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Roughly 87% of sales and marketing leaders say collaboration between sales and marketing enables critical business growth. For the business to grow, the folks in sales and the folks in marketing must collaborate with each other. Whether that collaboration actually takes place is another matter entirely, of course.

The challenge for many businesses is that they fail to document what this collaboration should look like. And because they lack a documented plan, they fail to see the collaboration that they so earnestly desire.

The solution is a service level agreement (SLA), one that gets your sales and marketing teams working together to meet your revenue goals. Here’s how to use an SLA to align your sales and marketing teams.

 

Sales + Marketing = Smarketing

The process of aligning your sales and marketing teams is called smarketing. The primary goal of smarketing is to get sales and marketing to use an integrated approach to meet the same goals, typically revenue goals or sales targets.

Smarketing is designed to align sales and marketing messaging and activities so that buyers have a seamless experience with a brand through every channel. Smarketing requires sales and marketing to adopt a common terminology, share data and metrics throughout the sales cycle, and share a common view of buyers at each stage of the pipeline.

A service level agreement, of course, is a documented commitment between a service provider and a customer that describes what the service provider will deliver, when, how, where, and so on. An SLA is all about setting customer expectations. It describes what the customer should expect from a vendor, includes metrics that both parties will use to measure performance, and includes remedies or penalties that the vendor should expect if they fail to deliver on the documented service levels.

An SLA between your sales and marketing teams isn’t a legally binding document the way that a traditional SLA is legally binding. But it services the same functions. It describes what sales will do for marketing, and what marketing will do for sales. It describes how, when and where collaboration will take place. It establishes KPIs that both teams will use to measure performance. And it describes ways to remedy problems.

 

Why Sales and Marketing Teams Need an SLA

There’s a good reason that 87% of sales and marketing leaders say collaboration between sales and marketing enables critical business growth. Because they have learned the hard way that failure to collaborate means failure to execute. When sales and marketing aren’t aligned, the business suffers.

If you want to discover the reasons you need an SLA between your sales and marketing teams, just talk with either team. They will freely share the pain they experience when working with their peers on the other team.

Talk with sales, and they will say:

  • “The leads that marketing gives us aren’t qualified.”
  • “We never know what content or sales assets marketing is creating.”
  • “We don’t know how to access the customer behavioral info in the marketing automation platform.”
  • “Marketing doesn’t gather customer information from the CRM.”
  • “Marketing doesn’t witness sales interactions with customers.”

Talk with marketing, and they will say:

  • “We never know what sales is sending out.”
  • “We don’t know when the handoff from marketing to sales should happen.”
  • “Sales doesn’t use the content we create for them.”
  • “Sales says all they want is sales, but they seem to forget that without leads to convert to sales, nobody wins.”
  • “Sales works in their own little silo and never share results with us.”

 

Benefits of Aligning Sales and Marketing with an SLA

When your sales and marketing teams get into the same boat and start rowing in the same direction at the same time, good things happen. When they start working together based on a documented SLA, they generate results that they can never generate when working at odds with each other. Here are a few of the benefits of creating an SLA.

Increased transparency: When sales and marketing share goals, share processes, share resources, and share results, both sides win as a result of the increased transparency.

Improved collaboration: Collaboration between sales and marketing rarely happens on its own. It must be nurtured and encouraged. A documented SLA provides the agreed-upon roadmap for this increased collaboration.

New solutions: Increased transparency plus increased collaboration soon leads to new solutions. When sales and marketing sit down regularly to discuss common obstacles, challenges, roadblocks, and setbacks, this leads to new ways of doing business that advance the business for all concerned.

Improved understanding of the entire customer lifecycle: Marketing calls it a funnel. Sales calls it a pipeline. Marketing calls them leads. Sales calls them prospects. Marketing cares about filling the funnel at the top. Sales cares about meeting quota at the bottom. One of the primary benefits of a documented SLA between sales and marketing is that it gives each team a better view of the customer lifecycle. This improved understanding helps both teams improve the experience that buyers have throughout their buyer's journey.

Engaged buyers: Speaking of buyer journeys, when you align sales and marketing, your buyers notice. When an SLA describes a common language for the buyer's journey, and when it describes how sales and marketing are to collaborate at each stage of the pipeline, buyers win by getting the best from both teams. They engage with marketing content, and they engage with salespeople, more easily and effectively.

Increased revenue: When sales and marketing work from an SLA towards a shared revenue goal, they are more likely to reach—and surpass—that goal than they are by working independently. SLAs make sales and marketing more efficient with their time and resources. They get both teams working towards hitting the same target. Greater alignment leads to greater revenue. 

 

What an SLA Between Sales and Marketing Should Include

An SLA between sales and marketing is all about setting expectations. It spells out in black and white how both teams will work together, and what each team can expect from the other. The best SLAs are realistic, practical, and specific. They lay out a repeatable process that can be measured, tracked, and assessed for long-term results. Here are the things your SLA should include:

Summary

One or two pages that summarize the entire SLA so that each team sees at a glance what is expected of them in the partnership.

Goals

Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely goals.

  • Goals of the sales team
  • Goals of the marketing team
  • Shared goals

Marketing’s Commitment to Sales

A detailed description of the activities that marketing will carry out to ensure that the collaboration is successful, such as:

  • Create buyer personas
  • Document the buyer's journey
  • Track and share KPIs
  • Educate buyers
  • Nurture leads
  • Keep marketing messages consistent
  • Share customer feedback
  • Create sales enablement assets that help sales win deals
  • Communicate freely about workflow, challenges, and wins

Sales’ Commitment to Marketing

A detailed description of the activities that sales will carry out to ensure that the collaboration is successful, such as:

  • Share sales results
  • Share insights into buyer behavior
  • Communicate freely about workflow, challenges, and wins
  • Keep marketing up to date on marketplace dynamics
  • Tell marketing which content works and which content doesn’t
  • Share buyer feedback

Communication

  • List the primary people in each team who will communicate with the other team
  • Describe how the two teams will collaborate and share results
  • Schedule when the two teams will collaborate and share results
  • Agree upon definitions for vital things, such as:
    • Contact
    • Lead
    • Prospect
    • Marketing Qualified Lead
    • Sales Qualified Lead
    • Stages of the buyer's journey
    • Stages of the sales pipeline

Remedies and Consequences

  • Describe how disagreements are to be discussed, negotiated, and resolved
  • Describe the consequences if both sides fail to meet a shared goal
  • Document how and when the SLA is to be reviewed
  • Describe when and how the SLA is to be revised or canceled

 

Conclusion

Are you committed to aligning your sales and marketing teams? Put that commitment into writing with an SLA. With both teams working from a documented SLA, you increase buyer engagement, create a better go-to-market strategy, increase revenue, stay ahead of your competitors, and reach shared goals sooner. If you want to see what this looks like in real life, watch an instant replay of our webinar, Proven Methods for Aligning Your Sales and Marketing Teams.