May 23, 2017

7 Steps to Leveraging an SLA for Marketing and Sales Unification

5 min read

Written by: Adam Kinsella  |  Share:


If you've ever worked in marketing or sales you might have experienced what can sometimes be described as a contentious relationship between the two departments. This past week we held a Webinar on leveraging SLAs to bridge the gap between the two teams and move further toward unification. It featured an awesome panel of New Breeders including:

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To best understand why and how each part of an SLA enables marketing and sales unification, we highly recommend listening to the webinar in fullBut if time is short, we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide reflecting the process we used to create our Service Level Agreement. Along with insight into how a company, in this case New Breed, actually operates within an SLA. Let's get started!

1.Build your Buyer Personas

For teams that work in siloed departments, it's quite possible they're working to capture two entirely different types of leads. The sales team might define a qualified lead as one type of individual, while marketing might think the definition of a qualified lead is someone else entirely. The case for buyer personas, according to Olivia Perek, is that —

"Buyer Personas leave no room for interpretation. That way, both teams can focus on the right individuals while also improving the buyer's journey by providing a holistic experience with consistent messaging."

To determine New Breed's ideal buyer personas, we leverage a combination of demographic and firmographic information. This info is based on data we've collected from prospects and customers, along with conversations with our Inbound Advisors regarding the roles, industries and company sizes that are the best fit for our services. We then build this information into our form strategy so we can know a prospect's persona as soon as possible. 

2. Define Lead Stages

Naming conventions are important for every marketing activity, but especially so when it comes to defining lead stages. Set a meeting with your full sales and marketing teams and ask — what is an MQL to your team? What actions or characteristics define an SQL? Hopefully you'll find these working definitions to be similar across teams, but you might come to see that they're vastly different. As you work to standardize these stages, flow the finalized definition into your SLA. That way, everyone will remain on the same page going forward.

At New Breed, we leverage a very process driven approach. Lifecycle stages (lead, MQL, SQL, Opportunity) are used in combination with a Fit and Interest Matrix that we call Marketing Status. Fit and interest help us to better define which types of leads the sales team should be following up with and establish priority. Fit refers to the target industries that have proven to be in our wheelhouse. While interest is gauged based on the amount of interaction a prospect has had with our content, along with several other digital body language factors. These Marketing Status stages are as follows:

  • Good fit, interested (the very best leads - follow up quickly)
  • Good fit, less interested (marketing team will nurture to stimulate interest)
  • Bad fit, interested (outside our ideal buyer personas, but a smaller solution could still be sold)
  • Bad fit, not interested (sales will never receive these leads)

3. Establish a Set of Unified Goals

Marketing and sales are already working toward the same goal — generating new customers. But by further distilling that goal into an actual revenue number for the collective team, each individual will have a better understanding of where to spend their time in order to make the most impact. This revenue goal can then be used to get your reporting structure in place, define the KPIs you'll need to report on and the growth stack to get you there.

Download our Marketing Goals Calculator Template to find out just how many  contacts you need at each stage of the funnel.

New Breed arrives at our unified goal by starting with a revenue target and then each team is measured on contribution to that bookings goal. We use benchmark data from Hubspot and SiriusDecisions along with our own historical data to set that target amount each month. Our legacy conversion rates enable us to see how many customers, opportunities, SQLs, etc. we'll need down the funnel to meet that goal. Everyone's efforts are then aligned to the areas that are needed most.

4. Define Marketing and Sales Handoff

Once you defined lead stages and revenue goals, you should begin to define when and how a lead should pass between marketing and sales. Without this process, it will be extremely difficult to measure lead velocity or make progress toward your goal. We recommend using a lead handoff automation process within your Marketing Automation platform to notify and send over qualified leads from marketing to the sales team. Otherwise, leads tend to get stuck and marketing is unable to progress them any further down the funnel.

At New Breed, we use a round robin lead rotation based off of certain criteria in our SLA. We then use that same criteria to route each lead to a sales team member, with various types of notifications based on lead stage to inform which prospects they should follow up with right away.

5. Establish a Lead Managing Protocol

Without a clear definition of responsibilities, leads will inevitably fall through the cracks. In the past, marketing held very distinct marketing activities and sales had very distinct sales activities. But now, who's responsible for lead generation? Who's responsible for nurture at the top of the funnel? Who's responsible for nurturing sales qualified leads?

As part of your Service Level Agreement, determine each stage, what the responsibilities are at that stage and who should be responsible. At New Breed, marketers are geared toward top of funnel activities including lead generation, initial MQL qualification, etc. An MDR is next down the funnel, and is responsible for performing additional research to further qualify MQLs into SQLs and ensure they're a good fit to schedule the lead a call with an Inbound Advisor. The Inbound Advisor is then responsible for creating proposals to address an opportunity's needs and ultimately close them at the bottom of the funnel.

6. Track and Measure Performance

Attribution models can be the bane of a marketer existence, but are necessary to gauge the performance of each team member's efforts. At New Breed, we use a time decay multi-touch attribution model that applies more weight to a touchpoint that occurs closer to a sale. According to Guido Bartolacci, if he were to generate a lead with a paid search campaign and that lead ultimately became a customer, he would receive a 15 percent split for his efforts. Meanwhile the Inbound Advisor who closed the opportunity would get an 85 percent split, as his efforts were much closer to the opportunity closing. 

In order to accurately track this attribution, we rely on our growth stack consisting of HubSpot, SFDC, and InsightSquared. Patrick Buono breaks down how we use our growth stack as follows:

"HubSpot marketing automation is in place to track particular assets that our marketers use throughout their initiatives down the funnel and throughout a lead's lifecycle. Salesforce is used to assign tags and track the movement of dates between a standard object. SFDC then tracks the lead and related opportunity to see which marketer's have assisted the opportunity closing. Those tags are what's ultimately used to assign splits to individual team members. InsightSquared is a great addition because it provides transparency to individuals and team goals, so everyone always knows where they stand."

7. Review SLA Over Time

Be sure to assess each of the above steps, at the very least on a 6 month basis. It's extremely important to take a proactive approach, but reactive reviews are often necessary as well. Here are a few indicators that your SLA is in need of a review:

  • low lead to MQL conversion rate
  • Low MQL to SQL acceptance rate
  • First-response lag time ratio is less than two day

An SLA should be dynamic. Nothing stays the same over time, as is true with most Inbound Marketing activities. Take a moment to bring all of the team together to review and ensure your still fully aligned. 

how to leverage SLA for marketing and sales unification

Topics: Inbound Sales, Demand Generation

About The Author

Adam is a Senior Web Strategist at New Breed with a focus on inbound best practices, conversion rate optimization and web strategy.

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