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When You Should Be Training vs. When You Should Be Coaching

I have spent a good portion of my career as a sales trainer, meaning that I have been in front of salespeople and doing my best to inform them about the newest product line coming out. Usually, it is a lot of fun: there is usually food, people are excited and everyone gets to see something brand new. 


Then I hit a roadblock. After I had performed, probably, my 500th sales training where sales people got the information and went on with their day it happened… I was just performing the information that they already had in their hands. Worse off, I knew I was going to get dozens of questions that day on the exact information that I had just given them, both in a performance and in printed form.


This was discouraging. What was I doing with their time and my own?


I was entertaining, so I knew I had their attention. I was clear, because I had practiced with my kids and even they seemed to understand what I was doing… what was the issue?

Then I realized something that changed me for the better: people need to know HOW to use the information they are given more then hearing WHAT the information was. 


This moved me from a training mindset to a coaching mindset. No longer was I going to do an information dump, because they were going to receive all of the information and ignore it anyway, instead what I was going to do was coach them in WHY this information was important and WHERE to get the information.


I started building tools and processes that I could distribute to new salespeople, as well as veteran salespeople, that would allow them to discuss benefits in a way that was informative and helpful to the customer, and be able to connect those important factors with the actual information that I was supposed to just tell them.


What happened was amazing. Salespeople were starting to call me, but to let me know how great the training was because they sold a customer using the method and it was so much easier.


Training Day - When it is appropriate to just download information


I am not a fan of watching corporate training videos, which is funny because I am building video workshops online, but the issue is that there is no interaction and I believe most people just ignore the video and head to Twitter on their phones. I can speak personally about this… I would only pay attention to the corporate training when a test popped up and I would answer the questions until I got 100%.

Training is knowledge based. Training is about getting information and finding information.

But training is important, because we need to know how to do the things that we need to do or be aware of: policies, procedures, computer systems, sexual harassment (and how to do it I suppose)… so there are definitely times to utilize training.


I believe training is appropriate for exposure to information, just so we know that it exists and know how to access it when we need it. That is basically the job of the trainer, make sure that everyone in the audience is aware of what he or she is training on and have some sort of repository for people to access that information when they need.


It is not glamorous, but it serves a purpose. Most companies have trainers, because it is really important to be able to get people to the know at least the minimum amount of information.


Coaching for the win


Coaching is much different. I do not want to say it is better, because that is not the point of this article, but the goal of coaching has more to do with performance. The biggest difference between training and coaching is the end goal: training is designed to hit the minimum, coaching is designed to maximize performance. Both are necessary.

Coaching is wisdom based. Most of the time coaching comes from a place of experience and is about gaining insight and wisdom without needing to spend years acquiring them.

When I switched from training to coaching, it was because I saw that the minimum was reached by the majority of who I was speaking to; and they were bored, I was bored and that boredom meant that there was no actual learning happening.


As I transitioned into coaching, and challenging salespeople to change their perspective on how they were performing their jobs, they started to engage me and, more importantly, their customers in a different way. Their approach was expanding, and some, not all, of the salespeople were starting to experience more success than they had before. 


Spending time working along side salespeople, I started using my methods so that they could experience it as well, and they were always amazed with my results. I used every interaction as a coaching session, and these were some of the most effective coaching sessions I had.


These salespeople knew how to do their jobs, some of them well, but it was magic seeing them stretch themselves and start to sell higher-quality goods by changing some of their behaviors based on trying to improve their abilities. That is so cool, and that is coaching.


So, coaching vs. training… what is better?


The answer is in where you are at in your job and your career. Just starting out, getting training to know the information and nuts and bolts of what you are trying to do is key, and is probably the most important thing to accomplish. This should never end, you will likely be taxed with learning new information all throughout your career because the world is constantly changing.


As you progress in your job and career and training becomes more of an upkeep rather than a full-time affair, start looking into coaching. Coaching is the most effective way to gain success in a career without the need of spending many years learning on the job.


Where are you at with your career?

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