In the seminal 1981 film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, our eponymous hero uses the staff of Ra to guide him and his companion to the movie’s goal: To unearth the Ark of the Covenant (before the baddies do). The staff is integral in illuminating the way forward. Literally.
Without it, Indy would still be kicking around in Cairo and the movie would have been a lot longer (and a without a satisfying flamey payoff).
At the most basic level, a Service Level Agreement (SLA) is your Staff of Ra. It should illuminate, clarify and create transparency so that you and your stakeholders can work together seamlessly to nail your ultimate goal.
Unlike the Staff of Ra, an SLA is not an ancient artefact, but ideally a detailed process, that helps inform your strategy and align your marketing and sales departments - a state that can increase your marketing-generated revenue by up to 208%! Alignment can also engender a company culture of accountability and cohesion. It ultimately allows your team to know what is expected of them while ensuring that they are working towards the same aim as the sales and IT department.
So what’s involved in developing an SLA? (hint: it’s nowhere near as difficult as locating the Staff of Ra and you don’t need to defy death to do it).
Call a truce
In many companies, marketing and sales are at each other's’ throats like Indy and his leading lady, Marion. But in both cases, their squabbling obfuscates a bigger, more important truth – that they are essentially working towards the same goal. Once Indy and Marion they realise that they are better off working together, boom, the Ark of the Covenant is just a hop, step and a jump away. And it’s the same for your marketing and sales teams. Instead of playing the blame game around number of leads, quality of leads and quality of the follow-up, realising that you ultimately want the same thing is the first big step to achieving a joint goal.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to establish some marketing and sales joint SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic Timely). It also allows you to keep sight of the bigger picture and begin to work together, rather than descending into inter-departmental tiffs.
Typical SMART goals could include the number of marketing-qualified leads the team will deliver (as well as what they actually are - but more on that later), and also the number of those that will be closed in a given period. Once these are agreed, the joint task force can calculate an overall revenue goal to be achieved within a defined period. And suddenly, you’re passing through history with your first sales and marketing joint goals!
Get out the Rosetta Stone
As in every successful conquest, a team needs to make sure it is speaking the same language before it can expect to achieve a joint goal. In the case of marketing and sales, this means making sure that all involved are clear as to what the definitions are. Sales and marketing squabbles often centre around what constitutes a good lead, so put the tension to bed once and for all by clearly delineating:
- What a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is
- What a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is
- At what stage a MQL becomes a SQL
This is a ridiculously powerful step that kills the bickering around the quality of leads being passed through, and rids excuses for not following up a lead. Note: if sales find that an MQL is not a great fit, even after this exercise, it is a great opportunity to further refine the MQL definition. Monthly meetings to adjust definitions are essential.
Agree what success looks like
As well as outlining the KPIs for each team, you also need to document what marketing and sales should be doing in order to hit those KPIs, so that no potential opportunities are falling down the cracks. Marketing automation software can help you track behavioural and demographic information that can help you identify Leads, MQLs and SQLs quickly and easily. Such transparency extinguishes disagreements quicker than you can say Fortune and Glory, Kid.
An SLA is living history
If you are using marketing automation, then you will get very detailed information about your leads; about their role in the company, and oodles of behavioural information in response to your content and online marketing strategies. But change is a constant. Your customer profile will evolve over time, as will the market, topical issues and ultimately responses to your content and strategies.
Therefore, your SLA can’t be a stagnant document. Rather as these trends are uncovered, your document should be updated so that your team is constantly and refining their methods and their strategy. By making a commitment to update on a regular basis, it also allows you to regularly evaluate the SLA itself, to call out discrepancies and to iron out the kinks. We recommend monthly sales and marketing (SMARKETING?) meetings to review results, tweak your definitions, push on your goals and celebrate your wins.
Developing and implementing an SLA isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes time, compromise and some serious data archeology. But if you persevere, You will may unleash a process that can take you to your own organisational Ark of the Covenant (and your CEO will love you for it).
If you would like to know more about getting transparency over your marketing operations, download The 10-step guide to choosing the right marketing automation platform today.
Brand chemistry is a strategic brand agency. With more than 10 years experience building brands, we know what it takes to stand out amongst your competitors. Take a look at our client case studies to find out more.