The toggle tax - How it impacts sellers
Updated: Nov 12, 2022
Everybody knows someone with 29 applications opened on their browser. Little do they know the impact it has on their productivity. This issue is true for everyone, but particularly for sellers who are pushed to navigate across 15 different tools daily.
HBR Staff/Alexey Yakovenko/Makrushka/Getty Images
The classic "Alt+Tab" - a simple keyboard combination that has become second nature to us. It helps us to move around different applications on your desktop. You might have one application for our emails. Another one for your web browser (and 20 different tabs just there). You might be using one to share/write/read documents. The list goes on and on. In a world where information has no limit, the classic "Alt+Tab" helps you to navigate it. But at what cost?
Harvard Business Review authors recently published an interesting article on the amount of time digital workers spend jumping between applications daily. After following ~150 workers for 5 weeks, they found that the participants toggled on average 1,200 times every single day. This added up to around four hours each week, which is 10% of their working week. Imagine what you could do with 10% more time every day. The productivity gap is real and it's right under our noses.
Participants toggled on average 1,200 times every single day. This added up to around four hours each week, which is 10% of their working week.
Every time a user switches from one application to another, you lose time. Not just physically speaking (from pressing the keys), but also from context switching - you have to adjust to the layout and the content, and put yourself back into why you are looking for that information.
Even if you lose 2 seconds every time, these add up over a day and we're not even realizing the impact it has on our level of focus.
There is a direct correlation between the amount of time wasted on context switching and the number of applications that you have to use daily. It's a compounding effect.
And no one has to jump between as many applications as salespeople. Customer relationship management software, email, calendar, conversational intelligence tool, sales engagement, presentation editor, sales enablement, data enrichment data, social selling platform, and the list doesn't stop there.
Account executives will on average leverage 10-15 different tools every day. And their workflows are fragmented across all of them, meaning that to do a simple task - like preparing for an upcoming customer meeting, they might have to work across multiple.
But why is that particularly problematic when it comes to salespeople? Well, because time is money. A seller's productivity and their ability to efficiently and effectively work is top of mind for many high-growth organizations because it impacts more than any other functions, the ability to hit your revenue target. No wonder why quota attainment has been consistently decreasing over the last 10 years.
Let's do an example: Meet Judith. She's an account executive for a series B startup in Seattle, Washington. She works about 50 hours per week. Taking out all the meetings she has, she estimates that on average, she will spend 15 hours per week doing low-value work - this could be repetitively updating data manually, chasing down information, or jumping between tools. This is 15 hours Judith does not spend on doing more prospecting, following up with the champion of an important opportunity, or researching an account.
Let's now say that Judith uses a productivity tool that consolidates her workflows and that she's able to save 10 hours of low-value work every week. By being able to spend that extra few hours per week selling, Judith would be able to close more deals, close them faster, and hit her quota consistently. She makes a higher commission, the company meets its growth targets. Everyone is happy :)
By being able to spend that 10 extra hours per week selling, Judith would be able to close more deals, close them faster, and hit her quota consistently.
Hope is not lost
There is no need to quit your job yet. There are various ways that top sales teams are addressing these problems to ensure the distraction is minimized and sellers can go back to selling
Look in the mirror
Start by analyzing the current workflows of sellers: the tools they are using, the objective for using each of them, and how they all fit together. Be on the looking for friction points - like repetitive work, limited access to critical information, and fragmented workflows - that will cause toggle tax.
As a leader and management team, get sellers involved in the process. They are the ones who live it in the day-to-day and who will be able to tell you how it could be made better.
Focus on sellers' experience
When implementing a new piece of technology, your end users (the sellers in this scenario) should be top of mind. Ask yourself
What is the type of information they will need to have access to be most productive?
How will this new tool fit into their current workflows?
What are the barriers of adoption that might their usage of the tool?
You should never start by the technology and then back out the process. You should design a scalable, easy-to-understand sales process and leverage technology that allows reps to be navigate that process.
Don't just throw people at the problem
Hire technology professionals to act as glue between disparate IT applications can help, but it is a 'band-aid' solution because it doesn't address the foundational issue at stake: a fragmented tech stack. In addition to being quite expensive and these professionals often come with a "best practice" mentality, which tends to be at the center of the problem. If you decide to go down that route, make sure to properly vet them.
Evolution by simplification (reference our article)
We've written an interesting article about how the sales tech stack was ultimately evolving towards simplification and consolidation. Redundancy in features between apps and pressure to cut down costs push many RevOps organizations to review their technology strategy.
Pod is the smart productivity workspace for account executives. By connecting to existing sales tools, it allows seller to streamline their workflows and focus on selling.
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