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Where Most Sales Ops Projects Fall Apart

The fields of logistics, transportation, telecommunications, and utilities all experience a similar phenomenon that has come to be known as “the last-mile problem.” In a nutshell, the last-mile problem is the fact that in any journey, the very last mile is the most complicated and expensive.

That might not make a lot of sense from the point of view of a single person going on a trip. If you’re on a basic car ride to grandma’s house, every mile is pretty much the same whether it’s at the beginning or the end of the trip.

But it’s very different when you are operating at scale.

Take a big retailer like Amazon, for example. First, they place a big order for a large quantity of a particular item. That big order gets put on a ship or a train for delivery to a warehouse. It sits in the warehouse until someone orders an individual item, which gets loaded onto a semi-truck and delivered to another loading area. Finally, it ends up on one of those Amazon vans that brings it right to your house.

The most inefficient and expensive part of that journey is the last leg that happens on that van. In fact, it’s typically more than half of the total shipping cost for the item.

There’s a similar problem with mass transit. It’s really efficient to move large groups of people by plane, train, or bus from one heavily populated area to another general region. But getting each individual to the particular place in that region they want to go, is just not as easy or cost-effective.

It’s the same thing in telecommunications, where it’s really efficient to lay big cables that carry lots of data, electricity, gas, or water from one region to another. But the last mile that connects individual houses to the main line is much more expensive per person that is benefiting.

As you’re probably starting to guess, we see a very similar last mile problem in sales operations.

The last-mile problem in Sales Ops

For any sales ops team, the most difficult part of most initiatives is the last step – getting the sales team to actually implement what we have put into place. In fact, if an initiative is going to fall apart, this is where it typically happens.

In many cases, the sales team just doesn’t see the value of the sales ops proposal. Even though the sales ops team may have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars getting everything off the ground, the sales team just doesn’t get why it might be helpful. And worse, they might view the sales ops team as a bunch of paper-pushing administrators who don’t really have much to contribute.

For obvious reasons, this can be really frustrating for sales ops. And because they aren’t sure how to fix it, they often take the approach of just hoping that sales will eventually come around and see how awesome their idea is.

Unfortunately, this approach rarely works.

Instead, we recommend that sales ops take proactive steps to build their relationship with sales ahead of time. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of sales listening to what sales ops has to offer.

There are lots of different ways to improve the relationship between sales and sales ops. One of our favorite is for sales ops to fix a problem in another part of the company that has been a pain point for sales. In a lot of ways, sales is at the mercy of what happens in other departments like product development and marketing. And when the other teams aren’t doing their jobs well, that can be exasperating for sales.

Sales ops is in a position where we can see some of the process inefficiencies in these other teams. By making suggestions for how these other teams can improve their operations, we can solve some big problems for the sales team and set ourselves up as a key ally.

We cover a lot of other techniques that can help build your relationship with sales in Building Sales Ops’ Credibility with Sales. You might also want to check out Managing Successful Sales Ops Projects and Why Sales Ops Initiatives Fail.

Solving the last-mile problem can be very difficult, whether you are in logistics, transportation, telecommunications, or sales ops. But tackling the problem strategically can yield big improvements, which in turn, sets your entire organization up for greater success.

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