6 Things Coaching is Definitely NOT

If you think coaching is one of these six activities, give your head a shake.

1. Coaching is NOT a Personal Anecdote

I’m sure you’ve had a manager or two whose approach to coaching was to tell you their war stories from their days in sales trenches. They dredge up all sorts of colorful anecdotes of how they tackled this objection or that objection, of the flawless presentation, of countless hours of preparation and of their ability to close on a dime and make the sale. Ad nauseum.

While some of the ‘good old day’ anecdotes may have even been interesting they cannot be mistaken for coaching. The stories might provide a useful tip or two. They might even illustrate a point which in moderation has a degree of value. But as an effective means to modify and change selling behavior, the stories have limited value.

The reason?

First of all, they are often of questionable relevance. Anecdotes tell of a different product, a different time (maybe even a different era), a different market, and a different customer. The telephone sales rep has to somehow extrapolate the similarities to the present, if any, and apply it to the situation

Second, personal anecdotes are not based on an objective standard. This means they cannot be used in a consistent manner. One rep can interpret the story one way while another rep may see it another. As a means of modifying behavior, anecdotes only have validity if they support a technique or skills that has been taught.

2. Coaching is NOT Rah, Rah, Sis, Boom Bah

Coaching is not a Vince Lombardi-like locker room speech. You see this type of coaching style in manages who are ex-athletes. They act as cheerleaders trying to pump up their reps, get them hyped, and excite them into selling more.

A good speech can help create a motivating environment. A good speech can possibly get a rep to push a little harder and make a few more dials. But however inspirational a speech might be, it does not teach a rep to sell smarter or more effectively. It does not modify or change or alter skills sets.

3. Coaching is NOT Training

A good training program is like a good foundation for a house. The better the foundation the more you can build and expand. Training is the formal presentation of knowledge.  Training is the basis for coaching. If done properly, skills training should set the standards for all parts of the call.

But training is not coaching. Coaching is the process of supporting what was learned in training. If your reps learn how to create an effective opening statement using a five step process in a classroom setting, coaching should support those five steps. Coaching helps remind he rep to use the steps. It encourages the reps to stick to the plan.

Coaching takes a few seconds; maybe a couple of minutes. Training can take hours.

4. Coaching is NOT an Open Door Policy

Some managers think that coaching is telling your reps, “If you having a problem or difficulty, come and see me. My door is always open.”

That’s nice but what a cop out. Sure, some inside sales reps will knock on the door and say ‘boss, I need your help,” but many if not most, won’t. Some won’t because they don’t want to be embarrassed by raising their hand as saying “Heh, I don’t know how to close.”

Others, and this is the tragic part, won’t rush to the door for help simply because they don’t know they need help. Blithely, they go on calling not realizing they have strayed from the processes and standards that have been set until one day they are so far behind in their sales objectives that they give up or you give up on them.

Coaching is proactive. It means you actively work with your reps ensuring that the skills and techniques are being used. It means you preempt any problems or difficulties.

5. Coaching is NOT a Personnel Review

Personnel reviews are formal meeting between the manager and the tele-sales rep. Ostensibly they are used to provide feedback to the rep on how they are doing, what they need to be doing and so forth. Conducting a personnel review that includes feedback on quarterly or even a monthly basis is kind of like closing the barn door after the cows have wandered off.

As a communications process, personnel reviews are great but they are not the forum for coaching. If the sales rep is stumbling over objections at the beginning of June, you don’t need to wait to the 30th to address the issue.

6. Coaching is NOT a Group Meeting

I have worked with several clients who claim that their morning ‘get together’ acts or is their means of coaching.  They use the time to share techniques, tips, and suggestions. Problems are dealt with. An idea or two is bounced around.

These meeting are great for communicating. Undoubtedly, there is a nugget or two of wisdom. But they don’t always apply to everyone every time. And that’s the problem, it isn’t always applicable.

Coaching is a one to one process between you and the rep. A group session might be training but it is not coaching.


Don’t misunderstand: these six items play a role in disseminating information and imparting knowledge. A good story can illustrate a point and a good speech can motivate a rep to use a technique or skill.  Similarly, reps should know they can come to your door at any time and any feedback any time can be of value. But these situations are not consistent and effective means of getting reps to change and modify their behavior for better results.

PS  Want to learn more about coaching, go here.

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