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First Mile goes extra mile so no customer goes to waste

Jessica Twentyman Profile picture for user jtwentyman February 19, 2015

Are they hot - or not?

That’s the question that field sales staff working for London-based recycling company First Mile ask about every sales prospect they meet as they visit shops and offices around the capital each day.

If that sounds dubious or unprofessional, don’t worry: they’re simply scoring that person on how likely they are to sign up for small-business recycling services, not their physical attractiveness. In other words, it’s all about propensity to buy, not pulchritude.

There are clear parallels here with modern-day dating apps like Tindr, as CEO Bruce Bratley laughingly admits - but the First Mile app is producing solid business results.

Field sales workers carrying iPad Minis use the app to submit a ‘warmness’ score for each prospect as soon as a meeting is finished and the results feed directly into First Mile’s customer relationship management (CRM) system.

When a ‘hot’ prospect is identified - one that scores an eight, nine or ten - an open case automatically pops up on the desktops of First Mile’s office-based sales team, who then follow up immediately with a phone call to the would-be customer, with the intention of sealing the deal.

‘Cooler’ prospects, meanwhile, are lined up in Salesforce for a range of post-meeting marketing activities over subsequent weeks and months, ranging from email newsletters to invites to compliance seminars. Says Bratley:

This kind of ‘drip’ marketing is absolutely huge for us. We recognise that not every small business is ready to sign up for our services the first time they’re approached by one of our field sales staff. We’re happy to be patient. What we want to do is start a dialogue - without inundating them - so that when circumstances change, we’re the first people they think of and, hopefully, the first company they call.

But when a prospect is clearly hot for First Mile, there’s no time to lose in a highly competitive market. This used to be a problem for First Mile, says Bratley, in the days when the field sales team - a casual workforce of self-employed people, often actors, musicians, stand-ups and artists, working between gigs - was sent out on visits equipped with nothing more sophisticated than paper and pens:

They would bring their feedback into the office a few days later, or sometimes a week later, depending on when they were next scheduled to work, and the details would be manually entered into Salesforce. If they’d met a shopkeeper or an office manager who was really keen, we might miss out on that sale because, by the time we contacted the customer, they’d have found another solution, such as buying pre-paid recycling bags from the local council.

The extra mile

What’s perhaps most impressive is that the app cost just £5,000 to develop and was built in six weeks - but, at the same time, it’s quadrupled field sales return on investment (ROI) by 400 percent. The idea came to Bratley at Salesforce’s November 2013 Dreamforce conference, at which the vendor launched its Salesforce1 mobile platform. Just over two months later, First Mile launched its app in late January 2014. Bratley says:

We’d been a customer for around five years at that point, and a satisfied one, but [the Salesforce1 launch] marked the first real opportunity for us to tackle the mobile challenge in a really cost-effective way.

This mobile app is now enabling us to have much wider and deeper reach with customers, both existing customers and prospects. We’re talking to many, many businesses at any one time, as they move through the sales pipeline and, once they’re signed up as customers, we still need to keep in touch with them, to make sure they keep ordering, because recurring revenue is the nature of our business model.

Using the app, the First Mile field sales team has become a far more effective ‘bridge’ to these customers, collecting up-to-date information on their changing recycling needs and feeding it straight back into the company.

The app, meanwhile, is helping their day-to-day work to become more productive for them and the company. It runs in conjunction with another app from the Salesforce AppExchange, Geopointe, which allows First Mile to ‘geofence’ customers and prospects.

Each morning, the marketing team sets up an iPad Mini for each member of the field sales team that will be working that day, which provides them with a map of the area of London they’ll be scouting that day. This includes details of businesses they should visit to assess as prospects, marked with a pin on the map, as well as pins denoting of existing customers.

These existing customer details serve two purposes: they enable field sales staff to avoid people who have already signed up for First Mile, naturally, but they also enable them to show a prospect how many neighbouring businesses are already using the company’s services:

The app is a huge competitive advantage for us. It’s easy for businesses to sign up for recycling services and plenty of our competitors run field service teams, too. But we’re the ones who stay in touch, who take an interest in them beyond an initial conversation. We’ve already got 13,000 customers, but we’re keen to have more - and the customers we already have like it that we commit to building a relationship.

Disclosure: at time of writing, Salesforce is a premier partner of diginomica.

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