How to Align Sales and Marketing Teams with SLAs

Align your sales and marketing departments by developing a service level agreement (SLA) that outlines a measurable process.

August 18, 2016

  • Sales-Marketing-Alignment-SLA

In an increasingly buyer-centric sales climate, the alignment of sales and marketing is more important than ever. In the real world, however, most businesses break down and miss opportunities at this crucial intersection.

Though it’s not an absolute cure-all, one surprisingly effective step towards long-term alignment is developing a service level agreement (SLA)—a measurable, structured, documented process for sales and marketing teams to follow together. Once the SLA is developed, your organization can unlock sustainable growth that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

The Benefits of Bringing Sales & Marketing Together

In order to engineer a smooth, effective B2B sales process, it’s critical that you plug any possible gaps. Unfortunately, many of these gaps seem to occur between sales and marketing. In most organizations, marketing is often caught up in the process of generating new leads, while sales aims solely at closing deals.

In truth, both teams should have the same essential goal—to find the ideal customer and sell to them. Yet many deals are lost because of a disconnect between these teams that are kept in separate silos.

Though most companies are aware of this disconnect, they quickly find it’s a stubborn problem that’s not easily fixed. This is partly due to breakdowns in communication, which can be partially solved through meetings between sales and marketing leaders. However, as Doug Davidoff, CEO of Imagine Business Development, writes, “while talk and will power can improve results in the short run, structural change is required to sustain the effort.” In other words, most attempts to align sales with marketing fail in the long run because there’s no process that can be measured and monitored—which is where the SLA comes in.

Developing a Service Level Agreement (SLA)

An SLA between sales and marketing must be many things, but perhaps most importantly, it should lay out a repeatable process that can be tracked and assessed for long-term results. Though developing an SLA will require the time and effort of both sales reps and marketing leaders, it’s well worth the investment. According to HubSpot’s annual report on inbound marketing and selling, maintaining an SLA leads to greater ROI, greater budget allocations for teams, and higher demand for sales.

In order to achieve these goals, begin by gathering sales and marketing leaders together. From there, both sides should agree on an ideal buyer, a shared of understanding of a “lead,” and an effective process for handing off leads. All goals should be mutual and measurable. For example, marketing may agree to hand off a specific number of leads to sales, who in turn will agree to follow up on those leads by a certain date.

Of course, all goals should be realistic and tailored to the organization. Finally, leaders should determine a method for tracking and regularly reviewing the process to ensure that it’s functioning well for everyone involved.

Defining Your Ideal Buyers

It’s no mistake that one of the first steps to codifying an SLA is for sales and marketing to agree on an ideal buyer. Though both teams direct their efforts toward potential customers, they’ll only be effective if they have a shared understanding of who their targets are—and in many organizations, they don’t.

Social selling practices—like following prospects’ interests and learning more about their needs through warm introductions—can provide insights to both teams that will help to bridge the gap.

For more tips on chipping away at the disconnect between sales and marketing, download our eBook on Solving Sales and Marketing Alignment.