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The Differences in Sales Coaching and Sales Training

I was recently asked what the curriculum for sales coaching might include for a salesperson. It’s a tough question to answer, because good coaching isn’t very much like event training. There are some standard exercises, but it’s not curriculum driven like training. You don’t normally move from one topic to the next topic like you might in training.

Even though it shares some common outcomes, like improved skills and improved results, coaching is a markedly different from training.

Frequency and Understanding

Coaching isn’t an event. It is a relationship and, as such, it requires frequent communication. The frequency of the communication helps lay the groundwork for one of the major outcomes of coaching: a deep understanding.

By communicating with the salesperson frequently, their coach (or coaching sales manager) gets the opportunity to know the person being coached. They get to understand their world, their strengths, their weaknesses, and the obstacles that stand between them and greater success.

As the coach gets to know and understand the salesperson being coached, they get an understanding as to what the salesperson really needs in order to succeed. They can leverage that understanding to help the salesperson gain their understanding of what they will need to do to improve.

Event training doesn’t offer the opportunity to gain this level of understanding, and it isn’t designed to do so. Helping the salesperson discover what they need to improve is a coaching outcome.

Overcoming Obstacles

As salespeople, we are extraordinarily resourceful when it comes to helping our clients produce better results. But when it comes to finding answers to our own challenges, we often have the same blind spots as anyone else might have. Coaching salespeople can help them to identify these blind spots and overcome them.

Sometimes you need a sounding board. You need to talk through ideas. You need to think through the possible choices of action you need to take to produce better results. Through non-directive coaching, a coach can help the salesperson to identify the resources available to them that may have been blind to before coaching. Through directive coaching (which is sometimes necessary), a good sales coach can share ideas that will help prevent the salesperson from making mistakes that might prevent them from succeeding.

Training isn’t this personal. It builds sales skills. It builds leadership skills. And it can help generate options. But coaching removes the personal obstacles that prevent salespeople from succeeding.

Accountability for Change and Feedback

A good coach holds the salesperson they are coaching accountable for the changes that they committed to make, as well as the actions they committed to take.

This is an outcome that isn’t obtained through event training by itself. That’s why, in my opinion, event training needs a follow-on coaching component if it is to truly achieve its outcomes.

Salespeople engaged in a coaching relationship want to be held accountable for their commitments. They want to be asked about the changes that are trying to make, and they want feedback on the new information they are taking in and the new results they are generating (or that they are not generating, as the case may be).

This accountability and feedback loop allows the coach to help notch the salesperson up by improving their effectiveness. Form week to week, month to month, and quarter to quarter, the salesperson acquires new beliefs, casts off old beliefs, and produces better and better results.

Questions

Do you have a personal or professional coach?

How do coaches improve performance in fields outside of sales?

How does coaching differ from training?

What outcomes does a coach help their coach achieve?

Who holds you accountable and helps you to see your blind spots?


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Comments

comments

  • Oliver Lopez

    Yes, so true.

    People normally get this wrong, as they think that sales training will cover this as well. One of the biggest challenges for a sales manager is time. It’s hard to coach all of your sales reps in an efficient way, and to do this for the long run is almost impossible.

    I would also like to highlight a very important thing, this is to acta as a coach and help the sales rep to want to be pulled in the right direction instead of being pushed. Coaching is also very mych about finding out what triggers the person you are coaching. It’s not always money…

    • http://www.salesleadershipconsulting.com/ James_m_hughes

      Oliver,

      I agree with the push vs pull comment.  One of the first questions I ask any potential or inherited rep is “Are you coachable?’

      On your first point I understand where you are coming from.  Most sales managers feel that way.  If you would be interested in learning a little about how the more effective type of coaching can occur without taking more time, it actually frees you of time, then let me know.

      Coach Hughes
      508-635-2787

  • Brian Ahearn

    Excellent article and distinctions Anthony. I’ll be sharing with our managers today. Brian

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