Do Your Sales and Marketing Teams Need an SLA?

Written by Charlotte Powell
on February 27, 2018


Sales and marketing alignment is a key outcome of implementing a Sales Enablement solution, but (sadly) it isn’t simply a question of choosing a Sales Enablement tool and then sitting back to watch your sales and marketing teams bond. The technology will give you a platform, but it can’t do all the work for you. You need to specify your goals and how you expect to achieve them.

So, with the importance of Sales and marketing alignment in mind, do your teams need an SLA (Service Level Agreement)?


What is an SLA?

An SLA is an agreement between a service provider and customer that, as the name would suggest, guarantees a certain level of service. You probably already have one in place for your customers, but there are benefits to bringing an SLA in-house. Making a two-way commitment between sales and marketing could bring about all kinds of benefits. But what would a sales/marketing SLA look like?

It’s simple really. Marketing promises to deliver a certain number of leads. Sales promises to contact each of those leads within a certain time frame. Together, the two departments then become jointly accountable for delivering on your company’s revenue goal. A shared revenue goal is a great team-builder.


Tightly aligned sales and marketing teams 
benefit from 36% higher customer retention rates

Marketing Profs


One dream, one goal

One of the typical reasons for the misalignment between sales and marketing teams is that they are working towards different targets – not just different amounts of money, but entirely different end products. Sales is, and always has been, quota-driven, while marketing is most likely working to achieve a set number of leads.

Converting marketing’s lead-generation goal to a revenue-generation goal using a little bit of backwards math (how many Marketing Qualified Leads are needed to achieve $x revenue?) brings the two departments’ targets into alignment and ensures that marketing is passing on the best possible leads, which should in turn create better quality sales opportunities. The upshot? Increased revenue.


When sales and marketing sync,
companies are up to 67% better at closing deals

Marketo’s 2013 Sales and Marketing Alignment Study


Ok, but how do we meet the terms of the SLA?

First things first, the SLA needs to be realistic. It’s no good expecting marketing to deliver thousands of leads each month if that’s not feasible for the industry you’re in. Perhaps start by taking a look at your average lead generation figures and use that as a baseline. You can always adjust the numbers as needed.

Likewise, if you want sales to contact every new lead within hours, you need to deliver those leads at a sensible rate, i.e. not all in the first week of the month. Speed is definitely a factor though – remember that you’re not the only company chasing new business.

Setting SMART goals can help you eliminate the guess work and have achievable goals.

The SLA is unlikely to be perfect from the outset and will probably develop as your Sales Enablement process develops, so be prepared to revisit it from time to time.


How do we maintain a constant stream of high quality leads?

Continuously delivering high quality leads is one of marketing’s main objectives. If this is an area you’re really struggling with, it’s time to have a long hard look at your process to work out what is actually happening. If you can pinpoint which areas of your output – for example, white papers, ebooks, newsletters, or even a particular blog post – are generating the most/best leads, then you should be able to determine where to spend your time/money going forward. (It's worth noting that the advent of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will likely change the way marketing has previously counted leads, but as we mentioned in a previous blog, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

When you’re under pressure to produce a constant stream of new content it can be tempting just to keep doing what you’re doing, regardless of how well it’s working, but honestly it’s better to take a breath to rethink than it is to waste time on resources that aren’t giving back.

A final note: if you’re getting a lot of poor quality leads, examine your messaging. It could be that you’re not being clear enough about what you offer. Good content will generate good leads.


How does sales make the most of those leads?

In an aligned organization, marketing’s job doesn’t stop with the lead handover. Marketing can also be involved in lead conversion by providing sales with the best content to support a sales conversation. This is where your Sales Enablement Platform comes into its own. Marketing doesn’t have to sit on sales’ shoulder to help out with this stage; they simply have to create the right content for every stage of the buyer journey and load it onto the Sales Enablement Platform.


Making content easily accessible gives sales
31% more time to focus on selling



What if sales rejects marketing leads?

There are going to be times when sales and marketing disagree over the qualification of a lead, and indeed times when a salesperson fails to meet his or her part of the SLA and may try to blame it on the quality of the lead coming through. For these situations, an objective team that contains neither sales or marketing people should exist to review rejected leads and either demand sales follow up or examine why marketing thought they were qualified.


Close the loop

The SLA is a great Sales Enablement device and a way of making sure that both sales and marketing are invested in the same goal. To keep up the momentum built by the SLA it’s worth holding regular sales and marketing meetings to reinforce the commitments each department has made, better get to know each other and learn to work together. Highlighting the achievements made will encourage the continued team work. 


Do you have an SLA in place? We’d love to hear from you!



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