Will Senior Sales Reps Role Play?

By March 16, 2018Uncategorized

No way, Jose!

One assumption we hear when we talk to companies about story programs and role-play automation is that only the new reps and junior reps need to role play.

The thinking goes that “the senior reps already know all the stories – they’re not going to get much value out of role-playing.”  And, this thought process continues, “it’s already hard enough to get them to do their expenses and update their pipelines – the last thing I need is another area to harp on them and make managing them even more contentious!”

You may be right

Our observation after three years of driving story programs across multiple types of sales teams is that while this may be true in certain situations, it is usually not the case.  

An area where scaling good conversations with sales reps is tough in general are sales cycles where very little is repeatable and the rep is really making the sausage from scratch deal by deal.  This is typically in services sales cycles with lots of risk and high price tags – $1M+ — think of an anti-trust law firm partner pitching new corporate business or a Fortune 50 management consultant presenting a potential strategy project or a system integrator selling a big ticket infrastructure project.

And I may be crazy

Our observation is that in most other situations where there is a scalable sale or a dynamic market, a story program has lots of value for a senior sales reps – even though it often comes in unexpected areas.

Believe it or not, many senior sales reps are driven by the same three basic internal motivators as the rest of us – mastery, autonomy and meaning.

Senior reps as teachers

Some senior reps like to teach.  They have been in the job a long time, know a lot of things and welcome an opportunity to efficiently share their knowledge.  It can be give them both recognition (mastery) and personal satisfaction (meaning).  

Efficiency is key here if you want to leverage senior reps at scale.  What typically happens in most companies is new reps flock to the successful senior reps and deluge them with 1:1 questions and conversations.   This is not an efficient use of senior sales rep time.

Giving these senior reps an easy way to turn on their webcams and share a 2-minute ‘story guide’ of ‘what good looks like’ on a particular subject is an easy way to leverage their good will and knowledge and keep them in the field selling vs. working the help line.

Senior reps want to hear what other senior reps think, say and do

Another area where senior reps get value in a story program is from the story workshops.  After our customers assign a story with examples of what “good looks like”,  the reps practice and share their best shot at which point the managers coach the stories and select a few to show at the story workshop.

During these 30-minute online story workshops, usually held at the team or region level,  the manager or RVP plays a couple of interesting submissions from that week and the group discusses it.  It could be a tough objection or new positioning against an old competitor or a way to introduce your service team to a prospect.  It could be how to present pricing or tell the company story.  It could be talking about a new analyst report or acquisition in your market – we’ve seen hundreds of different talk tracks serve as story guides.

We have found that senior reps not only like hearing the clips that are played but like hearing how the other senior reps are handling these conversations, which comes out in the discussion portion of the workshop.   So the senior reps both ‘teach’ and ‘learn’ during these sessions.

Value areas can vary by seniority

While the new and junior reps get the bulk of their value from a story program through role-playing the stories and closing the gap with what good looks like, the senior reps often get the bulk of their value from hearing their peers share specific selling stories and approaches during these workshops.

For example, there was a great discussion in a recent customer workshop where the story of the week was how to position a more capable yet more expensive machine against the competition.  We played some good stories with reps walking customers through the additional applications they could sell to their customers and giving examples of other customers who were able to get new and stickier customers with these value-add options.  

One senior rep in the Midwest session submitted the only story that talked about how she was using a step lease to give her new customers an initial time-period to learn how to sell and deliver these great new capabilities while initially keeping the same payment level as were paying for the less-capable machine that they currently owned.  Only after they started getting new jobs and customers with the expanded capabilities in month seven did the lease payment go up.

Few reps had been offering this option but junior and senior reps alike felt that it was a winner and immediately added the story to their repertoire and the step-lease to their playbooks.  This change and others like it from participating in the story program has been an important driver to this division increasing its $ / rep 80% year over year.

Senior reps need to master new stories

In dynamic markets, where there are lots of product launches or competitors or consolidations, senior reps also need to master new stories to stay current and relevant.  A story program fueled by role-play automation is a great way to meet this need.

It is more convenient and less stressful than face-to-face role-playing and is a short-cut for all reps to continually add value to prospects even as the markets and stories change.

Senior reps are great story workshop moderators

The other area we’ve seen senior reps step up is moderating the story workshops themselves.  These are typically reps that are on a manager track.  They will review the teams submissions before the workshop, decide which videos to play and then lead the session.  They will ask the questions, make the points they think are important and get a great professional development opportunity with a minimal amount of time (~1 ½ hours / story)

We have multiple customers where a sales reps was tasked with moderating the story workshops in advance of them getting a promotion to manage a territory.


The idea in B2B sales that a senior rep knows everything they need to know and can’t benefit from role-playing is a little like saying that a professional trumpet player doesn’t need to practice scales or a professional baseball player doesn’t need to take batting practice or a professional pilot doesn’t need to step into the simulator.

But even more than that, there are multiple areas where senior reps get value from a well-executed story program, including reviewing new stories, practicing them, getting coached, discussing them with peers, and teaching the team.





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