Sales Coaching vs. Sales Training: The Difference and Why It Matters
Sales managers know it’s important to spend time evaluating their employees, talking to them, and making sure they have the skills and tools they need. Most managers will call this either coaching or training, with no differentiation between the two.
If you want to truly excel as a sales leader and ensure your team is performing in top shape, it’s important to understand that training and coaching aren’t the same thing. Coaching is usually preferable, but training has its own strengths and weaknesses too.
Here we’ll discuss exactly what the differences between coaching and training are, why they’re important, and how to coach more effectively.
What Is Sales Training?
Sales training is extremely structured and is focused on specific skills or concepts. It’s the best way to provide a person with new skills or to help them shore up something they’re weak in. Because it’s so structured, it’s not important that training is provided one-on-one.
Typically, sales training is best for bringing on brand-new employees (either one or a group of them) or to provide guidance to underperforming staff who have deficiencies in their sales repertoire.
What Is Sales Coaching?
Unlike training, sales coaching seems to have a negative connotation, since managers usually use the term to describe how they deal with less productive employees. It’s actually more of a day-to-day activity that makes sure your team is always performing at its peak.
Unlike sales training, coaching is usually best delivered at a one-on-one, personal level (which is also perhaps why it has a negative connotation). Coaching is focused more on continued skill development rather than learning something new. It’s less structured than training is, and is usually a bit more informal.
It goes against the grain, but sales coaching usually has the greatest impact on performers who are right near the middle. Your best performers do need some attention, but they’re probably already motivated and skilled. Your worst performers are either less likely to improve or have serious problems that need to be handled with well-structured training instead of coaching.
Your average performers, however, have the basic skills necessary to do a decent job, but need a little push. That’s why personal, one-on-one coaching is usually most effective.
Strategies for Successful Sales Training
The best way to run a successful sales training program is to break everything down very precisely. Think of your three core development areas:
- Sales knowledge
- Product knowledge
- Internal systems or processes
For each development area, determine what’s the bare minimum to get the job done, what you would expect a decent sales rep to know, and what you expect from your best performers. You can use this knowledge to develop a very specific training map that takes your employees from onboarding to high performing.
Once your sales team has all the basics down, it’s a good idea to start moving onto their personal needs, which is where sales coaching comes in.
Strategies for Successful Sales Coaching
The worst thing you can do as a sales leader is to try to coach your team by telling them what to do. Instead, you should spend time listening to them. What problems are preventing them from performing better? What skills do they believe they need to improve?