How to crack client role play

Stephen Hagues, Director of Retiring IFA, tackles the challenge of role play in interviews.

On paper you could be the best candidate for that adviser job – but client consultations don’t take place on paper. Firms are looking for candidates who can win the trust of clients, and in a one-to-one situation even a hint of stage fright can be off-putting.

Foundation Resourcing have found that role plays are one of the most popular methods used to assess candidate suitability for client-facing jobs. While interpersonal skills can be evaluated in assessment days and interviews, the ultimate success in sales depends upon your ability to get a client to trust you, as after all the firm will be managing their money and influence their current and future financial security.

Getting into character

It is not just your people skills, but your experience that will be tested through your interaction with a pseudo-client. Trying to predict exactly what is expected of you in the role play may backfire. So finding out, perhaps from current or previous employees, the exact type of questions asked could be time wasted. Using your own fact-find, rather than a generic one or questions that you believe them to use, is going to serve as the strongest evidence of your skills.

This does not mean you should not do your research on the entire sales process to see how the role play fits into it. Each firm has a different approach and so find out whether it is a one stage, two or three stage sales process. This shows that you have done your homework, but using your own fact-find during the role play is essential, as this is evidence of your skills as a consultant.

You can always play the client stooge to do some digging. If this is easy enough, through a phone call for example, then this is the best way to see how the sales force do interact and sell to clients. It will allow you to find out about the company’s process, but don’t treat it as gospel; remember that salespeople usually also have their own individual style as well.

Beware stage fright

Nerves can be a killer. Among other things, they can have a negative impact on your body language, which plays a major role in successful client interaction. By contrast relaxed, open body language will encourage the client to be open with you, and to build up a rapport. Remember good eye contact. Ask open-ended questions to get as much information from the client as possible. Remember the introduction practicalities, like showing your business card. Nerves may make you forget the more obvious things, so make sure you have them covered.

Every drama needs closure

One of the biggest mistakes made by candidates in role plays is failing to close. Heavy concentration on the actual questioning and the falseness of the situation can result in people missing this important element of the role play. Closing the sale by ensuring that you book a follow up appointment with the client is called advancement rather than continuation, which means you have already advanced the process to the next stage, making it more successful.

Another essential part of the role play is prioritising needs. It is one thing to identify requirements from a fact-find with a client, but prioritising these needs will get you bonus points and show your skills as a financial consultant. Experience will develop your ability to prioritise, but even if you are not completely sure of the order, it’s better to show that you have this skill or the beginnings of it.

Can you improvise?

Be ready for the unexpected. The employer may throw in a few surprising questions or present a complex situation to attempt to make you come unstuck. Avoid the temptation to overact, as this façade will quickly drop away as soon you are caught off-guard. Don’t try to second guess the sort of person you think the employer wants. If your behaviour in the role play is very different from your personality shown during the rest of the assessment process, this could work to your disadvantage.

It’s an ensemble role too

The need to be an ‘actor’ creating an impression will arise in other situations too, such as in group tasks and interactions with other candidates. Remember: if a group exercise is non-specific and not tied to the job, then it is probably designed to assess how you interact with others and whether you are a ‘team player’. Show your listening skills, as well as your ability to contribute in these group situations. Sometimes candidates fall into the trap of attempting to show their value and enthusiasm, but such behaviour comes across as overbearing. Demonstrate active listening and refer to things you have learnt over the day. Don’t talk over others or push only your own points, but show you can work well in a team.

Owning the stage

Selling the employer’s products and services back to them is another good way to demonstrate sales prowess. Talking through the key offerings shows the assessor that you are not just saying you can do the job, you are showing you can. There is nothing more powerful than that.

In any recruitment assessment situation, act to the best of your ability, in both formal and informal situations. Watch yourself at all times, making sure you are creating a consistent impression of your personality and skills. To find out more about how to successfully pass assessment days, please download our eBook here.

The quality of service delivered by a financial services firm depends heavily on the people that provide it. No wonder, then, that client-facing roles are considered the most important hires. Although the bar may be higher, it is up to you to sell yourself not just from a knowledge and experience point of view, but also in terms of your personality. Demonstrate why you are the right person to win and retain clients, and grow their business. 


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