Working together to meet company goals can be difficult—especially when internal teams aren’t on the same page. In the new age of marketing, it takes more than just teams doing what they’re supposed to do—it takes alignment across the board—which may require documentation in the form of a Service Level Agreement.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
This proverb applies to virtually any teamwork setting, but is often overlooked when it comes to the collaboration between separate departments within an organization.
From my experience working with many organizations over the years, it seems to be especially true regarding sales and marketing teams (see our post about the Future of B2B Marketing where we cover this).
The Battle between Marketing and Sales Teams
Typically this disconnect happens because the teams are misaligned—which comes from a lack of clarity around expectations and commitments. When expectations aren’t clear, marketing teams start to believe that the sales reps are not meeting their revenue targets, and sales teams think the marketing teams are not providing enough qualified leads. From there, things spiral out of control, leading to the organization missing out on many new customer opportunities.
The solution is not to fire both teams and start over, hoping morale will be improved. The solution is to clearly communicate company goals, and assign roles and responsibilities to each team in order to achieve those goals. To do this, we recommend creating Sales and Marketing Service Level Agreements.
What is a Service Level Agreement (SLA)?
In simple terms, a Service Level Agreement is a partnership agreement or a contract between two parties, which defines the level of service expected from each. In this case, your internal marketing and sales departments will function as the two parties.
SLAs are specific and goal-oriented, and they establish a timeframe for all deliverables. Once an SLA is in place, both teams can trust that everyone will understand their responsibilities correctly and will honor their commitments. If they don’t, it will be apparent who dropped the ball, and corrective action can be taken.
How does an SLA work?
Statistics from HubSpot show that 25-50% of all organizations do not have a SLA for their marketing and sales teams—even though companies with good alignment between their departments achieve, on average, 20% revenue growth annually.
Now that you know aligning sales and marketing can contribute to the healthy growth of your company’s revenue and profits, it’s time to see the details of how a Service Level Agreement works.
An SLA will:
- State your business goals, using the SMART approach. It defines clear, measurable, time-oriented goals, which are then broken down into smaller steps, making it easier to visualize the entire process.
- Explain who counts as a contact and lead, what is a marketing or sales-qualified lead, and describes the stages of the sales funnel.
- Define your ideal buyer personas so you know who to target, and how.
- Identify the number of leads marketing needs to generate to meet sales goals.
- Establish a protocol for managing leads based on their stage in the sales funnel. This agreement shows when a lead gets passed from marketing to sales, and whether this is done automatically or manually.
- Determine how fast the sales team should follow up.
- Mention how the marketing team will notify sales about leads, and how the sales department will return leads to marketing.
- Establish how many emails and calls should be made for each lead, and when.
- Detail the lead nurturing workflow, and show the right time and approach for nurturing a potential customer. This prevents your employees from being too aggressive and losing valuable prospects.
- Rate leads to facilitate the identification of the most appropriate follow-up strategy.
- Measure KPIs and help identify growth opportunities.
Is an SLA Actually Beneficial?
What a Service Level Agreement actually does is keep everyone in the loop. It makes sure you’re not losing potential customers due to a lack of communication between departments. With this document in place, you can be sure that once the leads generated through inbound marketing efforts are sales-ready, they will be contacted by the sales team, who will then close the deal.
If you feel you’re not converting enough visitors at the moment—or that your leads aren’t properly managed and too many potential customers are lost in the sales funnel—it’s time to get your sales and marketing teams aligned and embrace this proven approach.
To help you align your sales and marketing teams, we’ve put together a FREE Excel worksheet that will guide you in creating your own Service Level Agreement.
Download it here.