Learning Styles and Call Centre Coaching

Executive summary

In this 900 word article, I explore the four different types of coaching interventions that Call Centre Sales Managers use to drive up their team’s performance but argues that each agent has their own preferred learning style and this should dictate the coaching mode used most often with that agent.

Plus some useful tips to perform coaching at your highest level.

Learning styles and coaching

We’re all very familiar with Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles piece of work from the 1980’s which describes the four varying styles of learning that we all have. My preferred style is a reflector since I like to look back on my learning events, take my time when learning, think things through, listen to others and I hate being dropped in at the deep end.

Others might prefer an activist style where being dropped in from a thousand feet would suit them, happy to learn from mistakes, can easily see what their mistakes have been and can figure out an alternative way in mini seconds. They just seem to want workshops to soar at a hundred miles per hour.

You might prefer a theorist style with a desire to look at all the detail and background to the training topic and to see where theories and models can benefit your learnings.

Or finally the pragmatist who, by now, has got bored with this piece because they don’t see the benefits and how it can help them.

Have you ever used these learning styles to help you maximise your phone based sales coaching? You may not have thought about it but it makes perfect sense.

Most phone sales centres or call centres or Inside Sales Operations as our friends across the Pond call them, use a variety of coaching interventions. These are:


  1. Live side by side coaching in the call centre
  2. Recorded call coaching in privacy
  3. 1to1 coaching with metrics and KPIs
  4. Group listening sessions followed by facilitated group discussion on best practice


If you have a choice which one you use with your phone salespeople, then choose the one that fits their learning style.

Side by side coaching

For activists – definitely go for live side by side coaching. Here’s some tips to make this coaching better for them:


  • Decide on a theme to work on during the side by sides and listen out for this area during your observations.
  • Ask your agent for their preferred theme to focus on
  • Focus mostly on feedback and keep it snappy, then ask them what they can do differently.
  • Use GROW but start on reality by giving them feedback on the reality that you just observed, then launch straight into options, giving them a chance to comment.
  • Keep the feedback to around 2 minutes, then get on the next call.
  • The beauty of live side by side is that you get to see the actual challenges they’re facing which are non-skill based, normally system or process, so empathise with them and take some action to improve these.


Recorded feedback sessions

For reflectors – give them more private recorded call coaching sessions. Here’s some tips to help you here:


  • Give them slightly longer with the “how well did you do” question, look away a little more, give them space to think.
  • Let your agent choose the calls to listen to so long as you stipulate a good one and a not so good one.
  • Don’t choose calls randomly; use intelligent Speech Analytics Software to choose keywords, phrases used, attitudes, sentiments and acoustics.
  • Allow your agent to gauge themselves against your best practice checklist, and then comment afterwards.
  • Use silence, non verbal nods and lots of matching body language to encourage the reflector to talk… and we do.
  • Once some actions start appearing, GROW them naturally and then wrap up with the WHY – where do they need to be, how will I get there and how will you help me.


1to1 performance coaching

Theorists might prefer the 1to1 coaching with metrics and KPIs to ponder over. Some tips here:

    • Let them have the metrics in advance.
    • With the exception reports focus equal time on the above average performance as opposed to the below average performance, this is a balanced performance review after all.
    • Try and use a balanced scorecard approach to the metrics you measure. You could split these four ways:
      1. “How well is your agent serving the customer?” – Customer satisfaction
      2. “How well is your agent performing?” – Operational efficiency
      3. “How well is your agent supporting sales?” – Business value
      4. “How am I getting the best out of my agents?” – People management
  • Always have some coaching in the metrics meetings, these are not just assessment and feedback but a chance to spot trends and determine action plans.

Group call listening sessions

Pragmatists might prefer the group interaction commenting on played-back calls, especially if you have some top performers in the group and keep it punchy. Here’s some ideas:


  • Choose calls carefully, some exemplars and not such good calls. Maybe choose a theme upfront.
  • Sell the WIIFMs to the agents before you start. (What in it for me’s)
  • Keep the session to about 45 minutes.
  • Ask them to complete the best practice checklists.
  • Invite everyone for their opinions but keep this tight. Request one good point and one development area and ban repeating what previous agents have said.
  • You don’t need to chip in an opinion just for the sake of it; the art is to encourage the agents to comment on their own calls.
  • My final tip is to ask the agent as to the preferred coaching, what coaching would they want from you to support their growth and how should the coaching occur. They won’t give you pragmatist, theorist, reflector – that’s technical jargon for you and I – but they will give you an impression to work on.


Now haven’t we breathed a breath of fresh air into Peter and Alan’s learning styles?

Paul is an international speaker, sales trainer, author and coach based in the UK. His expertise and experience is in selling and sales coaching, his books and articles focus on rapport selling which puts the customer at the heart of the sale. Visit his website http://www.archertraining.co.uk/Sales_tips.htm to sign up for his Weekly Sales and Coaching Tips or visit his blog at http://www.paularcher.com where you’ll find his unique style of weekly blog posts for you to enjoy. paul@paularcher.com

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