8 Sales Productivity Pitfalls (and Steps to Avoid Them)

Get tips from sales experts to start driving productivity gains today.

February 15, 2023 | Time to read: 11 minutes

Seventy-two percent of sellers’ time is wasted on non-selling tasks, according to our Trends in Sales Ops report, a survey of more than 7,700 sales professionals. The good news? There are straightforward ways to refocus reps on the things that matter the most.

Start here. We share how to avoid eight common productivity pitfalls that eat into revenue and hold sellers back — along with worksheets and resources to help.

Common Sales Pitfalls:

Pitfall 1: The sales team spends too much time in tools.

Sales teams use an average of 10 tools — from reporting to contact management to forecasting — according to our State of Sales report. Many of these tools come on different platforms, creating a disjointed patchwork of different data, fields, and dashboards.

Sellers are feeling the pain. Two thirds said they feel overwhelmed. It’s hard to be productive when you’re toggling back and forth between point solutions to get the job done, and all that time spent in tools means less time spent with customers.


Consolidate your tools to lower your costs and give your reps time back to spend with customers.

You’ll be joining the 94% of sales ops teams who plan to simplify their tech stack in the next 12 months.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Inventory your tools. You may find that functionality overlaps between some tools, and that you’re not fully using others.
  • Prioritize your multifunction tools over single-function tools. Make the most of tools with multiple features, so reps don’t have to switch so often. Also, look for tools with AI functionality that can save reps from manual tasks.
  • Where possible, remove point solutions and seldom-used tools. Eliminate multiple platforms to reduce time-wasting tasks like redundant data reentry, driving productivity for the team.

Get the sales productivity workbook and tackle these pitfalls head on.

Use these free worksheets to discover how:

  • Streamline your tech stack by consolidating your sales tools without losing features.
  • Boost sales efficiency by defining the right exit criteria for your pipeline stages. 
  • Speed up quoting by eliminating redundant approvers and auto-approving more terms.
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Pitfall 2: Sellers don’t know when to advance customers to the next stage in the pipeline.

A sales pipeline without clearly defined stages makes it difficult to know when to move deals forward. “Without structure, reps don’t know what their next actions should be,” said Richard Harris, Founder of the Harris Consulting Group. “That fuzziness in your pipeline data will create inaccuracies in your forecast.”

For example, if sellers don’t have guidance for when a deal is ready to advance down the pipeline, then qualified and unqualified opportunities may end up assigned to the same stage — creating confusion and muddy pipeline data.


Define each stage in your sales pipeline with clear exit criteria, so your sellers always know the next step to take.

Here’s how to begin:

  • Name and define your sales stages. Break the sales journey down into the basic activities that advance deals to close (think calls made or meetings set).
  • Define the exit criteria for each stage. List what needs to happen before the prospect can move to the next stage. (For example, the prospect says you’re short-listed.)
  • Make it easy for sellers to update pipeline data. Bring in tools that help sellers update customer records in a click, and connect tools together so they don’t have to make redundant updates.

Pitfall 3: Sellers aren’t tapping the full potential of their territories.

Sixty-nine percent of sales professionals told us their job is harder now, according to the State of Sales Report. “Reps often feel like they don’t know where to act or when,” said Dave Borrelli, Senior Vice President of Sales at Salesforce. “Throughout my career, I’ve seen this feeling come on as sellers try to make sense of their territories.”

You have a productivity problem if your sellers get assigned to their area, but they don’t know which opportunities to prioritize or how to uncover new leads.


Give your sellers visibility into the hottest opportunities in their territories by setting criteria for big-win accounts.

Here’s how to help your sellers:

  • Render territories as maps, not spreadsheets. Let sellers see their territories — and high-impact accounts — visually, rather than as data in columns and rows.
  • Prioritize high-impact accounts. Help sellers quickly understand the potential revenue impact of every prospect based on their likelihood to close or renew. If possible, use AI-driven insights to spot high-value deals.
  • Create account plans to go after your top prospects. Once you know your high-impact accounts, create account plans. Those are plans for how to penetrate individual customers and close those deals.

Pitfall 4: It takes reps too long to get quotes approved.

Creating quotes and getting approvals takes up the most time of any other nonselling task in a rep's week, according to our Trends in Sales Ops report — time that could be spent building relationships and working on deals.

“Quoting should be easy,” said Meredith Schmidt, Executive Vice President of Revenue Cloud at Salesforce. “But all of a sudden, you go to submit the quote for approval, and you need four different groups to approve the same special term for different reasons. So the deal slows down because of an outside business leader who’s not in sales.”


Speed up quoting by auditing the approval process and cutting redundancies. Get there in three steps:Here’s how to begin:

  • Use fewer approvers. Identify where multiple approvers from similar functions can be replaced with just one. If reducing approvers isn’t possible, see whether you can have different reviews run in parallel.
  • Give approvers shorter deadlines. Give your approvers shorter timeframes. For example, you might shorten an approval timeframe of two days to 24 hours.
  • Automate more terms. Find terms that get approved 100% of the time. Those should be replaced with auto-approvals so they don’t need human intervention.

Pitfall 5: Sellers need team support to close, but can’t get alignment.

Eighty-one percent of sales reps say team selling helps them close. But roughly the same number of them (82%) say that aligning with other sellers is at least somewhat challenging.

Part of the challenge is overcoming the traditional competitive nature of sales in favor of collaboration. But successful alignment is also hampered by hybrid selling that creates multiple tracks and channels for team conversations.


