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5 Tips for Creating an Effective Service Level Agreement (SLA) for Marketing and Sales Functions

Steve Surdez

The proper alignment of your marketing and sales personnel is critical to lead generation and producing higher closing rates. But how does a business achieve strong synergy between these two functions that are often at odds with one another?

Here are 5 tips for creating an impactful SLA, which is your roadmap for sustainable marketing and sales success.

Communicate Honestly

First, get everyone in a room together. If it takes a few days of painful meetings, so be it. Leadership, marketing and sales need to have a frank conversation about their respective pain points, needs and wants.

Without honest communication an effective SLA cannot be created. This meeting or series of meetings might be chippy, with various team members airing grievances, but whomever is the designated moderator must steer the conversation away from complaints and get group consensus on solutions.

Define Language and Terms

You'd be very surprised how often we come across a business that has trouble defining the most essential of terms: a lead. Marketing believes a lead to be this, sales thinks a lead is that and the whole marketing and sales process gets disrupted by confusion over this one simple word.

To create your SLA, marketing, sales and leadership team members need to clearly define the following:

  • Target Audience and Leads. Set clear parameters for what a lead is and when an individual or company officially becomes a lead to be pursued. Define the proper target market, demographic profile for individuals, revenue criteria for businesses, and general requirements for moving the lead on to the next stage of the process.
  • Lead Rejection. It's not good enough for a marketing or sales team members to just say a lead is not qualified. Build a requirement into the SLA that forces justification of deeming a lead unqualified.
  • The Sales Funnel. Work together to carefully map out your organization's sales funnel. What stages should a lead move through, what are these stages called, how long should they take? The SLA should leave no doubt about your marketing and sales process and all parties should be on the same page about what happens when and how.

Set Goals

Friction and dysfunction between marketing and sales often stems from a lack of clearly defined goals. For sales, hitting or exceeding quota is always there. Even for companies without an SLA, the sales team always has clearly defined goals for sales. This is not a question.

Friction comes into play when the goals and rules for accountability are not on an even playing field.

For your new SLA to last and be effective, goals must be established for sales and marketing.

Building in accountability across both functions, and not just placing the burden on sales making quota, is critical to a successful SLA that creates marketing and sales alignment.

Choose Your "Final Boss"

Having an SLA and enforcing an SLA are two different animals. The SLA is only a piece of paper. Complex human beings must make it work. While your initial meetings to shape the SLA were democratic, someone needs to be put in charge of accountability.

Enter the "final boss".

Whether this person is your vp of marketing and sales, head of operations or simply the most senior member of your marketing and sales team, they need to be given full power of enforcement should the SLA fall to the wayside or if team members fail to reach their respective goals.

SLA Content Should Change But Remain Simple

Your SLA should not be a sprawling 25 page document. Keep it to a few pages. Keep it simple and direct. And understand that the SLA will need to be reviewed periodically to accommodate shifting business priorities or market conditions.

The SLA will evolve with your business, the composition and size of your marketing and sales teams and because of a variety of other factors.

Treat your SLA like a living, evolving document and it will continue to help your business grow.

So, there you have it. Five basic tips to create, implement and sustain your service level agreement. Metrics tracking and CRM best practices also play a critical role in determining marketing and sales alignment, but that's a topic for another day.

In the meantime, reach out to Illumine8. We'd love to hear what you have to say about SLAs. Contact Us!

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