A Service Level Agreement (SLA) between sales and marketing is a written agreement - a contract of sorts - that outlines a common goal and the expectations of each team in helping to achieve that goal.
In short, it breaks down the silos and creates an aligned marketing and sales effort that’s efficient and effective in driving revenue.
As the buyer’s journey has become more complex due to the internet, the line between marketing and sales has blurred. For the two teams to improve ROI, productivity and ultimately, company growth, they must break down the barriers, take a shared view of the modern buyer’s journey and build a bridge toward collaborative efforts that roll up to one top-line goal.
Why Implement an SLA?
A HubSpot survey found that aligned sales and marketing departments achieved 20% revenue growth on average annually, while companies whose marketing and sales departments worked in silos (whether intentionally or unintentionally) saw revenues decline by 4%.
Ask yourself if you have heard any of these challenges within your own organization:
“Sales doesn't know what marketing is creating.”
“Marketing doesn’t know what sales is sending out.”
“No one knows when the lead hand-off is from marketing to sales.”
“Sales doesn’t know how to access the customer behavioral info in the marketing automation platform.”
“Marketing doesn’t gather customer information from the CRM nor witness sales interactions with customers.”
“Sales says the leads from marketing aren’t qualified.”
If so, your organization can benefit from an SLA that clearly outlines the role marketing and sales each will play in achieving a single goal.
For example, your SLA may say the marketing team agrees to deliver a certain number of sales qualified leads (SQLs) or opportunities to sales each month, while your sales team agrees to contacting these SQLs/opportunities in a certain timeframe.
How Will an SLA Enable Sales to Sell More?
Sales enablement, as defined by HubSpot, is the technology, processes, content and training that empowers sales teams to sell efficiently, at a higher velocity. In other words, sales must have the right information (content) and tools (technology) to engage the modern buyer at the right stage of the buyer’s journey to sell more efficiently at a higher velocity.
However, the vast majority of the time, the content and digital tools that sales reps need lie solely in the marketing department, while the sales process and lead scoring method were developed solely in the sales department.
This is where your SLA comes into play. Collaboratively, the teams outline the technology, processes and content that is needed to hit the desired goal.
In fact, a 2018 HubSpot marketing survey found that when sales and marketing departments use an SLA as a commitment to support one other, 65% of these companies saw a higher return on investment from their marketing efforts.
The SLA becomes the documentation that aligns the two teams and outlines the technology, processes and content sales needs to sell more.
An aligned sales and marketing team is one of the biggest opportunities companies have for improving business performance today, yet many don’t know how to implement it.
The Components of an SLA for Sales and Marketing
Your marketing and sales teams both need to understand their role in achieving the revenue goal. Implementing an SLA is the best way to bridge the gap between the two.
The components of an SLA may include:
- An SLA mission statement
- Creation of an insights team, its purpose, members and responsibilities
- Lead generating tactics and goals
- Sales goals
- Metrics to track, monitor and how to report progress
- Lead evaluation using a good fit matrix
- Lead definitions
- Lead scoring
- Lead management procedures (hand-off, response times, etc.)
- A collaborative content strategy and content process
- A content resource library
- A team coaching and training plan
To create an SLA, you’ll likely need these metrics:
- Average conversion rate from lead to opportunity
- Average conversion rate from opportunity to closed sale
- Average value of a sale
- Average sales cycle length
With these metrics, you can calculate how many SQLs marketing will need to deliver to hit the company revenue goals. However, it’s important to note that not all leads result in the same revenue for a company. You may want to narrow in even further by determining the value of each type of lead delivered to sales.
Your SLA agreement could then be based on marketing delivering a ‘lead value’ that has a monetary basis versus marketing delivering a numerical number of leads.
Teams can be held accountable to the SLA through activity logs, tasks and data reports in your CRM and marketing platform. Include in the SLA exactly what needs documented in your platforms and then analyze those regularly, not only for SLA accountability, but to also see trends in the sales cycle, efficiencies and opportunities.
The Result of an SLA
An effective SLA should align sales and marketing and naturally support sales enablement. Here are just a few of the benefits you should see with an SLA in place:
- Sales connects with higher quality prospects.
- Sales has digital content to demonstrate expertise and show credibility.
- Sales has the online tools to respond quickly and effectively.
Improved Decision Making
- Sales and marketing share buyer behavior data.
- Sales and marketing share lead/sales conversion data.
- Sales, marketing and leadership are aligned.
- Sales and marketing drive toward the same revenue goal.
- Sales sees a decrease in the sales cycle.
- Marketing sees an increase in ROI.
Learn more on establishing an SLA in our guide Build A Bridge Between Sales & Marketing: How to Increase Sales Productivity, Marketing ROI and Top-Line Growth.