Assessment centres and sales exercises
I've conducted and designed no end of these. The overriding factor is to make it fair, measurable and consistent.
Here are some thoughts in no particular order.
Products that work well and are quite popular at the moment include; mobile phones, utilities, telecoms/internet packages, credit cards, estate agencies, etc. Ideas that don't work well are negotiable sales, products with too many visuals, products that are too complex and cutting edge.
You may find it difficult getting specifics from the web or here as actual examples are valuable information and often subject to corporate copyright/IP.
Assess all candidates from the perspective that they have no product knowledge.
List some features and benefits, its sometime helpful to use actual products and product brochures. Have a couple of your own objections figured out. Decide which competencies you are assessing and if the role play actually hits those competencies. Ensure all assessors score the same.
For a simple o/b telesales call of 3-10 minutes the role play should last about the same and this time factor should be carefully monitored.
Give the assessors a well thought out brief, listing all the candidate brief, plus objections, style issues and key client specific areas to focus on.
Always try and conduct the role over the phone.
Allow room for creativity and imagination, whilst salespeople should not be dishonest or stray from the brief, the creative but accurate use of language, influencing techniques and benefits are a bonus. Charm does sell.
There is often debate about the fact that you should let the candidate get the sale so's not to throw them off course and disadvantage them for the rest of the assessment centre. However most assessors seem to be of the mind that you don't agree to buy for every candidate as this isn't reality.....this debate rages.
Is an appointment a sale? Not if the brief explicitly says you should sign the customer up over the phone.
Always ask 2 or 3 meaningful questions at the end of the role play as this seems to relax candidates and seems to reassure them their efforts didn't go unnoticed. Questions such as "How do you feel that went?" don't really help you judge their demonstrable sales skills - just their subjective recall of a situtation. Never feedback immediately if asked, your judgement and recall may be based upon emotional reaction rather than observable evidence.
Lastly always use experienced assessors conversant with employment law candidate reactions and the implications of the Data Protection Act, that way you cover yourself and can cope with the unexpected. I've had candidates literally break down (the previous role play she encountered involved a death on the railway!!), freeze, disappear, communication issues, dyslexia, disability issues you name it.