The difference between coaching and training in sales

By Henrik Troselius - December 17, 2018

As part of the sales management process, coaching and training both play important roles in encouraging better employee performance. But for some, coaching and training may seem redundant. But there are several key differences between coaching and training that make them together the one-two punch that can see your sales staff succeed.

1. Coaching is about engagement, training is about knowledge

Coaching can be rooted in skill development but ultimately is an effective tool when utilized through positive reinforcement and managerial support. Sales coaching is a great way to respond to the performance statement and review parts of your sales performance management process, because it allows you to engage with your staff and keep them as active participants in their development. In fact, according to a recent study, sales representatives receiving at least three hours of coaching per month exceeded their selling goals by 7%, increased revenue by 25%, and increased close rate by 70%.

Training, on the other hand, may be utilized as a method to educate your sales employees. When new products, features, or services are produced for your company, all sales staff should receive the proper training in order to convey the benefits and/or uses. Without having key knowledge about your offerings, your company, and your brand, your sales staff may fail to secure revenue by not appearing experienced or insightful.

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2. Coaching is a supportive leadership activity, training may be autonomous

Coaching delivery should be personal, even if it's from a distance. You can use coaching to convey that your team and individual sales staff have your support, even when you are not in store, or at their sales organisation location. Coaching shows your sales staff that you not only care about numbers at the end of the month, but what activities are contributing to those numbers and your role in ensuring everyone can meet their goals.

Training may be delivered as needed, but is typically done through a learning management system, rather than through direct manager - employee contact. In some cases, training may be self-paced, done alone or in groups, or must be completed before associates can re-enter the sales process. Training can also have tests for competency and retention, to ensure that participants have obtained adequate knowledge. With coaching on the other hand, results may be evaluated based on improvement in sales performance.

3. Coaching should largely be individual, training may be standardized

One of the greatest benefits of implementing both coaching and training, is that they serve different purposes in terms of personalization. Since coaching should be a direct result of evaluating performance in real time based on employee performance statements and reviewing sales data, coaching topics and delivery are very much tailored to those receiving them. Training may very well be deployed to an entire team, and is also a large component of onboarding.

In order for coaching the serve the purpose of engaging sales staff, and promoting leadership trust and support, it should be as personalized as possible. Showing the recipient of the coaching the reasons for coaching, such as specific data points from their individual sales process, you can then help them to understand why they may need the extra help (if they don't already).

Just because training may not be as personalized, however, doesn't mean it can't work to bolster morale and inflate your sales staff's feelings towards personal growth. Using trainings to help your staff increase their knowledge and skills shows them that you are willing to invest in their personal development, and that their progress is important.

While some may believe coaching and training are very similar, they can both play important roles in your sales performance management process. Utilizing both to ensure that your staff are engaged, supported, knowledgeable, and developing, will serve to improve sales results dramatically.

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