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Close More Deals by Aligning Your Sales & Marketing Team

William Avila
Jan 9, 2019 10:35:10 AM

Frustration between marketing and sales teams is a common problem that companies see over and over again. The sales team wants and needs more leads - more importantly, better leads. The marketing team generates a prospect, but Sales says the lead is not good enough or ready. Both teams are aggravated and feel that the other side isn't doing their job. 

Each of the teams have different problems as well, depending on the company.

Some of the common issues are:

  • Marketing is generating a lot of leads but there is no way to identify which leads are nearer to closing than others.
  • Marketing is generating a lot of leads but Sales is not contacting the leads immediately.
  • Marketing does not understand who they are targeting thus a lot of unqualified leads are being generated.

So how do you get marketing and sales teams to come to a consensus about what makes for a good lead and what the responsibilities of each team are? 


It is Time to Create and Use a Service Level Agreement?

An effective way for your company to align sales and marketing is by creating an SLA (Service Level Agreement). So what is this agreement about? Well, it is a contract. Not an intense, mortgage type contract, those are long and are dozens of pages, but rather a clearer and simpler contract that details the responsibilities of both sales and marketing.

Without being as intimidating as a mortgage contract, you can still have an effective document that covers the criteria for a good lead (Sales Qualified Lead and Marketing Qualified Lead) versus a generic lead.


Why is an SLA Important?

According to the recent 2018 State of Inbound Report, SLAs and sales and marketing alignment are critical for marketing and sales team success. From the Report:

  • "Teams with SLAs see higher ROI from inbound marketing".
  • "SLAs mean growth: Sales teams More Likely to grow where there's an SLA".
  • "SLAs mean growth: Marketing teams with SLAs are more likely to get increased budgets".
  • 85 Percent of Marketers with SLAs feel their strategies are effective. SLA's and the execution of this document sets the bar for what a good lead is and keeps marketing accountable through the use of a proven process.


Creating a Well Aligned and High-Functioning Team

The Inbound Report clearly shows that SLAs lead to the development of a well aligned marketing AND sales team rather than two separate teams. Their survey also showed that both marketing and sales staff agreed to the benefits of using an SLA. From the 2018 Report:

  • "Marketers with SLAs say they provide high quality leads to sales".
  • "Salespeople with SLAs call out marketing as the top generator of leads."SLA's ensure that Sales people focus their energy on the customers most likely to buy. This maximizes their time used.


For the Marketing Team:

SLA's and the execution of these documents set the bar for what a good lead should be and keeps the marketing team accountable through the use of a proven process. Measuring and ranking the value of each lead helps Marketing focus on the best ones and getting them to the sales team quicklyMarketing can also work on cultivating the medium level leads and getting them to the level needed to be transferred to Sales.


For the Sales Team:

SLA's ensure that people in Sales focus their energy on the customers most likely to buy. This maximizes their time used. Let's face it, perfect leads don't exist, but with enough good opportunities (qualified leads), and if you have a competitive product or service, you can and will convert those leads to sales. It is really as simple as determining who your best leads are, getting those leads from marketing to sales, and then converting those people who want to buy into customers.


Importance of Including Lead Scoring Metrics

Here is the basic lead terminology. Everyone needs to speak the same language to be able to work together.

  • Visitor (V) Person who has visited your site, clicked on a page (unknown)

  • Repeat Visitor (RV) Person who returns to the site, clicks on several pages (unknown but showing interest)

  • Lead (L) Site visitor who has interacted with your site by accessing information like an ebook, checklist, or other downloads. This gives you important contact information and makes them an actual lead.

  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) Visitor who has been to the site several times and downloaded your materials a few times indicating a high level of interest in your services.

  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) These are MQLs that have moved to qualified lead status through a vetting and examination process. Checking their company status (are they a CEO or a procurement officer) and if they are authorized to make a purchase. Also look at their level of interaction with your site (visits to pricing pages or more downloads), or have they replied to your emails. Significant interaction can raise their lead score to an acceptable level to pursue them. These leads are ready to go to the sales team.

  • Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) These are SQL's that have scored the required level to become a "good lead" and be accepted by sales based on the terms of the SLA.

Tools that measure and score leads are a critical part of an effective SLA. Not all leads are created equally. Not everyone is at the same point in the buyer's journey but Marketing can greatly assist sales by scoring the leads as listed above, that way the sales team can approach the leads in the appropriate way. If a lead is at the beginning of their inquiry or cautious, then coming on strong will not be effective. In fact, these leads should not go to sales under the SLA. But if a lead is ready to purchase or sign a contract, then doing anything but closing the deal may cause the sale to be lost.

Think of two customers at an electronics counter, if one is window shopping and the other has an item and a credit card in hand, who should you help? Clearly, the one who is showing that he is eager to purchase. Of course, you do not ignore either customer but you don't respond to them in the same way. With the correct examination and measuring, sales leads can be as obvious as the two people at the electronics counter. No one wants to turn away the person who is literally waiting at your counter with cash in hand, trying to buy your product!


Outline the Delivery Process

It is also critical to define the method to transfer/deliver leads from Marketing to Sales (ie. A message is sent via Hubspot Sales/Salesforce. Lead is assigned under READY TO BUY or Highly Qualified Lead). Both teams need to agree upon and designate the terms so that the ball is not dropped. The sales team needs to contact qualified leads as soon as possible. In fact, research has found that contact within 10 minutes is best to close the sale.


How to Enforce the SLA

Having an SLA is pointless if you do not monitor, measure, and enforce the agreement. It is essential to perform a monthly audit on every MQL/SQL created. Miscommunication often derails an SLA so be sure that everyone fully comprehends what is required. For example, people often assume that other team members understand their shorthand or terminology. 

In your monthly audit be sure to:

  • Discuss notes and determine if both teams are understanding each other. 
  • Define follow up steps and the measurement of progress and success.
  • Discuss and detail the steps when transferring leads and nurturing your leads.
  • Set specific deadlines.


An SLA will Get Marketing and Sales on the Same, Profitable Page

With the use of a well defined SLA, both Sales and Marketing can work together as a successful team and maximize the leads generated for ultimately more sales. 


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