There is no question that rigorous sales training – whether through role-playing or competitive exercises – is an essential part of preparing students for careers in sales and marketing. But for many college students, these valuable opportunities may be limited or entirely out of reach.
That realization drove Stefanie Boyer, Ph.D., Professor of Marketing at Bryant University, to develop an online tool that has taken the world of sales training by storm – with thousands of students using it to sharpen their sales skills since its launch.
“RNMKRS trains in selling and communication skills with active, applied, and engaged learning in a gamified setting and delivers immediate and detailed customized feedback."
“I needed a solution to give my students more opportunities to practice their sales skills with faster feedback,” explains Boyer, who often reviewed 60 or more roleplay exercises for students each week. “We also were regularly receiving requests from other schools to give more students a chance to participate in our on-campus sales competitions, but we were limited by space, time, and judging requirements.”
Supported by Bryant’s culture of design thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit, Boyer conceived and developed RNMKRS, a free phone app for college students that provides a virtual platform for training and assessing their sales talent. She collaborated with Scott Randall, a pioneering simulation designer, and sales consultant Kevin Kelly to create and refine the system.
“RNMKRS trains in selling and communication skills with active, applied, and engaged learning in a gamified setting and delivers immediate and detailed customized feedback,” says Boyer, noting that the scale of students participating far exceeds what would be possible with in-person training. “Each semester, we host a worldwide competition for all players. To date, we’ve had participation from over 18,000 students attending more than 100 colleges and universities.”
The platform’s superior technology provides another important benefit to users: it creates a bias-free environment where artificial intelligence (AI) bots provide assessment and feedback. With a commitment to continuous improvement, “We created and are completing our patent on an interpersonal communications logic engine that gets smarter with each conversation it drives,” explains Boyer.
The app features three training programs in the College Sales Skills component. Pizza Practice is a quick preparation game that teaches students how to speak with a bot. SpeedSell helps students develop and practice their 90-second elevator speech. And Role Play is a 15-minute B2B sales exchange with an animated customer bot.
“I needed a solution to give my students more opportunities to practice their sales skills with faster feedback.”
A new training program for advanced students – Role Play Pro – was recently introduced in a beta version. In a more challenging and dynamic environment featuring two difficult buyers, students are required to use sophisticated research and reasoning skills to make decisions.
Boyer points out that in sales, skills and confidence are key. “The app gives students more confidence as they practice. They feel more confident as their scores improve in a practice environment free from judgement. We didn’t anticipate how much we could really mirror real-world sales meetings and how much students would benefit from the feedback.”
“Since the app is free, there is no bias in feedback or opportunity. It’s a solution that allows all students to compete without socioeconomic barriers getting in the way.”
For Boyer, RNMKRS has fulfilled another goal: closing the gap between students who have opportunities for sales training and those who do not. “The app is extremely helpful for students who do not have access to resources like training materials, faculty, a sales program, or someone to practice roleplaying with,” she notes. “Since the app is free, there is no bias in feedback or opportunity. It’s a solution that allows all students to compete without socioeconomic barriers getting in the way.”
“Everyone is given a fair shot on a level playing field to work as hard as they can to improve and meet employers,” continues Boyer. “The AI bot doesn’t care about the background, ethnicity, or name of the player. It evaluates only on how well they sell. It’s an accurate forum where students can demonstrate their mastery of all phases of the sales conversation and process. This tool gives students a platform to succeed and get noticed.”
Boyer is getting noticed too. She recently was the opening keynote speaker at the 2022 Women in Sales Summit in Napa, CA. A recipient of the prestigious American Marketing Association’s Sales Educator of the Year Award, Boyer has coauthored two books – 9 Ways to Develop Highly Effective Salespeople and The Little Black Book of Social Media: Strategies to Ignite Your Business, Influencer, and Professional Brand. She was also on the Forbes Next 1000 Entrepreneurs list in 2021.
Her teaching, research, and scholarship have created a sales movement at Bryant University that includes a sales minor, sales competitions and events, and vibrant sales team and mentorship programs. Her innovative approach to training brings together the brightest sales students and leading sales organizations from around the country for networking, recruiting, competition, and skill-building.
While RNMKRS started as a training tool for college students, it has expanded to include services for companies that rely on sales personnel for operations and growth. Companies can assess and recruit new employees among student participants and use the app for in-service sales force training of existing employees.
“We originally created RNMKRS to elevate higher education sales training with innovative technology and create a paradigm shift in the way we train college students,” says Boyer. “The truth is that the same principles of repeat practice and immediate, bias-free feedback work for corporate sales organizations as well. As a result, companies now use the tool to train and develop their own sales forces.”