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5 Differences Between Sales Coaching vs. Sales Training

Written by Jessica Day
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On the surface, it would seem that coaching and training have the same meaning: they are both involved in helping to achieve a result. A personal trainer or fitness coach, for example, do much the same thing – help me realise how out of shape I am.

Unlike Chad at the gym, when it comes to coaching and training in sales, the two teaching methods are very different in their uses, application and results.

Read on for the 5 main differences between sales coaching and sales training.

Sales coaching vs. sales training image 1Don’t worry, not that kind of training! Jonathan Borba on Unsplash.

1. Level of detail/scope

One of the primary differences between sales coaching and sales training is how deep each teaching method goes. When it comes to sales, both coaching and training serve to impart certain skills and techniques to salespeople.

Sales training aims to provide the basics framework for those in training to be able to sell. An example of sales training could be explaining the basic principles of customer pain-points or cross-selling, without going into too much detail about the best practices in each.

Sales coaching on the other hand typically goes much deeper than training. The skills that are imparted during coaching are much more tailored to the individual themself, the team they are in or the company they sell for. Where sales training may explain the ‘what’ of cross-selling, coaching teaches the salesperson the ‘why’, the ‘how’ and the ‘when’.

Sales coaching vs. sales training image 2Skills acquired through coaching are usually specific to individuals and teams. Van Tay Media on Unsplash.

A useful analogy to use would be comparing training and coaching to creating or redesigning a website. You could opt to build a fairly basic website that does the things it needs to do, one that perhaps wouldn’t take a great deal of time and serves its purpose – that would be the equivalent to training.

On the flip side, you could spend more time and money to design an intricate website that offers everything your customer base needs and more. Finish the process with an Anguilla domain name (which is ai domain defined) and that's the equivalent to coaching.

Quick Tip: Training tends to be surface level and generalised, coaching goes deeper.

2. Audience size

Now we have established that sales training and sales coaching have different scopes, it’s easy to see how each should also have different audience sizes.

Thanks to sales training being more generalised, it’s possible to train large groups of people at once. Picture a room full of young sales trainees, full of energy, being trained in the basics in the art of salesmanship. Sales coaching vs. sales training image 3

Training sessions can impart skills onto many trainees at once. Miguel Henriques on Unsplash.

Sales coaching, in contrast, isn’t necessarily suited to being delivered to a large group all at once. This is because coaching is much more personal and relevant to the individual's needs and situation. Just as my coach at the gym can’t guide 100 people’s individual development at once, nor can sales coaches.

Now when imagining a coaching set-up, instead of that group of trainees listening eagerly to the trainer, picture a conversation between a group of three or four salespeople and their sales coach. This aspect of back and forth communication is a key difference that is vital in coaching, and not so much in training.

As so much of sales coaching is multi-directional, taking minutes and giving feedback is integral to the process. It’s important then for companies and coaches to have an adequate how to take meeting minutes template.

Quick Tip: Sales training is usually one-to-many, sales coaching is one-to-few or one-to-one.

3. Length of program

A key difference between sales training and sales coaching is when they take place and how long for. Sales training – like any training – typically occurs at the very start of a new role or position, as well as at mandated intervals. Training schedules can be quite regimented and they are not often tailored to an employee's personal schedule.

Sales coaching is the polar opposite of this. Instead of occurring at the beginning of a new role and at generic intervals, coaching is ongoing and totally dependent on the individual salesperson's development. The best sales coaches tailor their program to the individual requirements of the learner.

Sales coaching vs. sales training image 4Coaching tends to happen more frequently than training, and for longer. Towfiqu Barbhuiya on Unsplash.

A sales training program might last for a week at the beginning of a contract and a few isolated days a year, depending on the company. On the other hand, a sales coaching program could last for a salesperson’s entire career, depending again on the employee and employer themselves. However, this is simply a rule of thumb as coaching is bespoke, and can be much more or much less time-intensive.

Quick Tip: Due to its individual focus, the length of coaching can be as long or as short as the individual needs. Sales training is standardised and most often takes place at the beginning of a role.

4. No coaching without training

While there are plenty of differences between sales coaching and sales training, they don’t exist totally separate from one another. Quite the contrary – to get the best out of a sales team, they should be both properly trained and personally coached.

Thanks to their vastly different natures, providing only training tends to be fine, but providing just coaching on its own doesn’t usually make sense. This is because sales training lays the foundations for selling, so it’s essential for any salesperson. Coaching on the other hand deals with more complex skills, so it can technically be considered optional. Sending employees to events is a popular form of coaching, entrepreneur workshops, or summits are prime examples of this.

In some instances a salesperson may not even need to be trained, as they may have honed their skills in practice for a long time before joining a new company, for example. With that said, more and more often companies nowadays require everyone to undergo a set training program so that employers aren’t as liable for issues that can arise in the future.

Quick Tip: Salespeople can get by with training and no coaching but not with coaching without training.

5. Investment in people

The choice between sales training and sales coaching often boils down to the level of investment a company is willing to make in its salespeople. Sales training allows for more people to be trained at once, imparting the basic skills they need in order to succeed and sell. This tends to make it the most attractive option for companies that might be less able to invest in its employees, or perhaps companies with higher staff turnover rates.

Conversely, sales coaching takes more time, costs more money and usually services far fewer people at once. However, investing these resources in coaching salespeople is one of the hallmarks of a company that invests well in its staff.

Salespeople who receive coaching will be more confident in their ability to sell, generate more revenue growth (16.7% in one study) and feel more valued in their place of work. The type of coaching that takes place is up to the areas a company and employee want to work on. For example, an inbound call centre salesperson might want to work on their average speed of answer or upselling techniques.

Sales coaching vs. sales training image 5Coaching is often bespoke and can really boost a person's confidence and happiness as well as sales performances. KrakenImages on Unsplash.

Companies that provide coaching also have the added benefit of developing more inter-departmental relationships, which is another way to combat the formation of silos at work.

A ‘silo’ is the term used to describe when departments within a company fail to communicate with each other, which is just poor practice and can lead to weaker performance all around.

After two of the most isolating years in living memory, people are feeling disconnected like never before. In the current climate, coaching as a means to improve employee happiness goes a long way.

Quick Tip: Providing coaching on top of training is a hallmark of a company that invests in bettering its employees. 

Best of both for the best of business

After reading this guide you may well be thinking that sales coaching is superior to sales training. In reality though, the two serve quite different purposes and can’t really be compared.

Sure, sales coaching offers more in-depth sales development and imparts more personalised skills for success. Yet, without the foundations laid by good initial and regular training, coaching can be ineffective.

Rather than seeing the differences between the two development methods as better or worse, it's sensible to see them as tools that are best used at different times and contexts. If you’re looking to focus your efforts on reaching a wider mobile audience, it might be well worth having your team undergo some basic training in how to develop your app’s rating and online brand.

Sales training is less personal, but can still serve hundreds of people at a time, which is great for imparting skills to many in a short timeframe.

Sales coaching might be more expensive in terms of the hours spent coaching a few people, but it's effective at plugging skills gaps in individuals, making them more effective salespeople.

The bottom line is that a combination of regular training regimes and personal coaching is the best option for well rounded sales team development.

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