Why Salespeople are the Hot New Target Audience for Sims

There has been a nearly tectonic shift in the target audiences for simulations and serious games. Compliance issues around ethics and safety are still the leading use of sims for large enterprises. But coming up fast to number two is sims for salespeople.

To be effective here, sims have to accomplish some combination of three learning areas. They have to develop expertise in the following questions:

1. What are the problems that the salespeople's customers are facing? What is their new world view? What can they control, and what is their balance scorecard of metrics? What does their new technology and competitive landscape look like, and how is it changed from two years ago.

2. What are the new products and services that their organization are selling? What are products and services that the competitors are selling? Do the shifts in the customers' environments mean totally new competitors with new value propositions.

3. How does the new products and service solve the new operational and strategic challenges of the customers?

Then, the sims also have to meet specific program goals:

A. The sims have to be highly engageable. They have to actually be fun for the salespeople.

B. The entire sim has to be able to be taken in less than one hour. Further, the chunks of the sim (often in the forms of levels) have to each be able to be completed in less than 15 minutes, and ideally less than 10 minutes.

C. The content of the sims has to be very easy to update as markets change.

Salespeople are asked to do so much more than they ever have. While salespeople used to be organized vertically or horizontally, now they have to be experts in both. Further, they have to shift markets, absorb new products, and react to new landscapes and topographies seemingly overnight.

And, perhaps most importantly, salespeople have to not just "understand" the new realities, they have to be comfortable with them. They have to exude passion and confidence to their customers. They have to "get it" viscerally and reflexively, not just have a set of points to make. In the old days, this came out of decades of experience. But the compression of market shifts necessarily requires the type of compression of experience that comes from playing and "messing around" with new ideas, augmented with strong visuals and interactivity, which today requires a simulation.

Here are some worst practices:

  • Be overly focused on highly specific products. Augment the sim with a database look-up tool, but focus on the approach, not the product numbers. The content of the sims has to be both philosophical and practical, but not buried in lists.
  • Wait too long before starting. While the specifics change overnight, the large industry shifts can be predicted a few months in advance, or more. Where a significant change is on the horizon, start the sim process immediately.
  • Think about the audience too narrowly. A good sim gets around. What starts off as an internal sales tool gets spread around the organization, and more often than not the best salespeople will also show it to their customers to gain thought leadership with them. It is a best practice to both involve marketing people in the visualization and development, and even create an additional scrubbed version to show externally.
  • Focus on multi-player. A lot of organizations erroneously think in terms of multi-player sims as their default model. This creates scheduling nightmares, prevents the ad hoc future accessing of the sim in the months and years to come, and also "kicks the can" of content development. Even the best computer games precede their multi-player experiences with single player.
Simulations used to quickly ramp up salespeople to their new realities not only makes sense, but increasingly is realized as necessary. The smartest organizations are working with outside simulation design and development resources initially to save time and to ensure completion. Some portion of these organizations will then increasingly bring or all of the capability in-house.


  1. Thanks for sharing the trend that Sims are being used more commonly for Sales Effectiveness as well as for Compliance.

    Simulations will be the formal content of the future. The technologies are maturing and the business cases are certainly there...

    Brilliant work.

    Let me know if I can ever help in any way.

    David Koehn
    Director of Product Strategy
    Saba People Learning
    t: @davidkoehn
    in: linkedin.com/in/davidkoehn
    yt: youtube.com/sabasociallearning

  2. These issues interest me a great deal as an educator. Too many professional workshops and conferences rely on Powerpoint presentations. How much more interesting and engaging new material would be through a sims process....

    I would like to know more about how to apply this to public school issues..

    (I am also a Full Sail student in Dr. Seigel's class GSM right now)

  3. Hi Elizabeth,

    There are many paths to the sea. Computer games and free online advocate-sponsored sims provide accessible (albeit it imperfect) places to easily start. They are the thin part of the wedge.

    And if you do teach to them, spend time asking students what the games got wrong. This will make a lot of your more traditional colleagues happy!