Sales Coaching vs. Sales Management

In 2023, if you look up the definitions for “coach” and “manager,” you will get very interesting results. For example…

  • Coach – An instructor or trainer.
  • Manager – A person responsible for controlling or administering all, or part, of a company or similar organization.

At first glance, one sounds helpful and fun while the other sounds a little stifling and strict, right? 

Let me share a little story with you. Some years ago, a previous company I was working for hired a new manager for our team. At first, everything was okay. After some time, however, chinks in the armor slowly started to show. I quickly realized that the company had hired one of the worst candidates they could have found for this position. I was easily convinced that because of his actions, his lack of leadership skills and lack of modeling by example, there was nothing I could learn from this new manager. 

Boy, was I wrong. 

I learned two very valuable lessons from that person. They are… 

  1. What not to do/how not to be.
  2. How to write effective emails. 

You see, although his leadership style was not ideal or effective for me or the team, it wasn’t until he sat me down to show me how to write effective emails that I learned how to expertly communicate with clients. In this scenario, he took the time to explain, model, and show me how to write emails that are clear, concise and cut straight to the value. It’s a skill that I still carry to this day.

Humble brag: I’ve been complimented on my email communications over the years, and I owe him that. I usually chuckle to myself when I share where I actually learned it from.

So, why did I share that story with you?

Many times, new leaders are hired and come into an organization with big ideas, big initiatives, and lofty titles but fail to see the big picture. In the professional world, we have job functions known as Sales Coaching and Sales Management. Today, I want to spend some time unpacking what I call “Sales Coaching for Success” so we can learn how to best apply the principles that make a Sales Coach effective while also avoiding the pitfalls of poor leadership.

What is “Sales Coaching for Success?”

Simply put, “Sales Coaching for Success” means coaching for positive progress through influence and modeling the way. Notice, I didn’t say perfection. I didn’t say results. Anyone can coach for results through metrics. But it is a leader who coaches for progress (in the right direction) that organically leads to positive impact within an organization.

I’ve worked with seasoned professionals. I’ve worked with new hires to the industry, and one thing remains consistent across both groups. People love to be invested in. A manager is great at micro-managing, reporting on metrics, holding people accountable to job expectations, and so on. A coach should be great at leading by example while inspiring and influencing people to greatness. Do you see the difference? You can make wine by crushing grapes, but its taste will vary depending on the process.

So, how do we accomplish “Sales Coaching for Success”?

I believe the way to achieve this goal is to apply the following principles. They can be applied to just about any other leadership role as well.

Principle #1 – Be available to your team.

A Sales Coach should make the time to spend the time. If we agree that people generally love being invested in, then we must make the time to invest in our team’s development. This takes time. This takes work. And your level of care (or lack thereof) for the individual will show over time.

Principle #2 – Own your team’s success.

A Sales Coach should be fully invested and own their team’s success; seeing their progress (or lack thereof) as a direct reflection of their influence and impact. If you, as a Sales Coach, don’t care about progress and small wins then why should your team?

Principle #3 – Inspire greatness.

To me, this is the most important principle on the list. A Sales Coach should always find ways to challenge their team(s) to go just beyond their current reach to achieve the team’s personal and professional goals. In other words, the coach puts the team’s goals front and center then helps them achieve those goals both individually and corporately. 

A Sales Coach should leave people better than they found them. A Sales Coach should become all things to all people in order to win and encourage them to greatness. A Sales Coach needs to be someone who inspires greatness, motivation, and stimulates the team in a positive way. 

As a quick sidenote, the goals of the team should always align with company goals to ensure both parties win. 

The beautiful thing about this principle is that “greatness” is a subjective term that is defined by the people you are coaching and by you. This is a positive because, as you help your team grow, you can continue to inspire them to push beyond their old goals and on to new ones. What was “greatness” to a new sales rep in their first month on the job will look a lot different once they’re with you after five years… and so on.

Principle #4 – Be honest/transparent.

One of the biggest pitfalls we need to watch out for is not being honest with our team(s). I have this saying, “Transparency translates to trust” (the 4 T’s). The reason this is so critical is because your team can only grow with consistent, honest, and direct feedback — not “sugarcoated” feedback. The last thing a sales rep wants is to be told that they are killing it when, in fact, they are not. Typically, sales professionals love acknowledgement. They love a spotlight and some kudos. On the flipside, they need honest feedback to be able to know what isn’t working and what is. You owe it to your team to let them know how they are doing. Just like your leader owes it to you to share how you are doing. 

Is this starting to make sense?

Another important component to keep in mind is this… if you don’t know the answer, don’t fake the funk! I would much rather have someone be honest with me about not knowing the answer to my question than have them give me an incorrect response with inaccurate information. As a Sales Coach, if you don’t know the answer, be the resource that helps them find the answer. You’re still bringing value.


I hope you can see that these principles don’t just apply within the sales world — they apply to just about any leadership role. The principles are universal. When applied correctly, these principles will help you and your team by gaining organic productivity increases and efficiencies. You will see improved sales/company culture. And you will help foster better team and collaborative environments. So, don’t just be a “boss.” Be a leader. Be available to your team. Own their success. Be honest/transparent. And inspire greatness! Coach for success and you will see the fruits of your labor. Remember, the coach is on the field too — they’re just on the sidelines.