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Sales Coaching: Do We Mean Coaching or Training By the Back Door?

2 minute read

Mark Savinson, CEO of award-winning US & European based consultancy Strategy to Revenue, and member of Forbes Coaches Council, examines who really benefits from sales coaching, and how to deliver sustainable change.

Rarely a day goes by without some expert posting on LinkedIn how they can improve your conversion rates, revolutionise your outbound calling, make you as great a salesperson as they were. After all there was never a truer truism than “salespeople are easy to sell to, focus on their wallets”, and all these people have an incredible track record of selling million (insert currency here) deals over many years.

Now some of these experts will be selling their time as a coach, but what exactly does that mean and who benefits the most from coaching?

What is a coach?

We could get into an overly long discussion as to whether it is acceptable to guide/lead the coachee to an answer during coaching or whether the coach should solely enable the coachee to discover their own answer. But as sales is all about results let’s say it is situational and move one

Who is the coach?

To me the more important question is: who should be the coach?

  1. The Sales Manager/Leader
  2. An external coach/expert

Which is best?

Let me sit on the fence - it depends on what you are trying to achieve:

  1. Deliver embedded and sustainable change – If you are trying to get the sales organisation as a whole to change the way they sell, then ownership and consistency is key. You need to own the coaching, use your own resources and have a consistent approach that everyone follows.
  2. Focus on key individuals or Teams – Because you are not trying to drive organisational change it can be beneficial to use external resources who can quickly guide people to an answer. If the individual wants to improve, even better as the “Coach” will not have to deal with emotion and denial when areas of improvement are highlighted.

The issue with this approach is one of scalability and consistency. By their very nature “expert coaches” have an opinion on how to do things, and this may vary from coach to coach. This makes no difference to the individual but is a potential issue for the organisation as a whole.

So, what is best for you?

Ultimately it comes down to your overall objective.

  • If you are looking to embed change across the whole of your sales organisation, then you must own the coaching and use your sales leaders and managers to lead this coaching. This requires a programmatic approach with the knowledge, skills and behaviours being given to the salespeople prior to coaching.
  • If you want to focus on targeted individuals, or single teams, then an external coach works really well. You could use the coach instead of training, receive 1-2-1 targeted coaching on specific activities, e.g. improving discovery. You could always bundle this as deal coaching and make it part of your cost of sale if you do not have training budget!

Whichever approach you take, coaching is required. If you go the “change route” you need a partner who will develop a program that is focussed on the required. If you go the “expert coach” you need to believe in the advice they give as ultimately you are buying their expertise.

By Mark Savinson, CEO of Strategy to Revenue

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