Why Coaching Your Sales Reps Is Good For Business
By Audrey Pierson, Security Sales & Leadership Consultant
Sales leaders often confuse sales training with sales coaching. While both are necessary, complementary approaches to enhancing the performance of sales professionals, the two are not the same. They differ in methods, focus, and timing. Most sales leaders today recognize the need for sales training, even if they don’t regularly provide or even encourage it, but coaching is often overlooked completely.
Before we dive into why coaching is good for your business, let’s understand the differences between training and coaching.
Focus, Purpose, and Content
Sales Training: Sales training primarily focuses on providing knowledge, skills, and techniques to salespeople. It typically involves workshops, seminars, online courses, or all of them combined, designed to equip sales reps with the necessary tools to succeed in their roles. Training covers various aspects of selling such as product knowledge, sales methodologies, communication, time management, objection handling, negotiation skills, and closing techniques.
Sales Coaching: Sales coaching is more focused on individualized guidance and improvement. It involves one-on-one interactions between a sales manager or experienced salesperson (the coach) and the sales rep. The purpose of coaching is to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement in the sales rep’s selling approach and provide personalized feedback and support. The coach may address issues like refining the rep’s sales pitch, analyzing their approach to specific prospects, improving relationship building skills, and providing targeted feedback based on observed sales interactions.
Sales Training: Sales training is typically conducted before or early in a salesperson’s tenure, as well as during ongoing professional development initiates. It is often used to onboard new sales reps and to upskill existing ones when new products or sales methodologies are introduced.
Sales Coaching: Sales coaching occurs during and after the sales process. It involves providing real-time feedback, analyzing performance data, and helping sales reps address specific challenges they encounter while interacting with prospects and customers.
Group vs. Individual Approach
Sales Training: Sales training is often delivered in a group setting, where multiple salespeople receive the same training content simultaneously. The focus is on imparting general knowledge and skills that apply to a broad audience.
Sales Coaching: Sales coaching is personalized and individualized. It involves one-on-one sessions where the coach tailors their guidance to the unique needs, strengths, and weaknesses of the individual rep.
Overall, sales training focuses on imparting general knowledge and skills to a group of salespeople, while sales coaching involves personalized guidance and support provided on an individual basis. Both approaches are essential for enhancing sales performance, and they can be used together to create a comprehensive sales enablement strategy.
Most importantly, sales reps, every bit as much as technicians, need and deserve ongoing training and coaching support to deliver their best to the company and their customers.
Let’s look at the ways coaching is beneficial for your reps.
- Skill Development. Sales coaching helps reps improve their skills and techniques. It allows them to learn and practice new approaches, sales strategies, and objection handling methods. Continuous coaching ensures that sales reps stay up to date with the latest industry trends and best practices, making them more effective in their roles.
- Performance Improvement. Regular coaching sessions provide opportunities to identify areas where sales reps might be struggling and need support. By addressing these weaknesses, sales leaders can help improve performance, leading to better sales results and revenue generation. Sales reps are more likely to ask for help with a difficult sale when they know regular coaching is available.
- Motivation and Engagement. Sales can be a challenging and competitive field, and reps often face rejection and pressure. Done well, coaching can serve as a source of motivation and encouragement, boosting the sales reps’ confidence and engagement. It lets them know that their organization is invested in their growth and success.
- Adaptation to Change. Markets, customer preferences, and products evolve over time. Continuous coaching equips sales reps with the necessary knowledge and skills to adapt to these changes effectively. It allows them to stay agile and responsive in dynamic business environments.
- Reinforcement of Training. Even with sales training, skills can fade over time without reinforcement. Ongoing coaching ensures that sales reps retain and apply the knowledge and techniques they’ve learned, increasing the return on investment from training programs.
- Feedback and Performance Measurement. Coaching provides a structured way to deliver feedback to sales reps. Constructive feedback helps them understand their strengths and areas for improvement, enabling them to refine their approach and achieve better outcomes.
- Building a Learning Culture. A culture of continuous improvement and learning can be fostered through regular coaching. When sales reps see that their organization values growth and development, they are more likely to actively seek opportunities for improvement.
- Retention and Employee Satisfaction. Employees appreciate organizations that invest in their professional growth. Providing ongoing coaching can improve employee satisfaction, retention, and loyalty, as sales reps feel support in their career progression.
- Personalization. One-size- fits- training may not address specific challenges or unique selling situations that sales reps encounter. Coaching provides personalized guidance tailored to individual strengths and weaknesses.
- Self-Confidence. Even the most experienced sales rep can have moments of doubt and want reassurance. Regular coaching sessions can provide that support when rejections have a sales rep questioning their capabilities.
Continuous coaching is a vital component to a successful sales organization. It contributes to the professional development of sales reps, enhances their performance, and fosters a culture of improvement and achievement.
While it can be challenging to find the time to devote to regular coaching, and there is often a tendency to provide coaching only to newer sales reps, it’s important to include it in your business methods. There are various ways to facilitate coaching, including player-coaches (senior sales reps who can work with one or two less seasoned reps) or use outsourced sales coaches.
You invest a lot with every new sales hire, from training in the systems, services, and products you sell, to company specific software and processes. Losing a sales rep, even a relatively new one, is costly. Make ongoing coaching a part of your company culture and reap the positive results with engaged, loyal, and successful sales reps.