Ray Makela

By: Ray Makela on January 27th, 2023

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Teach Your Sales Team to Solve Their Own Problems: The SBAR Framework

Sales Management

Front-line Sales Managers often find themselves overwhelmed with responsibilities, leaving little time for important tasks such as coaching their team, conducting training, managing performance, executing a strategy, and even investing in their own skill development.

But what's the main cause of their busy schedules? And what can sales managers do to create leverage and reclaim valuable time?

Why Sales Managers Are So Busy

Part of the problem is that they're still doing many of their reps’ jobs for them. They have never met a problem they didn't want to solve, and they can't help but take the bait from their reps and jump into problem-solver mode.

Most sales managers grew up as top-performing salespeople, so they have their own opinions on solving a sales problem. Unfortunately, it often gets in the way of the rep’s learning to do it themselves. Their approach may not always be the best for that given situation, and it doesn't teach the rep to solve their own problems for the times when they, as a manager, aren't there.

I often joke, "If you feel like you have to jump in and solve the problem every time you talk to a rep, what are they doing when you're not there or you're not accessible?" Can they overcome obstacles on their own?

How Can Sales Managers Create Leverage

One thing sales managers can do to create leverage and get more time back in their day is to train their teams to solve their "own" problems. It sounds simple, but it’s not so simple to execute.

For example, what are some common issues reps deal with weekly?

  • "My client isn't calling me back." 
  • "I don't have enough leads." 
  • "I'm going to miss my quota." 
  • "I'm stuck too low in the organization." 
  • "The competition is beating us."

Sales Managers might be tempted to tell them precisely what to do or suggest several options. Or worse yet, they might even jump in and offer to call the stakeholder. But a different option would be to help the rep help themselves by using the SBAR framework.

The SBAR Framework

SBAR was first developed in the military, specifically for the nuclear power industry.

It was then used widely in aviation and health care. It's become the standard approach for managing problems in a high-intensity environment. The primary purpose was to alleviate communication issues that arise from differences in communication styles. And it provides a simple framework for discussing issues and encourages the individual to take ownership of the solution.

What does SBAR stand for?

  • S is for Situation: What is the problem? What's the background and context? Could you tell me about what's going on here?
  • B is for Background: What happened up until now? What have you tried? What's going on there?
  • A is for Assessment: What’s the likely outcome of the situation? What will happen if we don’t do anything? What is the impact of this problem on the organization?
  • R is for recommendations: What do you recommend? What do you want to do? How do you think you're going to approach this going forward?

Train your people to come to you, having thought through this framework, and have ideas about what to do. Don't accept "I don't know" as an answer. Instead, please encourage them to use their judgment, make assumptions, and make recommendations.

Here’s an example:

Sales Rep: "Well, the client won't call me back." 

Manager: "Great, tell me the background. What happened up until now?"

Sales Rep: "You know, I had several good conversations, and then I sent them a proposal, and now, they're not responding to my email or phone call. I've had six different emails that they haven't responded to." 

That’s the background.

Manager: "What's your assessment? Why do you think this is happening? What's going on here?"

And this is where the manager gets the rep to brainstorm a little bit. 

Sales Rep: "Well, the buyer might be waiting for other proposals. They might be busy with other priorities. Maybe they've gone somewhere else." We'll likely lose the deal if we can’t talk to them.

Manager: "Okay. So now that we understand and have the assessment, what recommendations do you recommend? What do you suggest we do moving forward?"

Sales Rep: "Well, I might ask them to share their timeline for making the decision. I can ask them if this project is still a priority or when they like to kick off the project. Maybe I can get an introduction to their boss and bring in our VP. I could also send them some information or something of value to get back on the radar screen."

Manager: "So any of these might be good options. Which one do you suggest?"

This is where managers stop, listen, and understand where the rep is coming from. If it's a good recommendation, they show their support. 

Manager: "Agree? And let's move forward and see if that works. Keep me posted. Sounds like a good plan."

Sales managers can streamline problem-solving by implementing SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation) and providing a form or template for their teams to fill out before bringing issues to them.

Additionally, they can create a script and display it on a whiteboard as a reminder of the steps to be taken. To promote independent problem-solving, make it clear that managers will not discuss problems or challenges unless the individual has already considered the situation, background, assessment, and recommendation. By fostering a culture of self-sufficiency, managing problems becomes more manageable.

In Conclusion

Front-line sales managers are often overwhelmed with responsibilities, leaving little time for important tasks such as coaching, training, performance management, and skill development.

The main cause of this busy schedule is that managers often find themselves doing their reps' jobs for them rather than training them to solve their own problems. To create leverage and reclaim valuable time, sales managers can implement the SBAR framework. By training their teams to use the SBAR framework, managers can help reps take ownership of the problem and develop solutions independently rather than relying on the manager to solve it for them. 

Do you want your sales managers to create leverage and reclaim valuable time?

The Sales Readiness Group is here to help. Our expert facilitators collaborate closely with your sales managers to teach them how to build, manage, coach, and lead high-performing sales teams. Imagine what your team could achieve with the right guidance, tools, and skills. Don't wait; let SRG help your team reach its goals. Schedule a complimentary consultation today.

Learn how to transition star sales reps into high-performing sales managers

About Ray Makela

Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.