As far as I can remember, the topic of marketing and sales alignment has been covered from the dawn of the blogosphere. It seems that every marketing and sales expert has offered their two cents’ worth into this topic.
We cover this topic somewhat unwillingly, but we know that any successful inbound marketing plan development debate would be insufficient without fusing marketing and sales into it.
After all, one of the biggest factors that contribute in setting up a scalable, revenue re-generating cash machine is the alignment of sales and marketing. Research clearly shows that well-aligned sales and marketing teams convert a higher percentage of leads into customers, achieve their goals more consistently, grow revenues much more quickly, and retain more customers.
The key factor that helps an organization align their sales and marketing team is the mutual service level agreement (SLA).
Companies who are already running inbound marketing strategy for their business understand the significance of sales and marketing alignment. So, if you truly want to be successful with your inbound marketing strategy, you’ll have to arrange your sales and marketing team around one shared goal – revenue generation.
Arranging your sales and marketing people around one shared objective of revenue generation is only one part of a sales and marketing service level agreement.
Mark Roberge, the CRO of HubSpot’s sales department, recently explained the main idea of a sales and marketing SLA:
THE SALES LEVEL AGREEMENT IS SIMPLY A CONTRACT BETWEEN THE SALES AND MARKETING DEPARTMENTS OF AN ORGANIZATION THAT ALIGNS COMMON GOALS AND INCLUDES COMMON TERMS.
FOR MARKETING PEOPLE, IT WOULD BE DEFINING HOW A LEAD HAS TO BE NURTURED BEFORE IT IS HANDED DOWN TO THE SALES GUYS FOR CONVERSION, AND THE TOTAL NUMBER OF SUCH TARGETED LEADS MARKETING GUYS HAVE TO GENERATE EVERY MONTH.
FOR SALES TEAM, THE SLA WILL DEFINE HOW OFTEN THE SALES REPS TRY TO MAKE CONTACT WITH A NEW LEAD GENERATED BY THE MARKETING DEPT, AND HOW MANY TIMES EACH SALES REP SHOULD CONTACT THAT LEAD.
While SLA would be definitely useful for any revenue-focused company, it’s especially valuable companies who proceed to boost the percentage of leads coming from inbound marketing.
Roberge goes on to warn, “If the sales and marketing department are managed separately, the system will surely fail. For organizations who wants to achieve significant growth and become industry leaders, it is crucial that sales and marketing groups be correctly integrated.”
So, how to go about creating a sales and marketing SLA that will correctly align your team members?
No training, technology and management trick in the world is going to magically create a cooperative relationship between the sales and marketing department.
If you want these two departments to work together on one common goal (i.e. generating revenue for the company), then you’ll have to make a firm decision to bring these two teams together.
As one common team, everyone has to accept on things such as: how will you find qualified leads, who will be responsible for different aspects of a business development process, and finally, how will you evaluate performance.
Here are 5 essential parts of a super effective sales and marketing SLA:
1. Alignment of the two teams around one common goal
Most sales teams are given a quota – a fixed number they have to reach at the end of each month or other set time-frame. Likewise, when you’re running inbound marketing for your organization, the marketing guys also needs to be held accountable for some kind of number.
Marketing’s quota could be measured through metrics such as leads, qualified leads generated through marketing, a percentage of revenue, or any other goals that are relevant to your business.
By setting up a numerical goal, teams from both sales and marketing department will be held accountable for generating desired results. They will more likely understand each other’s pressure of achieving their milestone, month after month.
2. Clearly defined terms for lead generation
The issues of balancing lead quality and lead quantity have always led to the rift between the sales and marketing teams. As marketing teams struggle to reach their proactive lead generation goals, obviously lead quality is compromised for quantity. Sales team becomes discouraged by the influx of low-quality leads, and eventually, the whole system fails.
Clearing defining the terms that both sales and marketing teams will use to monitor your business development process is a crucial element of any killer sales and marketing SLA. For example, you’ll have to clearly define criteria that must be met for a lead to become qualified for marketing, to be marked as sales qualified, and to become a sales opportunity.
Here are the minimum criteria that must be set for properly managing your lead lifecycle phases:
3. A clearly defined process for delivering leads from marketing to sales
With a steady influx of qualified leads for sales, you’ll have to ensure that you have right people and business processes in place to close that lead. What criteria will trigger the handing off the leads from marketing to sales? Is it high lead score? A particular number of conversions? Demo requests? Page views?
Also, you’ll have to figure out when unqualified, stale, and unresponsive leads has to be handed back to the marketing department for lead nurturing.
4. Open and honest reporting
Show your sales and marketing reports to all your team members as much as you can. Allow the marketing team get a closer peek at how sales are trending, and vice versa. When you do this, it will help you establish a result-oriented culture in your organization.
5. Regular clear communication and progress check-ins
Once you’ve established the sales and marketing SLA, it’s crucial that you hold a frequent meeting where both sales and marketing people can report on their progress. To start with, you can try holding a monthly recap and kick off meeting and one mid-monthly check-in. These meetings will help you set aside time to recap the quality of inbound leads generated by marketing guys, review the pressing questions and problems that leads are making, and discuss ideas to develop a better inbound lead generation and qualification method.
Key Points You Just Learned
- The best way to align the sales and marketing teams is to agree on a common SLA.
- Both the sales and marketing guys must be aligned around one common goal – i.e. generating revenue.
- Define each lead lifecycle stage clearly to make sure lead are appropriately handed off between sales and marketing departments.
- Show your sales and marketing performance reports to everyone in your company.