Sales leaders told us that cross-functional alignment is the number one tactic for growth. Here’s how sales ops can help break down silos across the organization and make it easier to sell as a team:

  • Train sellers to lean on team members as resources. “Great team sellers are the ones taking the time to build relationships across the org,” said Anita Nielsen, President of LDK Advisory Services.
  • Add “consult a team expert” step to your sales process. The best resource to keep deals moving is the expertise inside your own organization.
  • Bring all your communication into one place. Get out of communication silos like email, and use a collaboration tool that gives every team member — remote or in-office — visibility into deal progression.

How Salesforce does team selling.

We break down silos, so sales teams can work together on deals from anywhere.

1️⃣ We pull in key people. We make it the norm within our sales process to tap internal subject matter experts for immediate input. For example, we often ask for help to overcome an objection from a technical decision maker, or we get an industry expert’s review of a presentation.

2️⃣ We host regular meetings for knowledge sharing. We believe in meetings for coming together to share best practices. This happens across regular all-hands, fireside chats, and team-building exercises.

3️⃣ We use Slack to create new channels for every account and opportunity. Channels are forums where teams can track progress for every prospect and customer and help each other close. We do this for even the smallest deals.



Pitfall 6: Sales managers have limited time for coaching.

Only 26% of sales professionals receive one-on-one coaching at least weekly, according to our State of Sales report. That means managers likely have a lot to cover when they sit down with reps — probably too much to digest at one time.

More frequent coaching may seem like an easy solution, but a recent study found that managers have consistently spent 20% of their time coaching, year after year, for the past decade. This suggests that increasing coaching quantity might not be possible.


Combine call coaching software that surfaces key sales call insights with productive coaching time that identifies high-impact areas of improvement. Here’s how to find those areas:

  • Ask the seller to self-identify areas for improvement. The seller knows better than anyone else what is and isn’t going well. Ask sellers to write down issues they’re facing throughout the week to prepare for one-on-ones.
  • Connect the individual to the team vision. Your coaching should ladder up to teamwide best practices and goals, so your sellers can row in the same direction.
  • Coach firsthand in the field. “Lead by example,” said sales coach Ian Koniak. He urges sales managers to roll up their sleeves and sell alongside their reps until they’re ready to sell without shadowing.

Pitfall 7: The team doesn’t know if the enablement program is working.

Seventy-two percent of sellers do not expect to hit their quota in the coming year, according to our State of Sales report. Sales leaders are stepping in to help with more impactful training and enablement.

But unless you have a reliable way to measure the value of your sales enablement, “it’s doomed to be a black box,” said Jessica Holt Ware, Assistant Vice President of Sales at Salesforce. “Training goes in, but you’re not sure what comes out.”


To measure and show the impact of your sales enablement, start with the outcomes you want to achieve, and build training and milestones to get there. Here’s how:

  • Pinpoint the metric you want to improve. Examples include ramp time, win rate, deal size, and sales cycle length.
  • Deliver a program to match. For example, if you want to increase the win rate (the percentage of deals you close), you might teach reps how to identify prospects with purchasing power.
  • Track behavior change. In this example, you would hope to see reps scheduling calls with contacts in the right roles.
  • Adapt, learn, repeat. Measure the revenue outcome and act from there.

How Salesforce does sales enablement.

Below we share the steps of our latest enablement program, refreshed last year. Read more about our enablement approach in this blog post.

1️⃣ We define our revenue outcome. Our current focus is on building high-quality pipeline. We want a sales funnel full of qualified prospects who are likely to close.

2️⃣ We create a new enablement track to change behavior. To ensure we’re bringing in the best prospects, we teach our sellers about the ins and outs of the audience and set milestones to make sure they’re leading effective discovery and qualifying calls.

3️⃣ We measure milestone completion. We track milestones — like trainings to complete and meetings to set — as they get completed. Then we adjust. For example, if discovery meetings are low, we update the milestone to drive an increase.

4️⃣ We measure the impact on the goal early and often. We measure the quality gain in our pipeline based on the increased likelihood that opportunities will close. We look at this metric within weeks of beginning the program and continue to monitor it so we can learn and adjust fast.


Pitfall 8: Mental health issues hurt seller focus.

Sixty percent of salespeople said their performance was poor because of mental health issues, according to this 2021 survey conducted by an alliance of sales influencers. That’s more than half of sellers struggling.

One reason is that sellers are “gluttons for punishment,” brooding when they don’t hit their numbers. “Sellers remember every deal that doesn’t happen,” said Jen Lagaly, Executive Vice President of Sales at Salesforce.

Sellers are also prone to doom-scrolling because they spend so much time online. “They read about layoffs and politics and everything else,” said Lindsey Boggs, Global Director of Sales Development at Quantum Metric. “They start to worry about what they can’t control.”


Sellers should track and talk about negative feelings, remove digital distractions, and seek professional help if they need it. "It all comes down to accountability," said Alexine Mudawar, CEO of Women in Sales. "When we create a weekly record of wins, losses, and sentiment, we can plan to overcome the areas that are holding us back."

Here are the steps to take.

  • Log feelings. Track how you feel at the end of the week so you can spot and address trends of feeling defeated. It’s also a reality check to see if negative feelings are grounded in reality as opposed to thought-spiraling.
  • Practice digital hygiene. “I put limitations on my social media apps,” said Boggs. “After 15 minutes, I get logged off of all the things. The doom-scroll can’t touch me after that.”
  • Get professional help if you need it. “Don’t struggle in silence,” said sales expert Ian Koniak. “Raise your hand and get help. Talk to a professional, talk to your company, and get support.”

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