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How to Develop Service Level Agreements between Sales and Marketing

Olin Hyde

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Episode 5: Service-Level Agreements. Do you ever wish you could smooth over that relationship with sales in a way that makes everyone breathe a sigh of relief? In today's episode, Dave Green talks service-level agreements, and why you should have one. LeadCrunch[ai] uses artificial intelligence to drastically improve the performance of B2B demand generation campaigns through account-based "lookalike" modeling. Click the link for more information. https://leadcrunch.com/solutions/

Posted by LeadCrunch on Wednesday, November 21, 2018


[0:00:14.3] JG: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. Welcome to episode five of the Green & Greene Show. I’m Jonathan Greene, and as usual, my guest today is J. David Green. Thank you very much, sir, for joining me. Those pesky marketing sales relationships are what we’re going to talk about today. I’m sure nobody has ever experienced that but us.

[0:00:39.0] JDG: Just like a cold war. Those e-mail hand-grenades floating through the building about terrible leads and all that stuff.

[0:00:50.9] JG: I wanted to ask you, specifically, if we could talk about service-level agreements today. I’ve heard you talk about this and I think that your insight is good. What exactly is a marketing sales service-level agreement?

What is a Service Level Agreement?

[0:01:03.5] JDG: It’s not a set of things that sales needs to do, and it’s not a set of things that marketing needs to do. It’s a set of things that both groups need to do. It’s an agreement. It’s not a dictate by either side. At a very high level, marketing is agreeing to provide leads that meet a certain specification, like it’s got an e-mail address, or a phone number, or whatever it is that’s agreed to.

Then, sales is agreeing to a certain level of effort and diligence and following up on those leads and a certain level of commitment to reporting back on what happened with those leads at a very high level. Then they’ve agreed to work at it. Both groups aren’t going to get it perfect at the outset, maybe you will, but probably not. You have to chip away at it. Your business changes, so it needs to evolve a little bit over time.

Why Should Marketing and Sales Establish a Service Level Agreement?

[0:02:02.9] JG: Sounds like a big effort. As a marketer, why should I care about doing this?

[0:02:10.2] JDG: The big reason is so you don’t get fired. If you don’t have a healthy working relationship with the sales team, you’re not going to be able to show the revenue impact with marketing spend that is going to get you bigger budgets and promotions. If you don’t do it, you’re going to run the risk that somebody is going to say, “Gee, we’re spending a lot of money on that person. Maybe we should bring somebody else in.” That’s why you need to do it. I think it’s not the most important thing, but it’s hard to be successful without a good working relationship with the sales organization.

[0:02:48.5] JG: Right. I have these graphics here. I’m going to put this up on screen. Twelve Ways to Qualify Marketing Leads. Do you want to talk me through that real quick?

[0:02:56.1] JDG: This matters because there are actually a lot of different ways you can qualify a lead. Part of what you need to do is educate the sales organization about some of those options. Now, they’ll know the ones at the bottom. That includes sales qualification, and if you have one, an inbound team of sales development reps who can do qualification. Marketing has a lot a lot of other tools.

You can obviously target the right people. Messaging can bring in the right people. Your call to action, which is a type of messaging, can do a level of qualification. Then there are implicit behaviors. There’s friction on a form. The harder it is, the more qualified people will be, because the higher their motivation. Explicit things like, for example, this person put their title is VP. You can clean and enrich the leads when they come in. You can get rid of duplicates, which are definitely going to be there. All those things usually feed into lead scoring. Those are the tools, generally speaking, in your toolbox, and you need to help sales understand what those tools are and, most importantly, their limitations.

It’s not going to be the same level of qualification that you get with a really knowledgeable person who can make a judgement call and ask qualitative questions. They need to understand that. They need to understand the trade-off that the more you ratchet up the qualification, the lower the lead volume. They need to make a choice with you.

Get the eBook “How to Win the Love of Sales “

[0:04:27.3] JG: I want to ask about the actual way service-level agreements are put together. What do I need to make sure is in there that I don’t get?

Adapt Your Approach Based Upon the Size of Your Organization

 [0:04:44.6] JDG: How you do this will depend upon the size of your organization. If you’re the only marketer and there are three salespeople, you don’t need to over-orchestrate this. This is really a framework that I’ve laid out for somewhat more complex situations. You can be less formal and rigid with it depending on the situation you have, but I think all these things are helpful.

It starts with defining your ideal customer. Everybody should do that. That’s an ongoing discussion. You need to do it for every product or service you have that has any material benefit from a revenue standpoint to your company. It’s really important to use a common language. I can’t stress that enough. The obvious example is the word “lead”. To a sales rep, the word “lead” means somebody who wants to have a conversation and is probably going to buy something.

To marketing, it can mean anything from someone who subscribed to the blog to one who got a list from ZoomInfo. It could mean anything. If two people are using a completely different definition, it’s easy to get off track, so that becomes very important. There are some key stages of qualification that you need to distinguish between. We’ll get into that in one of the future lectures.

