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Is sales coaching transactional or transformational in your teams?


What style of coaching conversations is happening in your sales teams?

It is a well-known fact that coaching by sales managers is a key lever in performance improvement. Many organisations are trying to drive this.

Work done by Heslin (2006) suggests that managers who are people-centric and believe personal qualities can change are more likely to invest time in coaching compared to those managers who believe personal qualities are static or fixed:

Oh, that’s just the way they are…



What exactly is meant by coaching though? What type of conversation is actually happening between the manager and the sales person?


Transactional vs. Transformational coaching

We see two distinct styles of coaching that sales managers can use.

Transactional coaching is a task driven approach where the manager is suggesting how things can be improved, a ‘done to’ directive approach.  This might be a mentoring style, where the manager recalls their experience and directs the outcome for the sales person. This doesn’t always engage the individual to take responsibility and accountability for the results. This type of coaching is to help the sales person become more competent in the tasks as perceived by the manager.

Another option would be a non-directive transformational coaching approach, where the manager supports the sales person to reflect on their behaviour and attitude to situations and its influence on sales. This method is when managers ask insightful questions, listen with intent and encourage the sales person to consider how they ‘show up’ in different environments and scenarios. This isn’t about the manager communicating in solution mode and telling the sales person what to do.

Transformational coaching can aid an individual to become more self-aware and support their behaviour change.

When individuals consider and reflect on how their own and other’s emotions impact their performance, they can begin to leverage and improve on their emotional intelligence (EQ). They take accountability for their own behaviours and results.

EQ can be deemed as a ‘soft’ skill and not suitable in hard sales and yet when sales people have greater self-awareness they can manage their behaviours better, leading to improved interpersonal relationships, impulse control, decision making and assertiveness which in turn can drive sales.

Transformational coaching conversations can support the development of EQ and change behaviours helping the sales person be more consistent and resilient in times of challenge.


How many sales managers are truly comfortable with a transformational coaching?

The biggest challenge here is in training sales managers to be comfortable, confident and skilled at having this style of coaching conversation. They will need to be aware of their own EQ and management style to be able to support a transformational coaching conversation and may require coaching themselves. They will need to be highly effective at framing questions and providing incisive feedback to their team.


It’s unlikely then, to happen on its own!


How do we know when to use each style?

Sales managers can learn to reflect on the reason behind a salesperson’s outcomes. Then they can then decide whether it is a lack of knowledge or whether it is an attitudinal / behaviourial aspect.

If it is a skill or knowledge shortage, then a transactional approach can support the sales person to set goals to develop their knowledge and gain support and mentoring from their manager.

If the development point is linked to attitudes & behaviour then a transformational coaching approach will be more effective, so the sales person can reflect on how they have contributed to the scenario and how they can choose to respond differently next time.



Developing sales managers to use both styles

Within the Selling Interactions associate team, we are fortunate to work with Leslie Brodie who has an MSc in coaching and developed a team coaching approach for sales managers. Using a combination of a personal EQ report and two highly intensive workshops, we can help your sales managers switch between the coaching approaches for maximum impact with the team.

Please contact info@sellinginteractions.com for more info



is an experienced coach, mentor and facilitator, dedicated to supporting individuals, teams and their business to grow and develop. Her work focusses on developing individuals and teams through coaching and coach training to support, challenge and encourage individuals and teams to view things in different ways to best serve themselves and the business.