Strategies for a World-Class SDR Program

Role-Playing Best Practices

Group of SDRs role playing calls.

Role playing is the fastest way for new customer-facing employees to hone their skills and learn a new product. Every training regimen, for new and experienced employees alike, should involve role playing.

Like any other type of training, role playing is only as good as the effort you put into it. Spending some time to organize your each session will pay dividends. Here are a few suggestions that may help you get the most out of your next training session that involves role play:

  • Be fair to trainees. The worst mistake you can make as a trainer is humiliating a trainee. This is common in competitive sales environments. However, being fair also requires letting people fail—it’s ok to mess up! It’s not OK to embarrass people who are trying to learn.
  • Use a telephone. If your team sells over the phone, then they should practice on the phone. I prefer sending both role players to separate, quiet offices and allowing other trainees to listen on a muted speakerphone. This limits distractions on both sides.
  • Set the stage. Don’t simply assign people the role of prospect and salesperson and say “go” Create a realistic situation including a prospect persona, prospect title, and deal size. Give the salesperson all of the information that she would normally have going into a call.
  • Break it down. Split your training into parts early in the process. Practice each part of the call separately. Once your trainees are comfortable with every part of the call, put them all together. Don’t expect solid discovery from a trainee on day 1.
  • Bring in outsiders. If your trainees only role play with one another, it may get boring quickly. A trainee is unlikely to challenge his colleagues. The colleagues may try to embarrass him when it’s their turn. Using outsiders will keep it interesting.
  • Use non-salespeople. If your trainees will eventually sell to HR departments, then use human resources professionals. If they sell to marketing agencies, then recruit some designers or copywriters to join the exercise.
  • Practice specific objections. Devote at least one training session to the most common objections the trainees will encounter. Once the trainees know what they are and how to handle them, make sure to pepper them into subsequent role play sessions.

A little preparation can go a long way when you’re training new salespeople. Whether they’re a new SDR or a seasoned vet, every member of your team can benefit from role playing. Consider setting aside some time for continuing training long after new employee training is complete.

Taft Love

Taft Love

Taft Love is an experienced sales development and sales operations professional who has worked with dozens of startups in and around San Francisco in recent years. He now leads teams of SDRs and Sales Operations analysts for SmartRecruiters in San Francisco.

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