Let’s not sugarcoat it. Historically, marketing and sales teams haven’t always “played nice” in the sandbox. Marketing blamed sales for not following up on and closing enough leads. Sales blamed marketing for the lack of quantity and/or quality of the leads generated through marketing efforts. And round and round they went.

To overcome the proverbial bad blood, thought leaders are emphasizing higher levels of sales and marketing alignment. With that comes the idea of a documented service level agreement, or SLA, between these teams which defines mutual key performance indicators (KPIs) for generating new leads, opportunities and customers, as well as how leads are nurtured and converted.

And while there’s a lot of chatter on the benefits of having an SLA, there’s one reason in particular that makes it absolutely critical to an organization’s success in 2017 and beyond: Measurability.

Don’t get me wrong. Service level agreements provide a number of benefits. Overall alignment between marketing and sales optimizes messaging and defines each team’s level of interaction with leads and customers, both of which are highly valuable. But these are actually byproducts of the real benefit, which is the ability to track and evaluate the number of leads generated, whether those leads are sales-ready and the likelihood that sales-ready leads will convert into customers.

And without an SLA, you simply can’t do it with a high degree of accuracy.

According to Hubspot’s The State of Inbound 2017 report, of those companies with SLAs, 81% said their marketing strategies were effective. Furthermore, 59% of marketers and sales teams with SLAs rate leads from marketing higher than those without SLAs in place.

On the flip side, organizations without SLAs were often disconnected in how they measured lead quality. When asked which source provided the highest quality of leads, marketing leaders overwhelmingly said they came from inbound marketing practices whereas salespeople pointed to leads that were directly sourced by sales teams.

So, yes, having an SLA is a big deal and needs to be a best practice. But what’s the best way to establish them? For many organizations, crafting a practical SLA is essentially a three-step process.

How to Create a Service Level Agreement

  1. Bring both sides to the table. Review and measure key metrics such as the percent of revenue that comes from marketing- vs. sales-generated leads and lead-to-customer close rates. Use these metrics to establish goals for the number of desired marketing- and sales-qualified leads.
  2. Define the process. Once you have established KPIs, measure your lead criteria against historical data to determine when and how leads are handed off throughout various points in the buyer’s journey, so that each lead is serviced appropriately based on the lead’s fit and interest level as a potential customer. Assign scores to each lead and measure how they change over time.
  3. Track and optimize. Create dashboards and measure overall and individual success and opportunities for improvement. Create a culture of continued testing and learning, and continuously evaluate your approach as a collective unit.

By creating an SLA, marketing and sales teams can interact with customers the same way that leads demand to interact with brands—with fluidity and on a one-to-one relationship. And perhaps then we all can align sales and marketing strategies begin to play a little nicer in the sandbox.

Would you like additional details on creating an SLA to align your sales and marketing teams? We can help. Simply contact us, and we’ll get back to you to learn more about your marketing goals and how we can play a part.

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