It’s indisputable that a successful organization needs both sales and marketing teams to fuel their growth. And it needs those teams to work well together. That’s why sales and marketing alignment continues to be a top issue for executives.

It can be time-consuming and unpleasant to try to repair a marketing and sales relationship gone sour. So, how can you keep one from developing in the first place? Our panelists at our recent sales and marketing alignment meetup shared their secrets for keeping misalignment from happening.

The Magic of Sales and Marketing SLAs

Marketers and salespeople who’ve cracked the code on aligning the two teams often point to creating shared service level agreements (SLAs) to ensure no lead is left behind. Our panelists each expanded on how SLAs have helped build a healthy sales and marketing team partnership.

“When I was at Tegile, which was the job before my last job, we grew from $6 million to $60 million in under three years,” said Jenny Coupe, Sr. Director, Americas Marketing, Akamai. “How did we do that? We took an operational, scientific approach to the data. And we made sure we all signed up for the same thing. There was accountability across the board. We had an SLA; they had an SLA. More importantly, we agreed on what’s your contribution, what’s your role, where’s the handoff. It has to be a collective effort. Marketing can’t do it alone.”

Fellow panelist Ryan Ried, VP Sales, Oracle Marketing Cloud, agrees with Coupe. But he noted that those SLAs are only as good as the actions that back them up.

“As far as the SLA’s, every rep’s going to say, ‘Yeah, I didn’t have time to call on that lead. I was on the road; I was traveling’”, said Ried. “It may be harsh, but my philosophy is, if you can’t call in the lead within the required time to meet the SLA, we’ll just give it to somebody else. That’s sometimes how you have to deal with reps, and you have to take a hard line on it. Otherwise, you can throw it [an SLA] out the door. Unless you’re willing to hold them to that, it’s worthless.”

Jason Dorfman, Inside Sales, Rubrik, also has SLA’s and lead scoring in place. To ensure SLAs are upheld, they are baked into the SDR compensation plan.

“We have a point system,” said Dorfman. “The bulk majority of their comp is going to be opportunity creation and closed won and all that kind of stuff. But we have a small amount of it that’s based on the activities and the disposition of A and B rank leads. It’s not perfect, and the lead scoring technology that we use is a work in progress. There are ways to operationalize it and at least show that you’re committed as an organization to marketing and dispositioning those. That said, you’re never going to be at 100% so I think it’s important to set that expectation as well.”

For more insights from our panelists, check out the second installment in our six-part The New Sales and Marketing Engagement series.

TRANSCRIPT:

Ryan Ried, VP Sales, Oracle Marketing Cloud
Jenny Coupe, Sr. Director, Americas Marketing, Akamai
Jason Dorfman, Inside Sales, Rubrik

Ryan: I think the most important thing is strong executive alignment with the sales leader and the marketing leader. Some criteria need to be established. Some rules need to be established, and once those are, they need to be rolled out precisely on both sides to the individuals all the way down to the street level so there’s no room for questioning, “Oh, I thought you meant this. I thought you meant that,” as it relates to a qualified lead. I think it starts at the very top, and you have to have a respect for one another and working with one another and an expectation that each side of the aisle, so to speak, is holding up their end of the bargain.

It starts with people and then you get technology to support it. They always say, what is it, “People, technology, and … ” oh, I can’t …

Jenny: Process.

Ryan: Process. Thank you. People, technology, and process. If you got all those three in line, you’re going to win. But the problem is a lot of times you forget the people part of it. So, that’s my thought.

Jason: I think at least in a startup there’s not much room for misalignment. I think they’re your competitors. That’s the best thing you can possible hear is that your sales and marketing departments are fighting with each other. So, you have to be an entrepreneur first, and then whatever your position is as sales leader, marketing leader, is kind of secondary. The stakes are so high and you have such limited time to do everything so you have to focus on the things that are really, really high impact. That’s recruiting really really good people in your organization, finding a compelling reason for them to join. And then the other side of that is having a product and designing a product that has an edge in the marketplace, because if you don’t have that, it’s really tough to do the business side of things.

Jenny: Yeah. I mean, I’ll get back on my data soapbox, but you really got to be one with the data and you got to be looking at the same data, in the same way, every week. When I was at Tegile, which was the job before my last job, we grew from 6 million to 60 million in under three years. How did we do that? Marketing team was four people, including myself, and the way we did that was, again, we just really made sure we took an operational, scientific approach to the data. And we made sure we all signed up for the same thing, sales and marketing. There was accountability across the board. We had an SLA; they had an SLA. More importantly, we agreed on what’s your contribution, what’s your role, where’s the handoff. It has to be a collective effort. Marketing can’t do it alone. But more importantly, at the end of the day, they gotta sign up for something, you’ve got to sign up for something, and you’ve got to be accountable for that and you’ve got to be able to measure it.

Oleg: Jen, you mentioned SLA’s. Do you currently have an SLA between the sales and marketing? Where did it come from, and do you keep true to it?

Jenny: We didn’t plant that, by the way.

Ryan: No, no, and no. We tried to, but … Like I said when I answered the question earlier is you gotta be on the exact same page on the definitions and everything of what is a qualified lead so you can monitor then the SLA. Right? So, ideally, you look at different products and different companies. Albeit a competitor, Marketo for example … When John Miller wrote “The Definitive Guide of Marketing,” he talks about how long it takes to turn a lead or a raw lead to an MQL and all the way down the line. How you measure it into an opportunity and if that closes, et cetera.

As far as the SLA’s, every reps going to say, “Yeah, I didn’t have time to call on that lead. I was on the road; I was traveling.” It may be harsh, but my philosophy is, “Hey, if you can’t call in the lead within the required time to meet the SLA, we’ll just give it to somebody else.” That’s sometimes how you have to deal with reps, and you have to take a hard line on it. Otherwise, an SLA, you can throw it out the door unless you’re willing to hold them to that it’s worthless.

Jason: So we do have SLA’s and lead scoring in place at our company. We actually have it baked into the comp plan of the SDR. So we have a point system. The bulk majority of their comp is going to be opportunity creation and closed one and all that kind of stuff, but we have a small amount of it that’s based on the activities and the disposition of a and b rank leads. It’s not perfect, and the lead scoring technology that we use is a work in progress. In my position personally, it’s not something that I really kind of worry about and I’m on top of day to day. But there’s other people in our organization where that’s definitely a top priority. I guess the point is, there’s ways to operationalize it and at least show that you’re committed as an organization to marketing and dispositioning those, but you’re never going to be at 100% so I think it’s important to set that expectation as well.

Jenny: Yeah, so we’re pretty regimented in this area. Once a lead comes in and it fits the marketing qualified definition, there’s a certain period of time that it can go into what is called, “An attempting status.” That’s inside sales. You’ve got x amount of time to move this and figure out, “Are you going to connect with this guy or you going to disqualify this guy?”

Once he gets into that contacted state, they’ve got a certain period of time before they got to move him up or out. More importantly, once it becomes an opportunity, we run reports weekly on, “How long has that opportunity been in stage 1, how long has it been in stage 2, how long has it been in stage 3?”

We have six stages. Pretty easy to build those Salesforce reports, and we call it compliance reports. We’ll hold their feet to the fire big time on that, and trust me, there’s some interesting conversation when folks get out of compliance, particularly on the sales side. Marketing’s got a certain amount of accountability on that going in, and more importantly if it does come out … For example, I’ve got an SLA where less than 15% of my leads that go to inside sales can be disqualified. If I start trending above 15%, that means that my lead quality is declining. That’s another SLA for me, and that just ensures that we’re giving them high quality.