Align Sales and Marketing with a SLA

by | Sales Enablement

Historically, Sales and Marketing teams have typically butted heads. Sales doesn’t like the amount or quality of leads generated by Marketing, and Marketing doesn’t like when Sales follows up slowly or without enough research.
It’s important to remember, however, that Sales and Marketing are actually part of the same team, and that team can be more successful if they work together—like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Would you eat a PB&J if it were constantly fighting with itself? Didn’t think so.

But Sales and Marketing alignment, or Smarketing, can supply your company with more benefits than just delicious sandwiches. Research shows that companies with strong alignment between Sales and Marketing see 20% annual revenue growth! Compare this to companies without a strong alignment, who tend to see a 4% annual decline, and you might just want to implement Smarketing in your organization.

So How Do I Start Smarketing?

If you’re asking yourself this question (and you should be), here’s the answer: Sales and Marketing alignment starts with a Service Level Agreement between Sales and Marketing.
A Service Level Agreement, or SLA, is just that—an agreement between your Sales and Marketing teams, around a common goal, with clear definitions of what each side will contribute. By creating an SLA within your organization, and by keeping it fresh and up-to-date, both Sales and Marketing will always know what they need to do to reach their goal and how close they are.
But despite all this, research indicates that anywhere from 25-50% of organizations don’t have an SLA between their Marketing and Sales teams. This means that 25-50% of organizations aren’t seeing that extra 20% revenue growth that’s possible when you align Sales and Marketing.
Do you fall in that percentage? If you do, Smarketing is the way to go—so let’s get started on that SLA.

What Do I Even Put in My SLA?

Another great question to ask! Though there’s no cut and paste formula for an SLA that will guarantee results for every company, as every company is different, there are some key component every SLA should cover. Here’s a quick rundown.

1. Goals 

Clearly defined, measurable, time-oriented goals, to be specific. Do you want to increase revenue by $500,000 before year-end? Or what about by 15% before the end of the third quarter? Write this into your SLA and unite your Sales and Marketing teams around it. By having a common objective, your teams will be more inclined to work together. Additionally, how many Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) will Marketing provide to Sales to reach this goal? And how quickly and frequently will Sales reach out to these leads? Write these down too.

2. Definitions

When does a visitor become a lead? After filling out a form? When does a lead become a MQL? After a certain number of downloads or after they read a certain number of blogs? And when does an MQL become a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)? After requesting a demo or after reaching a certain lead score? Agreeing upon clear definitions of terms like these will prevent misunderstandings between Sales and Marketing, and will prevent leads being handed off too early or too late.

3. The Lead Handoff

When does a lead get passed from Marketing to Sales? Will you implement a lead scoring threshold in your marketing automation software that passes them automatically after they rack up a certain amount of points? Or will you manually pass them over when they request a demo or consultation? And when, if ever, will Sales hand a lead back to Marketing for more nurturing? It’s critical to handoff leads at just the right time, right when their interest in your product or service is at its peak—your Sales team and bottom line will thank you.

4. Lead Nurturing

How will Marketing move leads through the Buyer’s Journey, through the sales funnel? What content offers and what CTAs will be used for this nurturing? It’s important to have great content for every stage of the Buyer’s Journey, and to gather more information about your leads as they download this content (information which should be passed on to Sales).

5. Lead Management

So how will Sales engage with leads? And how soon? Will Sales contact leads over the phone or by email? Just as with Marketing, it’s important to develop an organized game plan for Sales to ensure that leads or opportunities don’t slip through their fingers.

So Are We Done Once We Finish Our SLA?

Well no, not really. In fact, Sales and Marketing alignment isn’t just an item on a check list that’s completed with a SLA. It’s important to maintain regular communication between your Sales and Marketing teams. Keep your SLA up-to-date; hold monthly meetings around your Smarketing efforts. Your business, your competition, and your customers will always change, and so should your SLA.
The sooner you get started on your SLA, the sooner you’ll be able to see that 20% annual revenue growth (and those delicious PB&Js).

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