Moving from Chief Problem Solver to Sales Enabler

23 Jul 19

Key takeaways from two research studies: sales coaching is the #1 “ask” by reps, and the best way for managers to develop sustainable selling skills.

I recently had the opportunity to co-host a webinar on the Future of Sales Coaching (access recording here) with Jake Miller, Product Marketing Manager, at Allego. As part of the webinar, Jake shared some of Allego’s insights based on a survey Allego conducted of nearly 300 sales reps, managers, and enablement leaders on sales coaching. One key takeaway from this survey (see chart below) is that the #1 “ask” from sales reps was for more skills-based coaching.


Unfortunately, this “ask” often goes unanswered because many companies haven’t helped their managers develop the coaching skills required to help sales reps improve how they sell. Instead, they resort to “telling” (not very effective from a learning standpoint) or “taking over” calls. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, since most sales managers are promoted from the sales ranks. As such, they are focused on getting deals closed as opposed to coaching their sales reps on selling skills.

This emphasis on getting deals closed also speaks to the short-term orientation of many managers and, in many cases, the organizations they work for.  While closing business is certainly a priority, the leverage associated with coaching your team on the skills required to close more business themselves is compelling.  As an example, if a manager has 10 sales reps carrying an annual sales quota of $1 million dollars each, even a modest improvement in how they sell can improve both overall sales volume and profitability.

It is also interesting that in our research with Selling Power (Hallmarks of High-Impact Sales Teams), we found that managers at sales organizations with the highest performing sales teams were nearly three times as likely to participate in a sales coaching program than managers with low performing teams.  They also spent significantly more time (see chart below) coaching their reps.  Unfortunately, we also discovered that most managers receive no training on coaching.

While the business case for sales training is compelling, getting started isn’t that easy.  Most sales managers have numerous competing priorities and typically find themselves overwhelmed responding to their day-to-day responsibilities.  As such, they often take on the role of “chief problem solver” as opposed to “sales enabler”. Again, this focus on the “urgent” ends ups shortchanging the overall development of the sales team.

In our book, The High-Impact Sales Manager, we refer to this paradigm as the sales manager time-trap and note in the introduction “Transcending the Daily Grind” that the commitment required to manage, coach, and lead a team will require time and effort.  The impact of making this investment (time and money), however, is significant since it allows managers to lead, coach, and inspire as opposed to “telling” and “taking over”.

From a learning and development standpoint, this transition from “chief problem solver” to “sales enabler” can be achieved much more efficiently through sales enablement systems that support video based micro-learning, skill application exercises, and performance support tools.    

While it still takes time to develop new skills, the ability to chunk out the learning and apply skills in real-time makes this journey much more manageable.

While “too busy” to take on a sales coaching program is still the norm in most organizations, I would argue that this is more a symptom of prioritization as opposed to a valid reason not to move forward.

Ultimately, sales coaching is the #1 “ask” by sales reps and the best way for managers to develop and encourage sustainable selling skills improvement across their teams.


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