One of your sales management goals for 2014 is to improve the sales and marketing alignment within your company. Previously, both departments have operated largely independently of each other, despite the fact that their goals were similar – to find more potential customers to sell to. However, you’ve since learned that sales and marketing alignment can take your sales results to the next level – and that alignment between the two starts with a Service-Level Agreement (SLA).
It takes more than just a handshake between you and your Marketing VP to complete an effective SLA. Here is a step-by-step process of how to set up an effective SLA that actually works and keeps both parties happy!
For more information about SMarketing SLAs, check out our FREE eBook: How to Create an SLA.
Write an Executive Summary
Your executive summary should answer one question: why are we doing this? Present your answer in a way that will be clear to your CEO and board of directors. Maybe you feel like marketing could do more to support the initiative and play a bigger role in growing revenue. Perhaps there is a lack of clarity in the handoff process of leads between sales and marketing. Whatever your reason for implementing an SLA to improve sales and marketing alignment, make sure this reason is clear to all parties involved.
Agree upon definitions for ALL terminology
This is one of the most crucial aspects of designing your SLA, precisely because there has been such heretofore disconnect between sales and marketing. Prior to this alignment, it is likely that both departments had different ideas and definitions of key terms, including:
What’s a prospect? Are these names collected from your website, via organic searches, or any other means of top-of-the-funnel activity? Odds are these people need additional vetting or nurturing from marketing before they are sales-ready.
What’s a lead? Typically, a lead is a prospect that has taken the next step and engaged with your company or your content in a way. In a word, leads are arm-raisers, people looking to learn more. However, make sure this is clear to both sales and marketing.
What’s a marketing-qualified lead? Now is when things get tricky. Companies typically have certain qualifications or steps that leads have to take in order to be marketing-qualified, such as signing up for a free trial or downloading X pieces of content. Finalize this definition and make sure it is known across the company.
Learn all about each other’s processes
This is most crucial for marketing – it is rare for marketing teams to be fully abreast of what the sales reps are doing to win clients, and vice versa. For instance, imagine if marketing knows what an ideal customer profile of a winning client looks like. With a fully-crafted image of an ideal customer, marketing can do a better job of actively seeking out these ICPs.
Or let’s say sales meets with marketing to share the objections they encounter most common. With these in mind, marketing can start developing campaigns and materials that anticipate these objections and solves for them, before the prospects even speak with a sales rep. Similarly, sales should understand the marketing process – such as how nurturing campaigns are run – to better time their own activities. Most importantly, both sides should determine if their respective efforts are synced up to the buyer’s process.
Let’s talk numbers
Of course, no service-level agreement would be complete without the relevant sales metrics in place. These metrics are necessary to give each team a goal to shoot for, while providing them benchmarks to measure their progress against. Some specific metrics to consider in your service-level agreement include:
How many sales-ready leads will marketing deliver each week / month / quarter?
How quickly will marketing follow up on each of these leads? Research has shown that immediate follow-up can lead to higher conversion rates – it’s on both teams to determine a follow-up time that is effective, while remaining realistic.
How much will marketing contribute to the pipeline? This is one of the most important sales pipeline metrics to ensure that sales is marketing is holding up its end of the bargain.
We’ll dive further into the relevant sales metrics of a service-level agreement in a future blog post.
Sales and marketing alignment is absolutely crucial to the success of both your sales and marketing departments, so don’t skimp on the resources; take the time and follow these best practices to ensure an SLA that is clear, concise and actually effective.