How to Connect the Dots Between Sales Training and Sales Coaching

What is the difference between sales training and sales coaching? That’s one of the questions I was asked at the Sales Enablement Soirée in London last week — a fantastic event that clearly shows sales enablement has arrived not only in the United Kingdom, but also in the rest of Europe. The audience was highly engaged, all at different stages of their sales enablement journeys.

Lots of different topics were discussed, such as the right approach to sales enablement, charter questions, how to set up a customer-centric approach, how to measure the impact of sales enablement and the role of technology, just to name a few.

What’s the difference between sales training and sales coaching?

Because I get the question on sales training and sales coaching quite often, I decided to write about it here so that everyone can benefit. Those of you who follow my work know that I love to define the terms I use, not only when it comes to defining sales enablement. Many of the terms we use in a sales enablement context require definition as well, as this question shows. So let’s define sales training and sales coaching.

  • The term sales training covers various training areas such as selling skills and techniques, sales methodologies, sales processes, sales technology and the whole range of product training services. Sales training can be delivered in various training formats such as eLearning, instructor-led online and classroom sessions, hybrid formats and many more. The purpose of sales training is to engage, equip and empower sales professionals to be valuable, relevant and differentiating in every buyer interaction along the entire customer’s path.
  • The term sales coaching is a process by which sales managers and others use a defined approach and specific communication skills combined with domain expertise to facilitate structured conversations with sales professionals to uncover improvement areas and opportunities for new levels of sales success. Additionally, sales coaching should drive adoption and reinforcement of the already-implemented enablement services. Sales coaching can be applied in different sales coaching areas such as lead and opportunity coaching, funnel coaching, skills and behavior coaching, and account and territory coaching.

 
Now what does that mean in practical terms if you are about to design a sales enablement approach for, let’s say, the implementation of a new value messaging approach?

In this case, let’s assume that the foundational content work has been done. That means the customer-facing content is tailored to buyer roles, their problems and the different stages of the customer’s path, with the new value messages. Let’s also assume that some kind of internal enablement content such as a digital sales playbook has been created that guides sellers through the entire customer’s path, linking to the right content assets along the way, depending on their specific selling scenarios.

  • Design and implement the initially required sales training services for salespeople
    First, you want to familiarize your sellers with the new value messaging concept, what it is, how it works and how to get started. That can be done in a digital format, to be consumed any time and anywhere. Second, you want your sellers to be comfortable with the new messaging, with new conversations and new buyer roles that are more and more relevant for your business. That requires an interactive setup, ideally instructor led, digital or classroom. Role plays are absolutely crucial to success (and, in this case, the core of the training), and taking the time for them is one of the best investments you can make to drive your sellers’ confidence. Only confident salespeople are able to create value for your buyers, and only then can they create the kind of business you want them to close.
  • Design and implement the ongoing coaching services; assuming your sales managers are already developed to be coaches.
    Design a coaching approach for your sales managers that specifically helps them drive adoption and reinforcement of the implemented and trained value messaging approach. To do that, your sales managers should have been part of the sales training. Run a specific module just for them, and tailor it to their role so that they understand the bigger picture and what they are asked to coach. Then design a coaching guideline that helps with typical questions in different selling situations (you can structure your guideline e.g., by customer’s path and buyer roles), how to set up individual or group coaching sessions, how to leverage recordings, etc. and help them get the required data from the CRM, such as first call bookings, percentage of follow-up interactions and conversion rates (value, volume, velocity).

 
Then I’d offer an initial training session for your sales managers so that they become familiar with the content of the coaching guideline and understand the purpose: to drive adoption and reinforcement of the implemented content and training services for your sellers to achieve the desired sales results. From there, it’s up to your sales managers to take action, schedule coaching sessions (for individuals or for their teams) and leverage each and every coaching moment (if they are already that fluent).

If your sales managers are not yet developed as sales coaches, an initial training program should be implemented first. It’s important that such a program is specifically designed to equip sales managers in their sales coaching role. General coaching programs won’t help here.

I hope this example helps you understand the difference between sales training and sales coaching and how the two should be closely connected to ensure an optimal outcome.

The key difference is that sales training services are often one-time events, whereas sales coaching builds on sales training as an ongoing process to continuously leverage each salesperson’s full potential in specific areas.

On another note, because research also needs study participants, we just launched the survey of our 5th Annual Sales Enablement Study. We’d appreciate you taking 15 minutes to participate in this survey so that we can continue to help you! Click here to get started!

What’s in it for you? You will be among the first to receive the full report, before it is open market; you can download a members-only research asset right after completing the survey; and you also are invited to become a member of our research community.

Thank YOU!

 

Questions for you:

  • How do you implement sales training and sales coaching in your organization?
  • If your organization doesn’t focus on sales coaching yet, why not?
  • How do you manage your sales coaching building on your sales enablement services for sellers?

 
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