The “last mile” is a phrase that can trace its origins to the communications industry, characterizing “the final leg of the telecommunications networks delivering communications connectivity to retail customers, the part that actually reaches the customer.”
It can often be a bandwidth bottleneck as the network tries to deliver communication services to the customer. This last mile wouldn’t be possible without the network in place but ignoring it jeopardizes the customer experience. How does this apply to a sales process? In a very similar way, actually.
You may have spent significant time and money building out a process and system to attract prospects, nurture them to a point they are ready for sales interaction, and report on costs, actions, and outcomes, but if you bottleneck in the “last mile” of the sales process – the point at which a salesperson is directly engaging with prospect in order to convert them to a customer – you are creating friction at a critical point in the buying process.
Over the last several years there has been considerable investment and optimization of the lead management process with marketing automation systems. These pieces of technology are designed to optimize the middle part of the funnel and nurture a prospect until they are ready to engage in the sales process. They capture and score online behaviors like web site visits, collateral downloads, and email campaign opens/clicks until they meet a threshold to be considered a “sales ready lead.”
At this point of hand off from marketing to sales, many processes shift gears to the customer relationship management (CRM) system as the focal point of activity where opportunity management, tasks, pipeline status and forecasting are maintained. This also is where the marketing’s role shifts from demand creation to supporting the sales process through sales enablement.
But too often, intentionally or unintentionally, marketing’s effort in sales enablement is akin to the ugly stepchild of lore. Marketing loves to focus on creating Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), but spends much less time ensuring that sales has everything they need to close those leads.
Sales representatives, meanwhile, are asking for more content and better tools to help them close sales. (And, yes, sadly, we realize that often the problem exists in the sales representatives not being able to find the great content that marketing creates.) Therein lies the bottleneck of the last mile.
The marketing team should take a “full funnel” view and have a keen interest in everything occurring at every point in the process. This is the promise of the revenue lifecycle marketer. Similar to the communications network, the amount of time, money, and effort expended to get to this “last mile” interaction is irrelevant if the sales representative is not prepared, doesn’t have the right content available, or is not making the most out of every sales pitch.
Crucial to completing the “last mile” is a sales enablement platform designed to deliver the most effective content to the sales representative for each individual sales opportunity and to engage the prospect via a compelling sales pitch that provides signals when it is viewed or shared. Wrapping all this together is a set of reporting and analytics that constantly informs the marketing team and sales managers of what content works best, where gaps exist, and how sales representatives are actually using the content marketing creates for “last mile” engagement.
Before marketing teams spend hundreds of thousands more dollars for incrementally more leads, they should fix the any bottlenecks they have in the last mile, and make their sales teams more effective closing the leads they spent so much money to obtain. Not only will this improve their conversion rates and ROI across all existing campaigns, but might, just might, garner a “Hey thanks, marketing! Nice work!” from the sales team.