A 10-Point SLA for Sales and Marketing


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Some things just don’t change. In the case of Sales vs. Marketing, the ‘disconnect’ or dysfunctional system has worsened in many organizations. We see it and hear about it all the time. We have previously analyzed why sales people don’t follow up on the leads provided by marketing. With the growing focus on inbound marketing and digital media, here are the most common complaints from both parties:

  • Sales feels: “Marketing is spending too much time and money on branding exercises and creative campaigns under the guise of “relationship marketing”. What they are really doing is playing around with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other channels. They are using the increased number of page views, Likes and Followers to prove that they are getting results. But it doesn’t prove anything and these numbers don’t translate into leads!”
  • Marketing feels: “Sales is always dropping the ball. They don’t follow up on the leads we generate – they lose time and don’t convert. Our efforts are going to waste.”
  • Sales complains that Marketing does not generate enough volume of leads and many of the leads they are given are not properly qualified; hence they cannot close.
  • Marketing complains that Sales does not give any feedback on lead generation programs and quality of leads; hence they cannot identify and fill the gaps.

B2B organizations challenged by this scenario of “point fingers”, “pass the buck”, “fling the blame” need an agreed and accepted SLA (Service Level Agreement) between their Sales and Marketing departments. Based on research done by HubSpot, organizations that have succeeded in aligning Sales and Marketing benefit from 20% annual revenue growth. On the other hand, the large majority of organizations that have still not aligned these two critical functions with a documented SLA, experience a 4% drop in revenue. In another study by SiriusDecisions, B2B organizations with tightly-aligned marketing and sales achieved 24% faster revenue growth and 27% faster profit growth over a three-year period.

In a coordinated effort to drive greater revenue, your Sales and Marketing teams should collaborate to develop an SLA that both departments buy into. How will you go about this process? Here is a handy checklist.

Defining a Sales and Marketing SLA—10 Essential Points to Cover

  1. Define Common Goals: In order for Sales and Marketing to work cohesively, the teams must share common goals. By defining these shared goals, you can ensure that all parties understand their roles and contribute towards achieving those goals. Typically, most companies will only focus on the numbers. However, customer experience, customer retention, brand reputation are also worthy goals that lead up to financial growth.
  2. Assign Revenue Quota: Mark Roberge, author of “The Sales Acceleration Formula” says that because both departments are equally accountable for leads, sales and revenue, Marketing and Sales should be put on a revenue quota. Watch this video of a talk he presented at Google where he explains this idea.
  3. Make Sales and Marketing Accountable: While numbers are an easy measure of revenue contribution, you also need to ensure accountability from all parties for your overall lead generation programs. From finding the right lead, to nurturing with an omni-channel strategy, to progressing a buyer through various stages of the sales funnel, to closing, to ongoing customer relationship management; it is an endless process that requires sustained effort.
  4. Agree on Universal Definition of a Lead: Is a MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) the same as a SQL (Sales Qualified Lead)? It should be! Both teams must agree on what defines a qualified lead that is ready to be nurtured and holds high potential to be closed.
  5. Determine Criteria for Lead Scoring: Do you have a set process, an effective mechanism or even an automated system to assign lead scores? This can be done easily within your CRM.
  6. Decide on the Ideal Lead Handoff Process: Once you have a good lead scoring process, you can then agree on the ideal point of handoff—what score does a lead need to reach before Marketing can hand it over to Sales. You also need to think about what happens if a lead does not convert. It should not go cold and die. Determine once again, what score makes a lead ready to be handed back to Marketing by Sales for further nurturing. Remember that the B2B sales cycle is longer and not necessarily confined to being transactional.
  7. Communicate the Workflow of Every Lead’s Journey: The purpose of a step-by-step lead nurturing process by Marketing is to ensure that as a lead passes through every stage, there is an appropriate call to action, attractive offers and a greater level of interest generated. However, this progression must be communicated to Sales so they can also follow the buyer journey and jump in at the right time—not too early and not too late.
  8. Detail the Plan for Lead Management: Both teams need to agree on how a qualified lead will be managed. Will Sales have a minimum number of attempts they must make to directly contact the lead? Will Marketing take their hands off or continue to nurture the lead even after it has been handed over to Sales? There is no single formula and that is why you need to figure out the details of this plan in a customized SLA for your company.
  9. Get a Fix on KPIs: Both teams must understand and focus on the Key Performance Indicators assigned to them and also recognize that there will be some overlapping KPIs. After all, if you are working towards a shared goal, how you perform towards achieving that goal will also be common on various parameters.
  10. Review and Refine SLA: Just like your lead generation strategy, your Sales and Marketing SLA also needs to be revisited regularly to see what’s working, what’s not. Make changes to maximize results and improve overall lead generation and conversion rates.

How is your B2B organization working towards achieving Sales and Marketing alignment? Do you have an SLA in place? If yes, is it working well for your company? What steps are you taking to break down the silos and enable seamless flow of information and resources throughout the enterprise?

I look forward to hearing from you, so please leave me a comment. If you would like to receive updates and information about B2B lead generation, please click here. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


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