Reps Share Their Biggest Blockers To Productivity, And You’re Likely Making These Same Mistakes

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Today’s number: 1,200.

According to a study by Harvard Business Review, that’s the number of times the average employee toggles between apps during the workday. This leads to an average of four hours each week spent simply tab-switching. Over a year, that’s five entire workweeks drained while toggling to find the right information to get work done.

For sales reps, the challenge becomes even more pronounced. Every additional hour spent trying to complete a process or find a resource is an hour not spent engaging and nurturing prospects. Complexity in the sales process can, quite literally, make or break deals.

Rather than solely speaking to the data, we went right to the source to understand how these challenges manifest within a rep's day-to-day environment. The answers we received were insightful and surprisingly consistent, pointing to key blockers and the need for specific solutions.

The biggest blockers to sales productivity

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given how we’ve hinted at it, but the number one blocker for sales productivity we found was an overload of context-switching , followed by:

  • Lack of self-sufficiency
  • Lack of a central repository for information
  • Difficult onboarding and ramp-up time.

The theme throughout most blockers was that they all bubbled up to the overarching pain that comes with being forced to leave whatever workflow you’re currently in to complete a process or find a resource.

Let’s dig into each of those a bit more.

1. Too much context-switching

Our interviews revealed that the biggest blocker to sales productivity is too much context-switching. From one direction or another, sales reps must constantly switch between different apps to find the training and resources they need for their work, leading to a significant amount of time wasted just trying to locate the right information or complete a process. This constant switching also causes reps to lose focus and takes time to refocus on higher-value tasks.

Of the reps we talked to, we heard several mentions of how long it takes to get back into the flow of those high-value tasks.

Some estimated 15 to 20 minutes, and others didn’t put a number on it, simply stating that they “lose a lot of time in transition.”

Qatalog and Cornell University’s Idea Lab found that it takes a similar amount of time on average.

2. Lack of self-sufficiency

In today's fast-paced world, sales reps need to be able to quickly find the answers and resources they need without having to ask someone else for help. When reps spend too much time waiting on other people, it slows down their workflow and reduces their overall efficiency; plus, it affects the workflow of those it’s being requested of.

The second part of this challenge can be especially pronounced for senior reps constantly being asked questions by other reps, which takes time away from their core job responsibilities.

For example, Sean, a 6-year veteran Account Executive at his software company, shared that, as one of the more senior reps on the team, he’s constantly being asked questions by other reps — about the product, where to find information, or how to complete a specific process. He’s happy to help his colleagues, but as a non-manager, he regularly spends much more time than he should be on coaching-type activities, which takes away from his core job. This often makes work continue into his personal time late in the evenings while he catches up on things he didn’t have time to complete during the day.

3. Lack of a central repository

Although there may be an “official” place where content lives, reps often find themselves searching through multiple sources like email threads, video archives, and Slack conversations to find the most recent version of a resource or answer.

Sean shared that there are “a million different places to go to find information.”

4. Difficult onboarding and ramp-up process

Reps also shared that the onboarding and ramp-up process is often challenging, as they spend too much time searching for the right resources or seeking answers from colleagues. This not only leads to a slow start but also means they cannot hit their stride quickly, resulting in lost sales opportunities.

Clarissa, an Account Executive who joined her company a year ago, recently shared her experience of onboarding to a new team, remarking that “ Being onboarded is tricky,” which is something most of us can relate to.

Unfortunately, a poor onboarding experience is a leading cause of sales reps leaving their jobs, with 47% of account executives quitting due to insufficient training.

On the other hand, our research indicates that top sales performers are nearly three times more likely to rate their onboarding experience as “good” or “excellent,” highlighting the critical role effective onboarding plays in setting up new sales team members for success and retaining top performers.

The impact of these blockers on sales productivity

The impact of these productivity blockers on sales performance is substantial. When reps are required to switch between apps or search for the right resources, they waste valuable time that could be used more productively. Similarly, a lack of self-sufficiency also leads to slower onboarding and ramp-up times while draining the time of senior reps who have the answers but also have their work to focus on.

It becomes a vicious cycle that undermines the hard-fought and long-sought-after productivity and efficiency of high-performing sales teams.

This impact is compounded by the fact that in today’s world, our teams increasingly work remotely, which results in less access to managers and colleagues compared to what an in-person office would provide.

Fortunately, there are solutions for all of these productivity blockers.

Overcoming productivity blockers with the right tools

One way to address these blockers and make sales reps more productive and efficient is by leveraging tools that provide resources just-in-time. Just-in-time learning solutions like Spekit make it easy for sales reps to access the resources they need when and where they need them. Whether you’re completing a process in Salesforce or collaborating with colleagues in Slack, these tools can provide quick access to answers and resources that help reps work more effectively.

In addition, by having resources readily available directly in the flow of work in the applications they use every day, reps become self-sufficient quickly. This allows them to ramp up faster and get back to focusing on their core responsibilities sooner. And we’ve seen firsthand how sales teams have benefitted from leveraging tools like Spekit.

For example, after rolling out Spekit, Gloria Ramchandani, Sr. Director, Strategy & Business Operations at Copado, reported that "With the help of Spekit, questions never go unanswered" and that the time employees spend searching for content has significantly reduced. Another example is Southwest Airlines, which found that they spent 60% less time developing and creating training material and 50% less time communicating new initiatives and changes after rolling out Spekit.

These are just two examples of how access to the latest answers and resources in context can help sales teams become more productive and efficient.

Final thoughts

Sales reps are the backbone of any successful business, and their productivity is a crucial factor to consider. But despite our best efforts, many reps find themselves slowed down by obstacles that hinder their productivity.

The most common blockers to productivity, such as excessive context-switching, lack of self-sufficiency, lack of a central repository for resources, and difficult onboarding and ramp-up time, can slow down sales reps and impede their success.

On the flip side, by implementing just-in-time learning tools like Spekit, sales organizations can help their reps overcome these productivity blockers. By providing reps with the right information at the right time, they can focus on closing deals and reaching their targets, leading to increased productivity and efficiency.

Knowing where the end zone is,” as Clarissa so aptly phrased it, can be the difference between a successful close and stalled pipeline.

The future of sales productivity is not in having more tools but in the right tools. At Spekit, we strive to provide a solution that arms sales reps with the resources they need when they need them, eliminating the need for context-switching and enabling them to be more self-sufficient, focused, and successful.

If you’re looking to boost employee productivity, chat with the team at Spekit today and see for yourself. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can see results and improved performance from your reps.

About the author

Elle Brayton
Director, Content & Communications
Elle is a boy momma 2x, brand builder, storyteller, growth hacker, and marketing leader with 12+ years of experience scaling SaaS B2B organizations.
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