Direct Sales Coaches vs. Trainers: What’s the Difference?

There’s a heated discussion going on in the back rooms of direct sales companies across the country.

There’s been a surge of people hanging up a shingle and calling themselves “coaches” in the industry…

“International direct sales coach and trainer”

“Direct sales coach and speaker”

“Direct Sales Coach and Trainer”

“Marketing Coach and speaker”

“Life coach”

“business coach”

“accountability coach”

“support coach”

“recruiting coach”

“Speaker, trainer, consultant and Direct Sales Coach”

These are just a few of the titles I’ve personally seen on websites of professionals in and around the direct sales industry that include the word coach. It’s starting to perplex the Direct Selling Company owners to the point that they’ve started asking “so are you a life coach, a trainer, a speaker or what?”

Maybe I’m just getting snarky in my old age, but I like it when we call a spade a spade. It makes for clear, easy to understand communication.

I can understand some of the confusion. The dictionary offers a basic definition of trainer as an instructor or a coach. But the definition of coach is far more complex, providing a deeper insight into what a coach does, as opposed to just a trainer. The crux of the differentiation focuses on a personal element in coaching that depends on the person being coached.

For example:

1. private instruction, special instruction

2. private tutor employed to prepare a student

3. Baseball: a playing or non-playing member of the team… to signal instructions to and advise base runners and batters

In each of these more specific definititions the coach is working in a more private capacity – even individually – to help a specific person achieve a specific desired result that is tailored to the individual.

THAT’S coaching.

A football team may have multiple trainers, but only one Head Coach.

In my mind, trainers are people that develop or work with a system of achieving a desired result, and instruct you on how to achieve that desired result using their system.

Programs like Belinda Ellsworth’s Power Hour come to mind. When Belinda speaks on the Power Hour, she’s not coaching, she’s training. It’s the same message every time, because she’s teaching you how to implement the same system. That’s training.

A coach, on the other hand, would assess your current goals and issues, and help you determine WHICH training program would bring you the best results based on your individual needs.

Too many speakers & trainers today have appended “coach” to the list of credentials at the end of their name, and don’t deserve the title.

And maybe I sound a little sour grapes about this, but hear me out.

In my previous post, I ranted a bit about how there are some well known speakers (because that’s what they really are) in the industry that have started calling themselves “coaches” because that’s the new buzz word in the industry. Yet they do absolutely no coaching. They have a few training programs, and speak at dozens of events every year and make a great living as TRAINERS and SPEAKERS.

They are NOT coaches.

The reason I’m ranting is because they spoil it for the rest of us who are actively coaching and serving as real coaches.

But I’m not even including myself in this equation. i’m still a consultant in the trenches and for the most part, I’m a rookie in the coaching industry. I wouldn’t begin to compare myself to the more seasoned vets that grace the stages of national conferences on an annual basis (I’ll leave that for you to decide).

I work to serve my clients in the capacity that best meets their needs. I’m not cranking out new (or recycled) products to train them how to do the same things they already know how to do (but don’t).

I’m talking about the REAL coaches, who have a full practice, serving, guiding, instructing and supplying individual attention to their clients – helping them craft specific results based on specific concerns of the client. NOT a one-size-fits-most program.

No doubt those “one-size” programs are effective (or they wouldn’t stay on the market for long), but by nature that is NOT coaching. It’s training.

I foresee a day when coaches will need to be credentialed. And as such, I’m working on completing my own coaching certification this year. I’m so passionate about this, I’m applying to the International Coaching Federation (ICF) for Continuing Education (CEU) credit for my live event in August.

We need to treat real coaches with a level of respect that most trainers have not earned:

You can’t just call yourself a doctor, but a good (or bad) coach can have just as much impact on your well being.

You can’t just call yourself a teacher (in most states), but a good coach can teach you more than you’ll ever learn in school.

You can’t just call yourself an attorney or judge, but a good coach can show you more truth than you ever knew existed.

You can’t just sell securities, but a good coach can have an equally powerful impact on your financial condition

You can’t just call yourself a cosmetologist, but a good coach can have just as much impact on your self image.

You can’t just call yourself a psychologist, but a good coach can help you get inside your own mind and be equally effective at helping you be a “better you”.

All of those professional designations come with a price, investment and a piece of paper. It’s not the paper that makes the professional valuable. It’s the commitment of the professional that makes the piece of paper valuable.

Coaches train for hours, and apply what they’ve learned to individual circumstances. They also work together in training situations – sharing and collaborating to advance the coaching profession as a whole for EVERYONE involved. They work at a higher level than a trainer – who may only be versed in a particular area of expertise. Coaches have a focus, but their focus is in bringing out the best in an individual or small group of individuals. That requires a multifaceted approach as unique as each client.

Julie Anne Jones is a GREAT example of a real coach. Not only does she have the piece of paper, she uses that knowledge to work intimately with coaching clients in a setting where they can achieve the best results for themselves – whether or not they need one of her training products to reach that result. And she may be a fantastic speaker (I’ve yet to hear her speak), but she’s a COACH at heart: striving to improve the individual.

There are other trainers that are also excellent speakers: Belinda Ellsworth, Karen Phelps, Christie Northrup, just to name a few. But they are NOT coaches in the strict sense of the word. And many speakers are venturing into the training arena. Again, they are NOT coaches. They are leveraging their income and time by generating progams based on their popular talks. It’s a great marketing strategy, but they are NOT coaching.

And with the economy on a roller coaster ride, I wouldn’t be surprised if you start to see more people offering coaching as part of their product package. But unless the focus is on the client, and not the product, even THAT is not coaching!

You can call yourself a coach all you want (at least for now), but the reality is that a COACH and a TRAINER are not the same. I expect to pay more for a coach than I would a training program. A training program is a “cookie cutter” that can produce general results for a general audience. A coaching program is a tailored, specific program that focuses on my needs, what I want to accomplish and what my vision for my (life, business, etc) is.

Anyone who tells you different is selling you something.