The Hatfields and the McCoys, Tom and Jerry, Coke and Pepsi… Let’s make sure sales and marketing don’t get added to this list of age-old rivals.
Sales and Marketing Alignment Doesn’t Have the Best History
It’s no secret that sales and marketing teams traditionally don’t get along. The friction typically goes something like this: The sales teams feels that the marketing team isn’t passing over quality leads, while the marketing team feels that the sales team isn’t properly following through on the leads it passes over. Of course this is just one example of many that illustrate the sales-marketing divide.
But one has to wonder why this friction has perpetuated itself for so long when having sales and marketing work in sync is key to growing the business and attracting new customers. In short, it’s because even though we all know that having sales and marketing at odds with one another is far from ideal, bridging the divide isn’t easy.
However, as we move into a new era in which digital reigns supreme, potential buyers are more informed than ever and sales cycles are increasingly longer, bringing sales and marketing together has never been more important. Fortunately, this alignment is also closer within reach than ever thanks to modern marketing automation technology that can integrate with CRM systems and help close the loop between sales and marketing teams.
As is the case with any initiative, technology is only one piece of the bigger picture. In this case, that bigger picture is full-fledged program that includes a marketing automation platform integrated with CRM as well as a program strategy and governance. And one key piece in all of that to help bridge the age-old divide between sales and marketing is a service level agreement (SLA).
Bridging the Sales and Marketing Divide with a SLA
Simply put, a sales and marketing SLA is an agreement between the two teams about what each will deliver to the other. For example, this SLA might include a goal for how many marketing qualified leads (MQLs) the marketing team will generate each quarter, how many of those leads the sales team will qualify and convert to opportunities and so on.
The goal of this type of sales and marketing SLA is to better align the two teams by ensuring they follow the same processes and work toward a common, agreed-upon goal. By providing this alignment, the SLA should help mend the relationship between sales and marketing and provide several business benefits, including improved conversion and drop off rates, as a result.
How to Develop a Sales and Marketing SLA
Developing and enforcing a sales and marketing SLA is definitely a big undertaking, but the benefits are well worth the effort. This process includes several steps that we can break into two different phases:
Phase 1: Get Everyone on the Same Page
Getting both teams on the same page is a critical first step in developing a SLA. As part of this phase, you need to:
- Allocate responsibilities: Who is responsible for what? A lot of this might seem obvious (e.g. marketing is responsible for generating new leads and nurturing those leads), but it’s essential to formally record this information and get buy in from stakeholders on both sides.
- Introduce a common lead scoring model: Lead scoring is an important piece of any marketing program as it sets thresholds for key events, such as when leads are ready to be passed from marketing to sales. However, lead scoring is only effective if everyone uses it in the same way. Therefore, it’s important that you not only develop a lead scoring model, but also ensure this model is standard for all sales and marketing users.
- Define your target leads: What does a quality lead look like for your organization? Once again, this might seem like an obvious question, but formally documenting the answer and having everyone agree on it can go a long way toward easing tension between sales and marketing. As you go through this process, you may very well find that each group has different ideas about what functions and roles are the best leads to target.
- Align processes: Sales and marketing might operate as two different teams, but the output from one directly impacts the input to the other, and that means their processes need to be aligned. This alignment should cover the process for handing off leads from marketing to sales and passing back leads from sales to marketing who are not quite ready and require re-engagement from marketing.
- Develop shared terminology: Everyone might be following the same processes, but if each group has different terminology for the same things, wires will get crossed and those processes will break down. As such, you need shared terminology to make sure everyone communicates clearly with each other.
Phase 2: Work Toward Defined and Common Goals
Once both sales and marketing are on the same page, you can then begin working toward a set of defined and common goals. As part of this phase, you need to:
- Set goals for each team: Based on the responsibilities you allocate to each team, you can set goals. For example, you might set a goal for your marketing team to generate a certain number of MQLs each quarter and a goal for your sales team to convert a certain number of those leads to opportunities each quarter. Whatever your goals are, each team’s should be complementary to the other’s and each team should have insight into the other team’s progress toward reaching their goals.
- Set up a reporting model to track progress: Once you set goals, you need a reporting model to regularly track progress toward achieving them. This reporting should make it easy for each team to see where it stands against its goals at any time so that they can adjust their efforts as needed.
- Regularly review your SLA: Finally, you need to regularly review every part of your SLA — both the foundational alignment and the goals and reporting — in order to make sure it evolves with your business. Should you find the need to make any changes, it’s essential that you clearly communicate these changes to and gain buy in from stakeholders on both sides in order to maintain alignment.
Create a Strong Foundation for Growth
A closely-aligned sales and marketing engine can be a powerful tool for growing your business. By improving the relationship between these teams, you’ll very likely see better output from much of the same input, since marketing should have a clearer understanding of what sales is looking for and sales will have better insight into what marketing is passing over.