What It Takes for Your Salespeople to Perform Better: Do They Need Coaching, Training or Both?

Hire the Best - Use for Web applications, emails, etcOne of the challenges of sales management is the constant need to improve your sales team’s performance.  However, when you do invest in their development and they fail to execute on what appears to be the simplest techniques, you say to yourself, “How hard can this be?”  When this happens what it should affirm is that they need additional coaching or training.  The question is which one, coach or training?  The reality is that some of your salespeople need coaching, some need training and some need both.

When it comes to skill development, the default mode for most sales managers is to do neither coaching nor training but to do or tell.  It sounds like; “Next time they tell you they need to think-it-over you say, What is there to think about?… got it?”  The salesperson shakes their head yes which the manager misinterprets as they got it.

Worst yet is when the sales manager steps in and does the salesperson’s job by taking over the sales call or closing the deal.  They justify doing this because they feel they can’t afford for the salesperson to lose an opportunity.

It is true that these methods will save deals and a few salespeople catch-on from repeatedly being told what to do and at the same time, this inhibits the development of your salespeople.

When it comes to developing skills and capability in your salespeople, two of the most effective techniques are coaching and training and they are often misunderstood. This confusion is understandable as quite often coaching is associated with sports coaches who also train athletes.


However, if we consider the two techniques, training and coaching, we can see that sports coaches probably incorporate both.

For example, they:

  • Train:  Give instruction to the athletes on what to learn and how to learn it so that they learn from the sports coach’s expertise and in doing so, turn in enhanced performances. Typically done through demonstrations, drills, instruction videos, etc.
  • Coach: Create awareness in the athlete on their own skills, their own knowledge and expertise, and their own possibilities. Typically done one-on-one with the athlete.

Definition of Coaching

In its simplest form, coaching is where a coach facilitates enhanced performance learning and development in the individual whom they are coaching.

The coach achieves this, not by imparting knowledge, but through coaching methods that create awareness in the individual being coached of their own skills, their own knowledge and expertise, and their own possibilities. The coach then motivates the individual to effectively and efficiently use all the skills, knowledge and expertise available to them to be who they want to be, have what they want to have, and do what they want to do.

Coaching is non-directive; meaning the coach does not tell or instruct. The coach elicits expertise and resources already present in the person they are coaching, so they can choose their own direction and best way forward to enhanced performance.

Coaching is usually done one-on-one.

Definition of Training

Training, in its simplest form, is where a trainer instructs participants so there is an acquisition of knowledge, skill, or competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills.

The trainer achieves this through the systematic education and instruction of a specific knowledge, skill, or technique in order to enable an individual or group to learn a predetermined curriculum against predetermined objectives and apply it to a required standard.

Training, by its definition, is directive; meaning the trainer does tell, instruct, and demonstrate the competency they are teaching.

Training is usually conducted in a group setting.

What is Required in Order to be Successful in Sales?

Know the sport – know what is required.

Take football.  It is a game of fairly brief plays, some of which only take a few seconds to complete.  With only an occasional exception, the competitors begin each play from a standing start, so explosive power is a key to success.  Explosive power helps receivers burst off the line of scrimmage, and allows defenders to push blockers aside before the offensive player can counter the move.  The explosiveness ability in the football athletic determines their level of success.  It is the one key success factor in football.

Selling encompasses several activities:

  • finding an opportunity
  • diagnosing the need
  • qualifying
  • matching products or services to needs
  • presenting solutions
  • closing
  • servicing
  • renewing or cross-selling and up-selling

The salesperson must be able to execute effectively in one or all of those activities, so the ability to execute is a key to success in selling.  Product knowledge, relationship building skills, the ability to persuade, knowing what questions to ask, being able to manage your time and priorities, etc. are all important but if you cannot execute on them they are useless. To know and not be able to do is the same as not to know.

The ability to execute is what determines the level of success in a salesperson.  Sales is an executional activity.  In order to execute effectively, your salespeople may need some training… drill for skill time.  They may need some coaching… self-discovery on what is holding them back and why or both

Of course, you can cut back on the amount of training your salespeople need if you hire the right ones.  When hiring a new salesperson, screen them for the most difficult behavior the job requires them to execute.  Is it cold calling, closing, needs analysis, cross-selling, etc.?  What is the most difficult task you will be asking them to do that must be done in order for them to be successful?

Why Your Salespeople Are Resistant to Your Coaching and Training

Ask any sales manager about any of their salespeople and they can tell you what that salesperson needs to be doing more of or less of in order to improve.  However, the sales manager knowing is only half the equation. The person attending the training needs to have some awareness that there needs to be an improvement.  Acquiring new skills or improving existing ones requires change and people inherently resist change.  So, the first step in the change process is awareness by the person that they need to change.  Without self-awareness, your coaching and training efforts will fall on deaf ears.

Adding to the resistance is that most salespeople do not have a proper or timely feedback mechanism to illustrate to them they are performing poorly so they get the false impression that they are doing a good job.  Typically, six months to a year goes by before the sales manager informs them that they are not doing as well as they think they are and they have to attend a training session to improve on things they don’t feel need improvement.

Best Why to Build Self-Awareness in Your Salespeople

The best awareness is self-realization… when a person comes to the conclusion that there is a skill gap and is willing to commit to closing it.  The best way to achieve this is through a third-party evaluation.

I use the Dave Kurlan Salesperson’s Self-Evaluation from Objective Management Group.  It is the only sales executional assessment available.  With 98% accuracy, it will predict what sales behaviors they are capable of executing.  Since it is a self-evaluation, meaning their assessment findings come from their own answers, it is tough for them to dispute it.

I have experienced two results from debriefing a person’s assessment.  They have questions and try to understand what the report is telling them and at some level, they are relieved to finally understand what has been holding them back.  Or, they dispute the findings and decide they will keep doing what they have been doing.  Both groups of people over time realize what their assessment is telling them is true.  At that moment, reality sets in and they have to make the choice to change.

Again, of course, you can cut the amount of training and coaching you have to do by using the pre-hire sales candidate assessment which will predict if they can execute on selling your products and services.

To learn more about how the Performance Group in partnership with Objective Management Group can improve on our sales team’s execution:

Learn more about OMG’s Sales Force Evaluation

Request Samples of OMG Assessments

Register for a Free Trial of Salesperson Candidate Assessments

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Contact Jim Lobaito