Should the logistics sales funnel be inverted?

Jim Bierfeldt

Jim Bierfeldt is the founder and chief strategist at Logistics Marketing Advisors, a marketing firm that helps logistics businesses define and communicate their value, and then translate that value into revenue.

The symbol of the funnel has been used for years to represent the custom acquisition process.  Lots of stuff comes in the top, and a small percentage falls to the bottom as new customers.

Logistics sales funnel inverted MECLABS Inverted Sales Funnel

The folks at MECLABS have a different view. They suggest that people are not falling into your funnel, they are falling out. Therefore, the sales and marketing funnel needs to be inverted, as in the accompanying MECLABS illustration.

The reason I like this twist is that it changes the logistics marketer’s mindset. It forces us to think more strategically about the process of lead management – the things that happen between the initial inquiry and final sale.

Gravity and the logistics sales funnel

With the traditional funnel, gravity works for you. It implies that the natural tendency of prospects is to fall toward the bottom. (Don’t you wish?!)

With the inverted funnel, gravity works against you. Prospects are actually making a difficult climb up the sides of the funnel, and the natural tendency is to fall out.

What causes them to fall out? You name it. Lack of time, competing priorities, your competitors, not enough information, lack of perceived value. These are the forces that logistics marketers need to overcome.

The other reason I like the “climbing” versus the “falling” funnel for logistics is that it more accurately represents the lengthy and difficult logistics sales cycle.

What is the role of marketing in logistics sales lead management?

We provide the “footholds” for the climb.

These footholds take the form of information. Our job is to guide prospects through their journey by eliciting a series of “yesses” along the way, providing information that answers their questions:

  • How can I solve for this problem?
  • Can I make a financial case for the solution?
  • Can I learn from what others have done?
  • Who’s out there that can help?

Note that not all the information marketers provide is selling information meant to close a deal. Just like the rock climber, if you try to get to the final destination too quickly, you’ll likely fail.

Be patient. Recognize that major strategic decisions such as outsourcing or software investments or large equipment purchases will only be made after careful consideration. Understand the journey from the prospect’s point of view and give them what they need to take the next step. Inbound marketing can help.

Provide the footholds. Heck, throw them a rope. It’s a climb.

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