The Perfect SLA: 7 Key Considerations to Include

By Lauren Inggs - February 19, 2016

struto-the-perfect-sla-feature.jpgSales and marketing teams, along with those who manage them, are no strangers to conflict and rivalry. Marketing tends to think Sales is squandering the leads they've won through hard effort. Sales is of the opinion that if Marketing would just send through better-qualified leads, they'd be able to do their jobs properly. The truth is neither team is in the wrong.

It's natural for competition to exist between your Marketing and Sales departments. Their respective roles within your business are more intertwined than either side would like to admit, making them dependent on one another's efforts if they want to avoid failure and reap the rewards of great success.

That said, it's a dependency that neither of them will likely be willing to work on initially, and one which will take some strong managerial input to guide towards a harmonious and lucrative relationship. The key to unlocking this almost mythical state of being between your departments is quite simple - it's all about creating the perfect SLA.

What's an SLA?

An SLA, or service level agreement, is drawn up by an intermediary detailing the responsibilities, targets, vision, accountability and goals of each team. The aim of this agreement is to unify both teams in common goals and help them understand the responsibilities they need to be accountable for in order to boost both their and the other team's success. By putting a well-constructed SLA in place, you can ensure peace and improved collaboration between your teams, all of which benefits your business as a whole. And according to HubSpot's State of Inbound 2015, having an SLA has some serious performance perks for your business.

So what defines a solid SLA?

The Criteria Every Great SLA Needs to Include

1. A Clearly Stated and Shared Goal

Improving collaboration and communication between your sales and marketing teams starts with creating a common goal both teams can unite to achieve. Defining this goal and conveying it to your teams acts as a guiding light for them - just make sure you create a goal that embodies SMART principles.

2. Defined Term Definitions

What defines a lead? Who constitutes a contact? What are the steps that lead to a stage? Ask sales and marketing teams and you'll get different answers every time. The problem with this is that it breeds misunderstandings, all of which works against your goals. By clearly defining the terminology used by your teams, you eliminate misunderstandings and ensure everyone stays on the same page.

3. Proper Lead Handoffs and Nurturing

The processes for lead nurturing and handoffs are vital information to share openly between Sales and Marketing teams. Throughout the nurturing stage, your Marketing team needs to work diligently at nurturing leads through the awareness, consideration and decision stages of the buyer's journey with brilliantly crafted content and offers.

When lead nurturing is done correctly, the subsequent handoff to Sales will see them receiving a well-educated lead ready to discuss the next step in the buying cycle with a consultant. Develop open channels of communication between your departments regarding what will trigger a lead handoff, and how Marketing will go about notifying Sales when this happens. If a lead doesn't convert, it's important for Sales to also have a scoring system in place that indicates when a lead requires more nurturing and needs to be returned to Marketing for further attention.

4. Detailed Lead Journey Workflows

Your leads will follow a clearly defined journey through the nurturing process, one which, as mentioned above, needs to be made abundantly clear to your Sales and Marketing departments through clear communication. The value in clarifying this information is that your Sales team is empowered to jump in at precisely the right time in the lead's journey, securing a better chance of a strong engagement and positive outcome between them and the lead in question.

5. Lead Management Guidelines

Just because a lead has been nurtured and qualified as sales-ready, doesn't mean it's time to slack off and take things easy. Your Sales team needs defined protocols set in writing determining how to move your lead along thorough the rest of the Sales process. Key considerations include how many attempts at lead contact will the Sales team make before moving the lead back to Marketing, and how much time should be left between contact attempts. It's also a good idea to specify the nature of communication they should be using at each stage, whether by email or phone call.

6. Key Performance Indicators

KPIs, or key performance indicators, are valuable for highlighting each team's responsibilities and the indicators of success that they can use to gauge their progress. Since there will be KPIs that overlap between both your teams, it's important to define accountability and use the information gained during KPI analysis to determine areas of improvement and opportunities that can be leveraged.

7. An Expiration date

An SLA should be reevaluated periodically to factor in data gathered, new developments and potential areas that aren't working or need a little tweaking. Prepare to revisit your SLA twice a year, taking a close look at the progress of both your Sales and Marketing teams, areas of friction, and potential avenues for improvement.

The traditional Sales and Marketing gap doesn't have to negatively impact your company's potential – implementing a strong SLA helps close that gap, unify your teams, and secure improved performance and profitability for your business. Haven't got an SLA, or have one that's gathering dust? It's time to revisit them, and create ones that really work for you!


State of Inbound 2016

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