The problem with sales training, part 3: Coaching and reinforcement

In this series we are taking a look at three distinctions between sales training and sales enablement:

  1. Messaging and content 
  2. Training
  3. Coaching and reinforcement

Although commonly seen as one in the same, sales training and sales enablement are vastly different.

What is sales enablement A strategic, cross-functional discipline designed to increase sales results and productivity by providing integrated content, training, and coaching services for salespeople and frontline sales managers along the entire customer’s journey, powered by technology. — Tamara Schenk, CSO Insights

In Part 1 we uncovered why training and sales kit content is often ineffective.

And in Part 2 we discussed how sales leaders need to do more than teach and train, by better equipping their teams with sales ready assets.

The case is not that we should throw out sales training, but instead see it as a critical, yet partial component of a sales enablement program.

In the final installment of this series we are going to compare sales professionals with professional athletes, and expand on the importance of extensive and ongoing coaching.

Do World-Class Professionals Need Coaching?

Compelling content and effective training in a vacuum — that is, without coaching — can be detrimental to both the sales professionals being trained and the overall revenue performance of the business. Let’s look to a parallel arena for an example.

World-class professional athletes in sports worldwide have coaches and trainers who support them in both pre- and in-season workouts. They are continually perfecting their craft. You would not expect the Super Bowl Champions to skip offseason workouts and training camp in the heat of the summer, and then flawlessly play their opening game of the new season. In fact, even with exceptional coaching, extensive physical training,and exhausting workouts, these world champions still make mistakes in their first game.

Why would sales organizations expect to be any different? Why would sales leaders (akin to the general manager of the football team), neglect having frontline sales managers coach the sales professionals within the training session itself and not provide ongoing coaching and reinforcement in the field? A football general manager would NOT accept that. In fact, the general manager would expect, and even require, the coaching staff to allocate appropriate time for effective coaching to enhance and reinforce the training, as well as rehearse the professionals’ use of the skills and tools of their craft. For that matter, the athletes would demand it as well. World-class athletes seek out counsel and coaching on how to improve in every aspect of their game, especially in the areas where they are weaker than their competition. Sales leaders need to require the same level of continual improvement to help their sales professionals stay sharp and ahead of their competition.

As leaders of revenue organizations, we are blessed to have access to incredible sales skills training that has been honed for decades. Even more so, we are fortunate to have access to resources like compelling content, sales ready assets, role-plays and coaching that can amplify the training into sustainable revenue performance. Take advantage of these resources and use them — not just once or twice, but create a year-round framework of continual training and equipping. Your bottom line will thank you.