game out of your sessions.

  4. Incorporate sales coaching: As you’re observing your reps and where they may be struggling, leverage that knowledge in your 1:1s. Focus on the areas where they seem less confident in role playing exercises and help them to develop those skills.

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