Goals are everywhere. Most of the time, they are easy to agree on at a high level. Football teams agree the goal of playing a season is to win a Championship. Students know they are working through school to earn a degree. Goals are in everything. They drive organizational growth. They help us grow as professionals.
And in Business, some teams who work closely together have very different goals. And this can create tension (not always healthy) between Sales and Marketing teams especially. Sales wants as many great leads as they can get their hands on. Marketing wants to generate those leads and ensure they get the credit they deserve. It's easy to see that the most successful organizations have clarified the alignment between Sales and Marketing. This is almost always due to a structured and intentional focus on collaboration.
One key element of this collaboration is developing a service level agreement (SLA) between sales and marketing. The goal of the SLA is to ensure the effective handling of qualified leads. This blog post explores the importance of creating a Digital SLA. Alignment between your sales and marketing teams makes it easier for both to achieve their goals.
I. Defining A Quality Lead
Defining a qualified lead is essential to ensuring your marketing and sales teams are on the same page. This is a focal point for Sales teams. They don’t want to spend hours each week working on leads that aren’t ready to buy. They want to work with conversion-ready leads. Some channels serve up a higher volume of sales-ready leads. For example, a large percentage of inbound leads that come from your website are typically sales-ready. While Trade Shows offer an opportunity to capture a high quantity of leads, a lower percentage of this audience is conversion-ready. So having a Digital SLA for each unique channel is also key.
A qualified lead from each channel meets its own specific criteria. At Trade Shows, this might include a prospect with the following criteria. A defined budget, a current need for the product or service, and the authority to make purchasing decisions. Alternatively, a lead that is not sales-ready could look like this - A prospect in your booth that is entering the awareness phase of the buyer’s journey. Defining a qualified lead in each channel will improve the efficiency of the lead handoff process.
II. The Lead Handoff Process
The lead handoff process is often overlooked in smaller volume channels. But it is crucial in every channel! Timing is crucial in this process. Send a lead to sales too early, and you risk wasting precious time or burning up an opportunity to take a prospect through the buyer’s journey. Hand the lead off too late, and the lead may have already moved on to a competitor. Marketing can work with sales to determine the appropriate timing for delivering qualified leads. This is almost always an output of the lead qualification criteria. Adding this to the Digital SLA is key, especially if your team can visually display this to key stakeholders.
III. Working Qualified Leads
The next component in the Digital SLA is the timing expectation for MQLs. Once marketing has triggered a lead as marketing qualified, and that lead is sent to Sales, it's up to the sales team to follow up promptly. Sales reps should have a process for working with qualified leads, including follow-up timing and methods of communication. In addition, working with marketing to automate the outreach process and timeline for qualified leads can help ensure sales reps reach out quickly. Creating a
IV. Creating a Service Level Agreement
Creating an SLA between sales and marketing can help improve team communication and collaboration. An effective SLA should include the definition of a qualified lead, the lead handoff process, and lead follow-up expectations. Here's an example SLA between marketing and sales:
- Definition of a qualified lead: A qualified lead is a lead that meets the following criteria: budget, product need, and job title to make purchasing decisions.
- Lead handoff process: Marketing will deliver qualified leads to sales within 48 hours of qualification.
- Lead follow-up expectations: Sales will follow up with qualified leads within 48 hours of receipt. If outreach to a lead does not happen within that time frame, it will be returned to marketing for further nurturing, and the sales manager will acknowledge that sales are not owning this lead.
V. Implementing the SLA
Open communication between sales and marketing ensures the SLA's effectiveness. Regular check-ins and training sessions will keep both teams on the same page about the agreed-upon processes. An effective SLA can help improve sales and marketing alignment and increase sales success. Tips for introducing an SLA:
- Use Data to Define Qualified Leads: It's important for marketing to listen to sales on what constitutes a qualified lead. You can use data and analytics to define your ideal customer profile (ICP) and identify the key characteristics of your target audience. Focus on industry, company size, job title, and pain points. By clearly understanding your ICP, you can ensure marketing captures conversion-ready leads.
- Align Your Metrics: Marketing and sales should have a shared set of metrics they are tracking to evaluate the success of their efforts. This can include metrics like conversion rates, pipeline velocity, and revenue the channel generates. By aligning your metrics, you can ensure that both teams are working towards the same goals and have a shared understanding of what success looks like.
- Invest in Sales Enablement: Sales enablement tools and resources can help sales reps work more efficiently and effectively with qualified leads. Marketing can play a role in providing sales with the right content, training, and tools to support their efforts. Investing in sales enablement can help your sales team close more deals and achieve their quotas.
- Communication is Key: Effective communication between marketing and sales is critical for success. Both teams should have regular check-ins to discuss lead quality, lead handoff, and follow-up strategies. Additionally, marketing should be open to feedback from sales on the quality of leads they are receiving and should adjust their efforts accordingly.
By following these tips and working closely with sales, marketers can create an effective SLA for capturing and working conversion-ready leads that help increase sales success and achieve business goals.