In an inbound world, the traditional separation between marketing and sales is quickly dissolving. To be successful, companies need a singular business development approach that includes multiple teams and functions. Service level agreements (SLAs) have become a recognized solution to the disfunction that often plagues the relationship between marketing and sales. But what's really involved? What's included in an SLA, and how do you make sure the agreement is meaningful on a day-to-day basis? In today's video blog, we provide an overview of the keystone elements that ensure a service level agreement successfully aligns marketing and sales toward unified goals.
Transcript - Start an SLA by Understanding Your Leads and Prospects
The most important elements of a Service Level Agreement (SLA) are, first defining what a marketing qualified lead looks like. So identifying:
What are the vertical markets you’re going at?
What are the different dimension of the business?
So, it’s really demographically identifying so that both parties understand clearly, this is what a great lead looks like.
For the sales-qualified dimension, it’s understanding what are the behaviors that sales and marketing both agree are indicators that somebody is ready to be engaged as a prospect—that they want to talk. And that’s going to vary. That’s why it’s really important that marketing and sales have a dialogue.
Marketing shouldn’t assume that two visits to the website says that a lead is sales-qualified and ready to act. A sales manager might respond by saying, “oh, no no—that’s not sales qualified. Sales qualified is when they look at the pricing page and they ask for a demo, and they send their boss or their peers to the website. That’s sales qualified.”
So, it’s really important to have the discussion, so that both parties are hearing the other and listening and learning from each other. That way, marketing can lock down on what they’re trying to deliver in terms of marketing- and sales-qualified leads, so sales gets exactly what they’re looking for.
An SLA Should Define Action Steps for the Sales Team
The other piece of it that’s really important is agreement on what are the action steps that sales is going to take with a lead. For instance:
How quickly are they going to respond?
What kind of information are they going to provide the lead with?
How many times are they going to contact the lead?
Through what channels? Are they going to email, call, send a text?
Whatever the process is, sales needs a responsible protocol that’s prenegotiated for how they should act. And what happens after they go through the protocol? So, what happens if they’ve gone through all these steps after a period of 60 or 90 days, and they got nowhere—they made no progress—what should they do then? That’s something you need to agree upon up front.
Mutually Agreed-Upon KPIs Make an SLA Operational
And the final area that’s really important to a marketing and sales service level agreement is to build mutually agreed upon key performance indicators. Both parties in the agreement need to look at what they’re measuring and agree that those are the proper indicators for making progress and that they’re successfully performing their roles. So, sales and marketing each need KPIs that they’re accountable to the other for and accountable to the broader organization.
Posted by Greg Linnemanstons
With 18+ years in senior management roles at Fortune 500® and medium-sized companies, Greg has deep marketing and sales experience with CPGs and manufacturing. He leads strategic initiatives with clients and is involved in developing client inbound marketing plans. Greg holds an M.B.A. from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and a B.A. in Economics from Lawrence University.