Content Knowledge (also known as Domain Expertise) is the understanding
that you bring about the specific skill you’re coaching somebody on. If you were a superstar salesperson
who was promoted to sales manager, then you would score very high on content knowledge when it comes to
When most people think about coaching or teaching in general, they immediately think about content
knowledge. It’s not uncommon to hear people say “Why does John insist on trying to coach me? My sales
are way higher than his were when he was selling.”
This perspective is intuitive, understandable, and dead wrong. It rests on the faulty assumption that
there is a direct link between performance, understanding, and the ability to pass that knowledge along.
Process Knowledge is a mastery of the processes involved in creating
change. It can be completely divorced from content knowledge and still create a dramatic impact.
As an example, let’s consider an inbound sales call center. Imagine a performance coach is brought in
who has no experience at being a call center agent (but who has a few years of coaching in other
domains). Coming in, the coach only knows two things:
- The highest performing agents generate 40% more revenue than the lowest performing
- The agents that follow the established sales process most closely are the ones who are
The coach can use this information to create a simple process to improve the results of the low
performing agents. It might look something like this:
- Monitor all calls from lowest performing agents
- Identify every place in every call where the agent deviates from the sales process
- Meet with the agent twice per week to go over the “worst offending” calls, train them
on the process if needed, and get the commitment from them to improve on their use of the sales
- In each meeting, track the progress made; keep providing encouragement so long as the
agent continues to get closer to 100% adherence to the sales process
This 4 step process, undertaken by somebody with no content knowledge, will outperform many “content
experts” who do not have coaching process knowledge.
Content Knowledge can be helpful when working with high performers to get
even better by sharing tips, tricks, and ideas to experiment with (though even there, the process
knowledge of high performance is more powerful).
For achieving baseline standards, though, content knowledge can be an active detriment. High performers
who don’t have process knowledge often struggle to help poor performers grasp the basics required, and
struggle to create realistic goals & training plans to help the poor performers improve.
When you’re starting your coaching journey, consider content knowledge to be a bonus feature, not a
requirement. Being confident in the coaching process that will be used is much more important than any
specific content knowledge.
If you want to get a head start on creating a coaching practice with your sales team, sign up below and
we'll give you some bonuses and updates on when the SalesCoaching.io training & coaching platform are done.