Is Sales Training as Powerful as Coaching?

Is Sales Training as Powerful as Coaching?

Sales Training Coach

A simple Google search will show you that there are many different types of sales training programs across the nation.

In person. Virtual. One-day workshops. Week-long conferences. Lecture style. Small group.

Some are specific to making cold calls. Others are tailored to presentation skills.

The topics and options are endless because sales training is so important. 

You need to know the right way to do sales for your business. And the transfer of knowledge at sales workshops is very impactful. 

But is sales training as powerful as something like coaching?

Sure. There can be overlap between the two. And the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. 

However all sales training programs share the same drawback –

They are designed for humans. And humans are forgetful. 

Read Blog Post: 5 Ways Your Mind Can Be an Asset or Liability

Forgetting What Is Learned

Traditional sales workshops occur once a quarter or year. 

The one-day or week-long programs are usually directed by trainers in one-hour increments.

While the intent is good, the actual retention of knowledge by participants after these programs is limited. 

Simply put, humans are forgetful. 

Research shows that people forget on average 50% of the information that they learn within one hour of a presentation. 

After 24 hours, 70% of the information has been forgotten, and within a week, 90% is gone.

A sad, but necessary truth.

Our brain cannot hold on to every single sensory input that it receives in a given moment.

Think about it.

At this very second, your brain is likely filtering out background noises, the feeling of your socks against your skin, or the faint smell of coffee in your room. 

Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. And right now, that one thing is reading this blog post. 

So while at one point, your brain was actively processing information from the sales training, it could only retain 10% of the information after a week’s time.

Which builds the case for coaching.

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Coaching vs. Sales Training

Unlike sales training, which is the transfer of knowledge, coaching enhances your knowledge and skills development. 

It takes what you already know and improves it.

Coaching happens often on a continuous basis, which encourages application and execution of skills learned.

A good coach holds you accountable. 

He or she observes your current performance, helps you identify gaps, and provides guidance on how to fill those gaps.

A coach will even take your development a step further by helping you map out your goals and an action plan of how you will reach those goals.

In a coaching setting, you’re usually removed from the distractions of a lecture hall or training center. 

You generally meet with a coach one-on-one, either in-person or over the phone.

These conversations are usually informal and unstructured, which facilitates critical thinking and decision-making. 

Sales training, however, is very structured. 

Think of sales training as if you’re starting a new school year. 

Like training, the first day of school is very structured. 

You sit quietly in a classroom setting with a teacher (your trainer) and your classmates (other participants).

Since it’s your first day, you aren’t expected to be an expert in the curriculum. Nor are you expected to have any prior knowledge about the content when attending a training session. 

Similar to school, training is learning focused. The trainer will direct you and tell you what you need to know and do.

It concentrates on transferring new knowledge and skills.

In sales training, you can expect to learn a clearly-defined and specific task, such as how to confidently make cold calls or deliver a sales pitch.

But unlike school, your trainer doesn’t hold you accountable. And training only occurs once or several times a year. 

With such infrequency, training alone can’t make long-lasting change. 

And we’ll show you why.

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Real-Life Example

Imagine this. 

A new prospect has scheduled to meet with you to demo your product. You’re ecstatic. 

Landing this client will help you reach your quarterly sales goal, so you need to be at the top of your game.

To brush up on your presentation skills, you attend a sales training workshop.

In a group setting, you meet with a trainer at a local facility who provides a wealth of information and best practices for your next sales pitch.

After you take a lot of notes, you return to the office, excited to put your new knowledge to practice and craft the perfect sales presentation.

A few weeks pass, and the day finally arrives for your meeting with the prospect. 

While you’re fully prepared, the sale turns into a total flop, and you don’t know why. 

You wish someone could tell you what went wrong and how or if you missed the mark. You’re now left disappointed with unanswered questions. 

Was it worthwhile to attend the sales workshop? Yes. 

Would you do it again? Yes.

Did it help you reach your goal? Not completely.

Herein lies another drawback of training.

It provides a foundation for you, but only a coach can help you build upon that foundation.

Coaching focuses on developing and enhancing knowledge and skills, whereas training is grounded in learning and the transfer of knowledge.

In this scenario, a coach would have followed up with you after your presentation and asked you questions. 

Together, you would reflect on the meeting and consider what went well and what could have been better. 

A coach might have even suggested you role play prior to the meeting to prepare for it. And perhaps encouraged you to audio record the presentation on your phone so you could review it afterwards.

Coaching is about identifying the gaps between the right way to do things, which might have been taught in sales training, and where you are with your current competencies and skill set.

Understanding the context of the situation, coaches can observe where you are at, where you want to be, and work towards that end. 

Comparison of Sales Training and Coaching

For a quick glance at the differences between coaching and sales training, we’ve provided a side-by-side comparison below. 

Sales TrainingCoaching
Transferring of knowledge
Usually done in group setting
Located off-site or at a facility
Very structured
Trainer tells
Happens on single occurrences/occasions  
Little to no accountability
No background knowledge required
Enhancing of knowledge or skills
Usually one-on-one basis 
Happens on the job or at the office 
Usually unstructured
Informal, conversational
Coach asks 
Occurs on a continuous basis/multiple occasions
More accountability
Background knowledge require


While it’s important to attend sales training programs to learn the right way to sell and basic fundamentals, coaching allows you to further develop your skills and abilities. It offers a third party’s perspective that identifies gaps in your sales process that you might not otherwise see, and helps you bridge those gaps so you can move closer to your goals.  

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Mark Phelps is a Certified ActionCOACH with a passion for business excellence and life fulfillment. His goal is to help create world abundance through business re-education.

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