3 Common Barriers to Sales Coaching (and How to Overcome Them)

Effective sales coaching is a key activity enabling organizations to achieve outstanding growth.

Recent Gallup Research shows that only 21% of employees “strongly agree” that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do excellent work. We also know that the primary reason people leave organizations is because of their relationship with their manager. Sales professionals must be very motivated to be successful. As such, their managers are critical.

In reviewing the last 3 years of our Sales Culture Research, we have uncovered that organizations have actually placed less value on sales coaching. In fact, the best sales organizations have decreased their focus on coaching by almost 20% in the last 3 years.

Why is this? What is getting in the way of sales managers coaching well and consistently? Let’s look at three main obstacles to sales coaching.

Common Barriers to Sales Coaching

1. Priority Management

Sales managers must balance being a leader, a manager and a coach. In our work helping sales managers reach their full potential, we often hear that time is a barrier to sales coaching. However, if sales managers don’t spend enough time on each priority, they will not be successful.

Sales coaching is arguably the most important sales management activity. Without coaching, you risk losing your high performers, compromise helping your mid and lower performers improve and, subsequently, risk missing your goals and targets. It’s that critical.

2. Player vs. Coach

Often, sales managers are promoted after years of being a high performing salesperson. Despite the promotion to managing people, they still love the thrill of chasing deals. Many sales managers choose to get involved in deals because they are skilled at being a player. It’s a familiar territory within their comfort zone.

For many sales managers, the perceived “backseat” role of sales coaching is outside of their comfort zone. Rather than coaching people how to sell, they would rather do it themselves. Furthermore, new sales managers are sometimes ill-equipped on how to coach so they revert to what they know best: sales. This desire to remain a player can hinder their performance as a coach and as a result, the performance of their team. This brings us to our last obstacle.


3. Sales Coaching Skills 

Even if a sales manager has clarity on their role as a coach, oftentimes they have never been taught “how” to coach. They lack the formal training on the tools, skills and processes of how to coach effectively.

With no “manual” or guidance on how to be a sales coach, they must figure it out for themselves. That might mean reverting to their comfort zone of sales. For many, its modelling the behaviors of sales leaders they have worked with in the past. Each sales manager then hones their own “version” of sales coaching and learns through experience whether it works or not.

At DoubleDigit Sales, we see evidence of these obstacles all the time in our work with sales leaders across a multitude of industries. And yet…imagine the business impact if each salesperson on your team is coached to perform at their best and is motivated to do so?

If your organization is facing these or other barriers to sales coaching, DoubleDigit Sales would be happy to equip your leaders with the confidence and competence to become successful sales managers.