A role-play is the only way to witness your candidate’s ability to lead a sales meeting prior to making a hiring decision. It’s a demanding yet incredibly effective exercise for both recruiters and candidates in order to uncover skills and talent.
Discovery is the first crucial step in any sales process, during which you gain an understanding of who your prospect is, what their biggest pain points are and how your solution can respond to/solve them.
The discovery role-play is designed to assess the suitability of the candidate in this type of situation. When doing a role-play as a paid assessment, you can expect that candidates will study your product and discovery process before the interview. Consequently, you are not only reviewing the candidate’s discovery skills but also their preparation, work ethics and autonomy.
What is covered in this article:
- How to Set up a Discovery Role Play
- What to Share With Your Candidate Ahead of the Role Play
- How to Conduct the Role Play
- How to Debrief a Role Play With a Candidate
- Further Recommendations for Assessment
How to Set up a Discovery Role Play
Your job as a recruiter is to build a brief that is set to test your candidate’s skills. First, make sure that the candidate can access basic knowledge about your company to prepare for the role-play, whether you provide it in the brief or in a separate document. Here’s a check-list of information to share with candidates:
About your company
- Mission, vision
- Customer personas
- Product and main features
- How your sales team and sales process are organized
- What your sales cycle looks like
About the discovery process
- Pain points you’re solving
- Key information to get from the prospect
- Top objections you are getting from customers
- Value proposition and competition
- Next steps to set after a discovery meeting
The discovery role-play brief should be exhaustive enough for candidates to grasp the context of the call. What’s the prospect’s profile? What’s the prospect’s touch-points history? What is the most important information a salesperson in your team should gather in a discovery session?
To prepare for your part in the role play, pick a common prospect persona for discovery calls (i.e. a tech-averse prospect that is not comfortable with a new platform or a savvy prospect that did a lot of research and knows the competition) that the candidate will be tasked with discovering.
What to Share With Your Candidate Ahead of the Role Play
The more information you share beforehand, the more you will evaluate a candidate's ability to get up to speed and be autonomous. The role-play is also a good way to alleviate some work from your team: by asking the candidate to prepare alone you’re reducing the time you’ll spend with them in person.
Consequently, paid interviews or paid assessments are a great way to incentivize candidates to spend time preparing while also remaining fair to them and acknowledging the value of their work.
Last but not least, make sure you remain available to answer potential questions from the candidate to avoid any misunderstanding about the brief.
How to Conduct the Role Play
Remember that one of the main objectives for a discovery role-play is to test your candidate’s ability to question and listen. Thus, make sure you don’t reveal all the information on your own but rather let the candidate ask for it. If the candidate seems to stall, you can provide clues to guide the conversation.
It’s a trying exercise, their job is on the line. Set them up for success: do some rapport-building before to make them comfortable and avoid being too intimidating. You can challenge them on things they could have prepared with the brief: top objections from customers, pain points to look for, competition, etc. Use the top objections you are getting from prospects
- Ask common questions from potential new customers
- What are the benefits your company’s product offers?
- What makes your product unique and different from others?
- Why should I choose your company?
- I can get the same product at a lesser price, then why should I choose your product?
Use a scorecard to rate skills and behaviors that are crucial to you (communication, rapport-building, preparation, industry knowledge, etc.).
How to Debrief a Role Play With a Candidate
Before giving any of your own feedback, ask the candidate to self-reflect on their own performance: can they identify one or two (max) areas of improvement?
Following the candidate's self-reflection, share with them what they missed and make suggestions on how to improve their preparation and listening skills:
- Did they effectively use all the relevant information from the brief or did they miss key points?
- Did they miss important information from your conversation?
- Did they start pitching the product too soon? Or did they pitch non-relevant features?
If you feel your candidate has potential, you should provide feedback and reset for a second role play. If the candidate has performed poorly you can skip that second part to save time, or offer a second chance if you believe that the candidate has potential and didn’t succeed at first for other reasons than their preparation/skills.
Regarding the brief of this second role-play, you have two options. You can either use the same buyer context as it is a perfect way to understand the candidate's ability to absorb and apply coaching, or you can go for a slightly different buyer context to reveal the candidate's ability to think on their feet.
Remember that in any case, the interview should not be too long as you want your candidates to be in the right head space to do a live simulation (don’t go over 1.5h if you don't compensate candidates).
Further Recommendations for Assessment
If you are doing more than one round, offer the candidate a 5-10 minute break to rest and get ready again.
This is the most demanding step for both you and the candidate. Remember that their job is on the line and that their head is now spinning and full of information. Assess how the candidate receives feedback, how they look for solutions or clues to improve, and look for effort, not performance.