“Do I need to hire a coach, or a trainer?”
A little background: This question has come up several times over the past few weeks, but with different variables because everyone’s business and situation is different. When I start noticing patterns in conversations, it sparks my curiosity and I start to create my own hypothesis of those patterns based on 1-1 conversations and research.
For example, when this question first started coming up I read Mike Weinberg's “Sales Management Simplified” (highly recommended!). As the question continued to surface, I started (and am halfway through- so don’t give me any spoilers!) Keith Rosen “Coaching Salespeople into Champions.” After more than 3 of these requests came to us, I started to notice a pattern through all the differences. (You can read about two of them here, but for this post, the most recent happened again last week at the #bossales Enterprise Meetup.)
Jason was introduced to me as the recruiter for a tech company and was looking to replace the sales trainer that had left earlier in the year. They had all their product and sales related materials loaded into a learning management system, and when their internal corporate trainer left, they thought that the system and materials would be enough to help their experienced, industry veteran sales people.
However, Natalie, the SVP of Sales, is focused on Q4 revenue and concerned about some underperformers. Q4 is nearly half of their business after all- if they don’t make their numbers that will impact the growth of the company in the short and long term. Natalie is wondering- do I fire them and replace them? Keep them and train them more? Or is coaching the underperformers a better option? Which do they really need? Is there a difference between the two? Faced with all these unknowns, Natalie puts it off. There is Q4 revenue to worry about first. If it doesn’t help her with Q4 revenue now, then it’s not even worth talking about until January 2017.
Despite the differences in all three of these companies and situations, one thing remains common. All three were unsure of:
- the difference between coaching or training. Jason admitted that these are things that his company seems to mash together in the same bucket, like most. But he acknowledged that they are two totally different approaches and roles that are needed at different times.
- Training is a one to many approach and is about instruction and gaining knowledge. Everyone gets the same information at an event. Training is for when you need to know what you need to do.
- Coaching is a one to one approach and is about self learning and the application of knowledge. It is customized to each individual and based on the relationship between the coach and the coachee and the coachee’s strengths, weaknesses, and personal goals. Coaching is for when you need to understand how to do it and execute it effectively.
- if they are ‘coaching’ effectively. In this instance, Jason wasn’t sure if the sales managers were coaching or not, or even if it was helping. He did know they all did things differently. But as far as who was getting coached and how- not sure. The only thing he did know is that none of them had been trained how to coach.
- who is coachable and will improve. It is not unusual to focus on the underperformers first. “If they could just get it and pull their weight! We’ve invested so much already in them. Maybe they need more training, or coaching 1-1?” If they haven’t improved by now, what makes you think they will?
- when improvements will happen. Training takes time- days, weeks and even months of time. And if you believe the ASTD, as soon as training ends, so do the chances of any lasting improvements that will impact sales results. Which brings us to the most important question behind the question; “Do you need a coach or a trainer?” and that is, “Which one is going to give us the fastest results?”
Because sales leaders are unsure, they are indecisive. So I’m going to answer this question from two perspectives. First what does 3rd party research say about the impact of training on revenue, and coaching on revenue? Second, what do our real life experiences with clients show how coaching has impacted revenue? Ready?
According to research by the Sales Executive Council, teams not receiving coaching underperform by as much as 10% whereas teams who are coached report exceeding their goals by 7%.
Compare that to the research by ATD (formerly ASTD) that revealed 16% of sales leaders think that training had no value at all, or the “less than half of respondents indicated that sales training helps their organization meet sales goals to a high or very high extent.”
Considering the amount of investment in training annually, that is alarming. (The ATD Research found that organizations spend an average of $954,070 on sales training every year- yikes!) Never mind which works faster, how about at all?
When I compare that data to our own data, it becomes even more of a drastic comparison. For example, one client increased sales 73.03% within the first 90 days. In 6 months, that same client increased revenue 98.42%. Another increased his deal size 34.8% within 90 days. One closed their largest deal in history within 6 weeks. An even more recent client wanted to double his number of deals in a year. He did it within 5 months. In each of these cases it all depended on how much each was willing to change. The more willing they were, the more results they saw.
Bonus info: A few clients started working with us when they started with new companies. They went to work for large companies with extensive training programs on things like value selling, social selling, their product and how to aligns to the buyer, etc. When they told us that they felt they were getting more out of training than they had in the past because of coaching, we realized it wasn’t an either/or question. Even HubSpot admits that their hope their free training shifts “... the industry away from “training” and more towards “coaching” -- the only activity really proven to improve performance of salespeople.”
So what should the SVP in our story do with this information? Maybe they should be asking themselves if they really know what needs to be done? Or wonder who is ready to be coached today that will be able to bring in the majority of the revenue needed for Q4?
Could I have been describing you or you team? Are you more than concerned about potentially missing Q4 revenue goals? Is coaching right for you? Your team?