7 steps to level up your sales skills through role playing

By Rebecca Potter, Shopify Sales Concierge and former Revenue School Associate

Starting out, sales can be intimidating - especially when you have to pick up the phone and call someone you don’t know. Luckily, sales role plays can help you overcome this feeling. A sales role play is a hypothetical scenario between a sales associate and a customer to let you practice your selling skills and build confidence in a less intimidating, lower stakes environment. 

I’ve found these 7 simple steps help me put my best foot forward.

1. Prepare the customer scenario.

To prepare for your role play, create a scenario for your customer. 

For example, in our scenario we could call a fashion and accessories company on another platform that generates $2 million in revenue and is having issues with the checkout process. Try to think of customers who normally use your platform or service so that it is more realistic.

After you have decided the prospective company and the company background, decide who you will reach out to at the company. Is this the CEO, director of ecommerce, or the VP of technology? Deciding who you will speak with will affect the way you approach the role play in terms of the pitch and the value you focus on.

2. Know your role and sales purpose.

Next, think about the purpose of the call. What do you hope to achieve? Outbound and inbound sales roles each have a specific purpose for the call. 

For an inbound role, you are speaking to prospective customers who have already expressed interest in your company through an online chat, attending an event, or through a website. These are inbound leads, so the purpose of your call is to collect information from the customer and, if your platform can help them, schedule a second call with an account executive. 

If you are playing the role of an outbound representative, the prospective customer is likely not expecting your call. These leads involve a “cold call” (or email) to generate the initial interest. Knowing your purpose before a role play is a great way to define your goals and manage expectations.

3. Find an ideal partner.

Now that you know the purpose of the sales role play, it's time to choose a partner. Ideally, you want your partner to have experience in the role you are practicing so that they are able to give valuable feedback and tips from their experience. You don’t want to always role play with your work bestie, as they might be hesitant to give you constructive feedback. It is also important to rotate partners so you are gaining different perspectives while you practice.

In my experience, 10-15 minutes is the average amount of time it takes to practice a sales call and receive feedback, however, the length will vary depending on the type of sales call.

4. Challenge yourself by adding more objections.

Once you start practicing with a lead or colleague on a regular basis, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. A great way to strengthen your skills is by incorporating objections into your role plays. During sales calls, objections are expressions made by a buyer that indicates concern or hesitation regarding the product or service. 

In a role play, the best way to challenge yourself is to have your partner come up with different types of objections for you. For example, a customer may express concerns about the complexities involved in changing the current platform. With objections, you are forced to think on your feet - the same way you would be during a real call. 

5. Be open to feedback.

Constructive feedback is the most valuable part of the sales role play process, but you have to remember to not take it personally. When I did my first role play, I got a lot of feedback from my colleagues - this is completely normal. Thankfully, we had a protocol in place to receive and deliver feedback so it is a positive experience for everyone.

Make sure to ask questions at the end of the meeting to get clarity on any feedback you are unsure about. At the end of the day, the new opinions or ideas you receive from a colleague or leader will ideally make your sales approach even better.

6. Be yourself.

The best thing about sales is that there are many different ways to approach a scenario, and there is rarely a “one size fits all” strategy. You’ll need to find out what works best for you. 

Find your own voice. Being your authentic self means that customers will gravitate to you, and you will be energized, engaged and comfortable in your role. 

7. Practice, practice, practice.

Make sure to stay consistent with your sales role plays. Practicing will help build your confidence and sharpen your skills. If there are times during your day where you finish other tasks early, do some role plays. Even if it's just talking out loud to yourself, you will start to find your own groove and realize what works best for you.

You can also listen to the calls of other seasoned salespeople to learn how they handle customers. Over time, your ability to handle anything that comes your way greatly improves. Even many seasoned sales leaders study calls to learn more about customers, feed their curiosity, and level up. 

If you're interested in launching your sales career, learn more about Shopify's sales training program, Revenue School