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How To Create An Effective Service Level Agreement (SLA) To Improve Sales And Marketing Alignment

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks
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Service Level Agreement Sales MarketingMany organizations suffer a major problem where their sales and marketing departments sit in silos. The outcome is a slower follow-up of leads and a disjointed process of engaging MQLs. So how do you solve this?

Alignment between an organization’s sales and marketing departments is critical. But did you know that the Service Level Agreement (SLA) is an important way to achieve that alignment? The SLA is the document that builds trust and accountability between sales and marketing departments. It’s going through the act of building the SLA and readdressing the SLA every month in a meeting that builds the foundation for sales and marketing alignment. Without this document, your organization is susceptible to a decrease in the number of qualified leads and opportunities won.

The SLA

By nature, SLA’s are like contracts, such as incorporation documents or partnership agreements.

The most important parts of an SLA include:

  1. Establishing a timeframe for milestones and benchmarks
  2. Formulating a document that ensures trust, assuming everyone has met their end of the agreement
  3. Creating a standardized process of communication to see which amendments need to be made to the document.

Often, SLAs will sit in a drawer for a month. But every month, they should be revisited.

Unfortunately, according to SiriusDecisions only 43% of marketing and sales operations leaders have lead response SLAs in place, and most are not being governed; only 11 percent of survey respondents reported having jointly managed SLAs. Companies are often perplexed as to how to create an effective SLA, and don’t know where to begin.

But by following these four steps, you can quickly be on your way to developing your own SLA:

1. Elect a committee

The committee will be responsible for developing this document. The best committees I’ve seen have representatives from marketing, operations and sales enablement. These three groups are constantly looking at people, process and technology, so who better to craft the SLA document? They’re going to take both sales and marketing processes and put it all together. They are also going to define how leads are managed from lead response time, to how they’re engaged and what messaging both sales and marketing should use.

2. Determine deliverables and action plans

You need a template that is detailed enough to outline milestones, due dates, best practices, and the connections between sales and marketing. That’s the real value of an SLA. It’s not a high level contract. The SLA is a written document of what each department and individual is responsible for, their deliverables and due dates, and how they take their actions and transfer it to the next person along the factory line. So you need a template that details every single action, from the top of the sales funnel to the bottom of the funnel.

3. review process of marketing content creation

Starting at the top of funnel, look at the volume, velocity and probability of how often you’re creating content, how it’s being organized and distributed, and how it’s planned into quota attainment for the sales team. Ask yourself: How are these leads created? What is the timeframe of following up with these leads? How are they given to sales as marketing qualified leads? How often are they followed up on?

By taking care of small details like this, you’ll (1) iron out accountability, and (2) make the sales team a lot more comfortable that the marketing team will have a plan in place.

4. Establish Lead Response rates & Responsibilities

Great SLA’s recognize we’re on one team—team revenue—all one funnel, one pipeline. The document flows from the beginnings of creating the activity required to creating an original inbound lead to winning a customer. Sales is accountable for how many meetings they book, following up on meetings, distribution of leads, the sequence and touch points of a sales qualified lead turning into opportunities, and closed ones.

The benefit of the sales portion of the SLA is that Marketing feels that their hard work is being followed up by the sales team and there’s a real process in place.

At Sales for Life, we look at our SLA on the fourth Monday of every month. Everyone is responsible for documenting the amendments that need to happen on a monthly basis, and we discuss those amendments. The SLA has kept our business accountable for driving deal progression. In fact, 40% or more of the revenue that Sales for Life creates is driven through the process of the inbound marketing machine. Without the SLA, sales and marketing wouldn’t understand who’s responsible for what. 

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