Alright, let's jump straight to the punchline...then we'll work to unpack it.
According to Wikipedia...
...a service-level agreement (SLA) is a commitment between a service provider and a client.
So, what does an SLA have to do with sales and marketing teams?
Well, think of each team as the other's customer. Marketing serves sales by delivering leads. Sales serves marketing by doing something with those leads—contacting them or returning them to the marketing team.
But, if either sales or marketing doesn't have a clear understanding of the other's expectations...
How can sales and marketing possibly be expected to please each other?
How can you hold a team (or individual) accountable if you never sat down in the first place to agree upon what's expected?
This is where a sales and marketing service-level agreement can save the day!
Before we talk about the ins-and-outs of how to create an SLA, let's talk about what's been long-broken between marketing and sales teams—spoiler alert...
What's missing is sales and marketing teams alignment.
Imagine this (or, maybe you've actually lived it)...
Marketing is asked (told) to generate as many new leads as possible for a new product or service. They cobble together (and embellish) a case study, put it behind a form, and start sending Google and LinkedIn Ads traffic to it.
And, what do you know...it works! The leads starting trickling in.
Sure, a bunch of them are using @yahoo and @hotmail email addresses (a pretty good sign they're people's junk mail), and a few are from another country...but they're leads!
After cleaning out those that have selected "1-49 employees" for the "Company Size" question (we happen to be looking for 50+ employees) the marketing team excitedly pushes these leads into the sales team's "Qualified Leads" pipeline and get's back to work.
A week goes by and Matty from Marketing runs into Sammy from Sales...
Matty: "Hi Sammy! How about all those leads we've been sending you guys? You starting up any good conversations?"
Sammy: "Hmm? No, not really. None of them seem like they're ready to buy right now."
Matty: "Oh no! That's what they're telling you when you call?"
Sammy: "Well...no. We haven't actually called any yet. From what we can tell none of them are really asking to talk yet. I mean, they didn't fill out a "contact us" form or anything...looks like they just downloaded a case study."
Swoosh goes the wind from Matty's sail. All their hard work down the drain.
Crash goes the confidence that Sammy once hoped to have in his marketing department.
Hmm...sounds like these two were misaligned from the beginning!
Marketing and sales teams work toward the same goals (in theory). But, many departments fail to truly work together to establish expected behaviors and real objectives that will bring those goals to life.
On the surface, marketing professionals develop a prospect list, but sales professionals develop customer relationships. Each department plays a distinct role in lead development and customer acquisition.
But these initiatives should not be siloed.
So, how to we bring sales and marketing expectations into alignment?
Taking a true Revenue Operations approach is the real, long-term answer. A good place to start down this path is by defining a service-level agreement.
Service-level agreements (SLAs) commonly support vendor relationships, but they can enhance in-house activities, too.
And, here are the steps you'll take to make it happen with...
If you don't already have buyer personas defined—and I mean truly defined—not just "we sell to doctors who need stethoscopes", then...
First, Download this buyer persona template
(comes with content funnel instructions too. Bonus!)
...and set a meeting for both the sales and marketing teams to hash through one or more personas together.
Do not do this by passing it back and forth through email over the course of a week. That's a sure-fire way to never actually finish it. It will quickly become deprioritized and will drift to the bottom amongst the other muck and mire in your crowded inbox.
Sit in a room (or on a Zoom call) for 2+ hours together and get it done!
Once you agree on who your buyer is, and how much you're willing to spend to acquire them, start drawing up each team's commitments to the other. If you can both visualize the other's needs (and the WHY behind them) you can start to empathize with the other team. And, empathy and share outcomes are the DNA of true alignment.
Pro tip: Think about the end goal. The real goal. I would recommend it not stop at new revenue. It should be to create real fans; customers that love to sing your praises and even love buying more from you. That's when you will have created a tribe of humans who love to support you with ongoing revenue. Thinking this way can sometimes unlock creative ways of drumming up good leads.
Here are some commitment ideas to get your brain chugging...
Don't stop there. Get creative. Get smart.
You are actually going to create a document that outlines the agreement and you're going to sign it.
And, you're going to print it out and hang it on your cubical (or bedroom-turned-home-office) wall. And, so is the other team.
Furthermore, you're going to adhere to it and hold each other accountable to it in regularly scheduled meetings (at least once a month).
If there is a secret sauce at all...this is it!
Don't just do the exercise and then throw it in a drawer. As cheesy as it may feel, actually commit to using it. Just like writing down personal goals, or creating a mood board for a redesign...
The act of signing the SLA and visualizing it every day does something magical
...and who doesn't like a little magic from time to time?
Pretty straightforward, right.
Want a free sales and marketing SLA template?
Okay. Here you go.
Download this FREE SLA Template for Sales and Marketing Teams
(courtesy of our friends at HubSpot)
When you bring sales and marketing into full alignment you:
When sales and marketing teams understand each other and work well together, businesses can finally start understanding the entire customer lifecycle—from Strangers to Raving Fans of your brand.
Don't snooze on this.
The time is now.
Go, download that buyer persona template, schedule a "Smarketing" meeting, and get sales and marketing aligned—once and for all!