Set up Revenue Roundtables with the Right People

 I like to set up what I call revenue roundtables. The key here is to get the right people. The right people, if you have a big sales organization, are the sales people who would hold court at a national sales meeting with other sales reps. In other words, they have a lot of sway and influence. They’re usually the best sales people you have. If you can get them to participate, maybe not all of them, but at least some, I think that gives a lot of perceived value to the credibility of the ruleset that comes out of it. They can also help get this enforced with other people, because of the power of putting their personal brand behind it. It’s a political thing that matters.

I would not put more than about five to seven people on one of these roundtables, because you need a small enough number that everybody can participate, and people aren’t just sitting there. If you get too many people in a room, that won’t happen. I like to keep these relatively small.

For the workshops, I have a framework that probably isn’t familiar. Instead of calling things leads, I like to call them conversation leads, which are the leads which you believe are ready for someone to talk to, like an SDR team. I think there are a lot of reasons to have an SDR team. That’s part of getting good alignment, whether you want to be in charge of it or to have sales own it, that transition point becomes a place where you really have to devote a lot of time and energy. Define what that lead looks like.

Create a Second Service Level Agreement

 There should also be a service-level agreement between that team, whether they’re part of sales or marketing, and the sales organization which is going to take those qualified leads and follow up with them. Those are two different kinds of service-level agreements with different criteria. The reason they’re different is if you’re talking about an inside team, they’re getting leads that no one has spoken to, so there are limitations on what can be there, but they’re also sitting around waiting for those. They can get through to them a lot more rapidly. If they are then passing something over to a field sales rep who may be traveling around in cars and in meetings all day, they’re not going to get to them at the same speed that an inside team does. That’s why you need two different rule sets and two different levels of agreement around that.

Flow Chart the Follow-Up Process

At that point, it’s helpful to then flowchart the follow-up process. What happens? What’s that cadence? How many times by phone? How often? How many times by e-mail? How often? How many times by social media? How often? When are you leaving a voice-mail? All that stuff should be mapped out as part of a playbook. You ought to think about stratifying that, so that high-value leads, maybe from an ABM campaign, get a different treatment. Maybe you put more effort into it, maybe you reach out to other buyer personas. I think you have to map that out and revisit it periodically.

Define the Handoff Process

You definitely want to map out and be very clear on the handoff process. When you’re handing from one group to another, you’ll find people leak a lot of revenue. That’s where a lot of revenue spills on the floor, so you go through that. Then, define what you want and keep in mind that salespeople are not data entry clerks to satisfy your need to know. You want to ask for the lightest, most minimal feedback that you need to be able to do your job well. Make course corrections on both sides and keep it simple. Can’t stress that enough.

Document and Share the Agreement

Finally, document it and then you have to inspect what you expect. If you put this thing in place, how do you make sure that everyone’s following the playbook? At a high level, that’s what a service-level agreement is and that’s how to put one in into play.

For a more in-depth discussion of service level agreements, get the ebook, “How to Win the Love of Sales”

[0:10:03.7] JG: David, you are gifted, perhaps more than anything else, at taking things that seem like they’re major problems and major conflicts organizationally down to the studs so that it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I think that framework is a really straightforward way to go about it. Not only is it effective, but it’s probably easier than whatever it is you’re trying to do.

Now we’re starting to have followers on. You guys, if you ever feel like asking anything, you want to comment, definitely do that. That’s about all we really have time for today. That was pretty in-depth, but I do want you to look at that URL that I just put on the screen, leadcrunch.com/waitlist. We are going to turn all of these teaching sessions that we’re doing into a certification course. We would love for you to be the first ones to have the opportunity to go through that.

We think it’s going to add a real value to the B2B demand generation space, so go ahead and sign up for that. We’ll be happy to send you an e-mail when the course is ready. Once again, thanks, Dave. Do you have any parting thoughts?

[0:11:27.0] JDG: I’m just going to say, Jonathan, we do have an e-book that goes into much greater depth on all of these and really breaks it down for anybody who needs that help. It’s How to Win the Love of Sales e-book.

[0:11:46.6] JG: Click on that title and you’ll go right to it. All right, that’s it for our show today. Next time, what are we going to talk about, Dave? Are we going to go a little bit deeper into this service level agreement stuff?

[0:12:06.6] JDG: Yeah. We have a very special guest next week who was the co-author of a great book, called Predictable Revenue. She’s going to talk a little bit about alignment from an SDR and how you, as a marketer, can support the SDR function. I think it’ll build on this nicely, and we have a lot more stuff coming after that.

[0:12:35.7] JG: All right, guys. This has been the Green & Greene Show. I’m Jonathan Greene, he’s David Green. Thanks a lot for joining us.

[0:12:40.8] JDG: Thanks everybody.