The Difference between Reactive and Proactive Sales Coaching

Being proactive isn’t just one of the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” espoused by self-help guru Stephen Covey; it is a way of life and a crucial mindset for the best businesspeople and top sales management executives. By definition, the word means to be “anticipatory, to act in advance to deal with expected difficulties.” This essentially means preparing to solve an issue, even before it crops up.

Having a proactive mindset is also critical in sales coaching – yet, few sales managers currently coach proactively, instead coaching reactively as issues crop up. Knowing the difference – and why proactive sales coaching is ultimately more effective – can have a significant impact.

Reactive Sales Coaching

Reactive sales coaching occurs when a sales manager walks around the sales floor and observes the sales conversations taking place. He or she might observe a mistake that one rep made in identifying BANT, or the failure of another rep to overcome a common objection, and, as soon as the rep gets off the call, start diving into the coaching session. Right there, at the sales rep’s desk.

The one advantage to this type of reactive sales coaching is that the problem or area of weakness is still fresh in both the rep’s and the manager’s mind. It localizes the problem, while providing a quick fix. In our opinion, that is the only benefit.

The disadvantages to reactive sales coaching are more numerous and impactful:

  • There is no sales coaching structure. With such a format, coaching could take place at literally any given moment. There is no formal structure that is clearly outlined in the rep’s mind.

  • Lessons might not be reinforced permanently. With the lack of structure, lessons and solutions are not as likely to stick long-term. Reps might treat the solution or situational coaching as a one-off answer to their immediate problem.

  • Sales performance metrics tracking progress of coaching fall by the wayside. Without formal sessions, the relevant sales performance metrics used to measure the progress of sales coaching will be loosely tracked, or not at all. Coaching without sales metrics is a recipe for failure.


Proactive sales coaching

On the other hand, proactive sales coaching:

  • Adheres to a strict schedule. Each rep knows that, once a week at a pre-determined time, they will have a sales coaching session with their sales manager. This creates structure, not only in their schedule but also in their minds.

  • Focuses on specific topics or weaknesses. Instead of just identifying issues to work on willy-nilly, proactive sales coaching has a clear outline of what to work on at each session. Both the rep and the manager can prepare to focus on that particular issue and come to the session ready to rock!

  • Reinforces old lessons. Effective sales coaches don’t let past lessons fall by the wayside once they have been completed. It is critical to review and reinforce old coaching sessions, even if only just briefly.

  • Relies on sales performance metrics. Finally, the biggest advantage to the structured sessions that come with proactive sales coaching is that both the coach and the sales rep can bring relevant sales performance metrics to the meeting. They can then huddle up together to measure progress and discuss how specific opportunities are affecting the overall performance of the rep, pointing to the data for support.