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The “Last Mile” In Selling

by David Brock on April 22nd, 2018

In the old days of telecom, the days when telecom was dominated by landlines, one of the most important strategies had to do with the “last mile.”  (Actually, much of the conversation around net-neutrality is today’s version of the last mile.)

The “last mile” was more figurative than literal, but it focused on who controlled the access to the home or business.  Whatever service provider that owned that “last mile” relationship really controlled the majority of the revenue opportunity from the customer.

There’s a similar concept in selling.  As we look at many of our sale enablement strategies, it seems the goal is to provide all the answers to the the sales person, for every situation they are in.  We script them, we are very prescriptive in exactly what they do in each situation.

But increasingly, our people are struggling in their conversations with customers, that last mile, where each individual, each organization, each situation is unique.

We can’t possibly give our people all the answers to deal with every situation they face engaging customers.  We can get them most of the way with training, tools, content, scripts, but there will always be that last mile.

Ironically, this is the most critical part of the customer engagement process.  It’s the ability to engage each individual, in each organization, for each situation, in meaningful, impactful and differentiated ways.  It’s in these unique encounters that we create our greatest value and differentiation.

It’s how we engage these customer, helping them navigate through their being process, but each process is unique, so we have to be nimble enough to adapt what we do, how we engage to align with the customer and their buying group.

These are the last mile moments that happen every day for every sales person.

But what are we doing to equip our people to deal with these last mile moments.  We can’t script them, we can provide the content that “magically” enables the sales person to deliver just what they need.

Equipping our people with the ability to figure out what to do, how to deal with each of these unique situations is critical to growing our people and enabling their success.  Curiosity, problem solving, active listening, critical thinking are all skills that contribute to the sales person’s ability to successfully navigate that last mile.

What are your sales enablement organizations and managers doing to equip sales people to win the last mile?

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2 Comments
  1. Dave, excellent metaphor and outstanding post! There is so much focus on creating the “coin-operated” salesperson from mass produced “insights” to robotic messaging and scripts (I’ve been considering writing a post on that and now maybe I will), and not enough emphasis on in-conversation sales judgment, deal strategy, etc.

    What I wonder is are the things you mention in your post (curiosity, problem solving, active listening, critical thinking) skills that can be taught or innate attributes? I’d love your thoughts on that; maybe when we talk next!

    Again, great post!

    • Don, great question. These are actually teachable attributes–and a lot of the best examples come from elementary school education. If K-12 students can learn these things, then certainly sales people can—maybe I’m demeaning the K-12 students with that comment 😉

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