Sales Training vs. Sales Coaching: What’s the Difference

Apr 11, 2022

Author: collin stewart
headshot of collin stewart standing in a city

Although sales training and sales coaching both aim to improve a sales team’s performance, each process follows a unique approach. 

Sales training equips reps with the tools they need to get started, but sales coaching is what allows for an individual’s continued growth over time. To ensure success, it’s important to understand how these two pieces work together, and when each should be used in your organization.

What is sales training?

Sales training educates sellers on the tools, techniques, and skills they need to sell a product or service. This type of training is usually role-specific. For example, reps may receive sales training on cold calling and pitching, while account executives may be trained on negotiation and objection handling. 

The goal of sales training is to train sales professionals to reach company goals. This may involve bringing in external experts to deliver training on the latest sales enablement tools, or teaching sellers how to use a new methodology. In most cases, the information is delivered in a presentation format without much interaction from the audience. 

Sales training is a valuable tool to keep sellers up to date on current tactics and technology, and it’s a vital part of the onboarding process. That said, training alone is not enough to build a successful sales team. For best results, sales training should be used in combination with sales coaching.

What is sales coaching?

In contrast to large-scale training, sales coaching focuses on improving the performance of one individual at a time. Sales leaders facilitate this process through regular one-on-one sessions and check-ins. 

During a sales coaching session, the sales leader and their team members may put together a personalized plan for professional development, taking into account the salesperson’s unique goals, strengths, and weaknesses. 

The leader may make suggestions to help improve the salesperson’s skills, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to identify areas for growth and work towards improvement. The sales leader is there to provide support and accountability along the way. 

Note the difference between this method and the traditional performance-improvement plan (PIP), which focuses solely on numbers. 

“Performance improvement plans are prompted based on poor outcomes,” says Lisa Earle McLeod, sales expert and Founder of McLeod & More, Inc. “Yet rarely are they encompassing enough to go upstream and look at the behavior (and other factors) that led to the suboptimal result.” Coaching, on the other hand, focuses on continuous growth and changed behavior. 

Why sales coaching is so effective

According to Brainshark, a formal sales coaching framework can increase win rates by as much as 28%—and it’s easy to see why. By improving each salesperson’s skills, the entire organization benefits.

The individual focus in one-on-one coaching allows salespeople to connect their personal development goals with the company’s success. Each salesperson has a clear future they’re working towards, which leads to higher levels of motivation and satisfaction.

Working with a sales leader also demonstrates a clear path for advancement through the organization. This provides an incentive for reps to stay at the organization longer and reduces the expensive issue of turnover. 

If you aren’t sure which method would work best for your team, book a free discovery call with us so we can assess the state of your sales processes and recommend the best solution for you! 

Sales coaches vs. trainers

While these two roles may appear related, they have completely different skill sets. Both should be experts with a strong understanding of the sales process, but sales coaching requires a few additional skills.

Sales coaches need to be empathetic, encouraging and have strong leadership skills. Although coaches often begin their careers as sales reps, not all great sellers make great coaches. Sales coaches need to create a supportive environment and understand how to motivate their team.

Great sales coaching isn’t about giving orders or forcing reps to follow every rule in the playbook. Instead, it’s about helping each member of the sales team find what works best for them, and then leveraging that to find success.

Why you need both sales training and sales coaching

Regular training is important to keep your sales team on top of the latest tactics, tools, and methodologies. If your organization introduces a new product or service, you’ll likely need new training to go with it. Training is a great way to deliver new information to a large number of people at one time.

Sales coaching, on the other hand, should be an ongoing process. Whether an individual has just started at your organization or has been there for years, sales coaching will help them maximize their potential. 

Together, training and coaching will strengthen your sales team and lead to less turnover, better close rates, and increased revenue. 

The tips in this book will help you navigate a better outbound process, one that focuses on human connection over quotas. Because ironically, focusing on your prospect instead of the sale will make you a more successful sales rep.

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