Teaching and Instruction vs. Coaching and Feedback

By Rachel Cavallo on Sep 26, 2012

2 Minute Estimated Read Time

We talk a lot about sales coaching, but what we often observe is that managers focus on teaching the individuals who are either new and learning or need remedial help because they are struggling.  Other instruction comes in the form of mass communication to the team via email or team meetings.  When the team applies this instruction differently, it often leaves the manager asking “Why aren’t they all doing it the way I asked?  They all heard the same message, didn’t they?”


The analogy hit me the other night as I was watching my daughter’s dance team.  The “coach” had taught them a dance, and each of them had learned it… to a degree.  You see, each girl brought with her a different way of doing the moves, probably from a previous experience or just the lens through which they saw the coach teach it.  It was a great dance, but it didn’t look great when they did it.  Even the best dancers had moves that were “off” and the younger girls appeared to simply be doing a different dance altogether.  The coach kept asking them to do it over and over, but she didn’t provide feedback to specific individuals… she gave the group pointers… which were again interpreted and applied inconsistently.  Her frustration level increased as the group continued to execute the dance poorly and not grow together as a team.


It’s not all that different from what we see with struggling sales teams.  Many times individuals come from different backgrounds and different sales training.  Even though they are attending the same meetings or receiving the same instruction, they tend to apply it differently based on their experience, how they think, and how they are motivated.  Consider the frequent occurrence of “We need to do more prospecting”.  That gets heard and executed totally different by members of the team.  Some just increase cold calls, other shake the referral tree, some just do nothing, and others panic because they think it may mean the company is struggling.  Same instruction – different reception.  This is where coaching becomes critical.  It’s what needs to happen after the instruction has been given or the lesson has been taught.  In this case, it’s providing focused feedback on individual prospecting efforts in a meaningful way to tweak execution such that it elevates the performance of the individual, and ultimately the performance of the group.


Coaching doesn’t end.  Teaching a lesson may be one and done, but coaching to reinforce and refine the way the individual executes the skill should continue even after someone has mastered it.  Giving group feedback may be an easy way to avoid confrontation, but individual feedback is what drives results.


When you are looking to elevate your team’s performance, consider these two mantras…

  • Teach the lesson – coach the skill.
  • Instruct the group – give feedback to the individual.

Topics: sales coaching

Rachel Cavallo

Written by Rachel Cavallo

If there’s anyone who understands how sales people tick, it’s Rachel Cavallo. Rachel specializes in strategies that drive sales forces to adopt real change… the kind of change that produces results. She has managed many sales force transformations, helping sales leaders realign organizations and define new selling models, as well as designed and delivered sales training, coaching, and change management programs. At Symmetrics Group, Rachel is loved for her creativity and big picture thinking – she has a knack for crystallizing complex concepts into a single picture with high impact messages.

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