Today's guest blogger, Tony Jaros, is Senior Vice President of Research at SiriusDecisions. As a sales and marketing thought leader with nearly 20 years experience, Tony has led the overall research function at SiriusDecisions since the company's founding in 2001.
Getting b-to-b sales and marketing to align more closely has driven even the most capable business leaders crazy for years. Team-building exercises, sensitivity training, workshops; what hasn’t been tried? While artificially developing mutual understanding and trust is certainly one method of trying to improve the relationship between the two functions, we believe a far better way is through shared process that leads to results.
The creation of service-level agreements (SLAs) within a broader lead management strategy is a perfect example of such process. When properly developed, they bind a number of functions to one another around a common goal: The creation and movement of better-qualified prospects through the demand waterfall.
At our recent SiriusDecisions Summit, nearly 400 audience members weighed in when asked the question: How complete are the demand creation SLAs your organization has forged between sales and marketing? The answers show that there are still a lot of cold feet out there; the most popular response was “We couldn’t spell SLA if you spotted us the ‘S’ and the ‘L’ (52 percent).” In fact, only 31 percent indicated sales and marketing have created and are governed by a “complete” SLA framework. So what do we at SiriusDecisions believe comprises a “complete” SLA schematic?
- It encompasses the key points in the demand lifecycle where a lead will be handed from one function to another. In most b-to-b organizations, this includes the pass from marketing to teleprospecting, and teleprospecting to field, inside or channel sales resources.
- It includes a “back-end” component. Set guidelines for the amount of time that will be allotted to either promote the lead to an opportunity with anticipated dollar value and timeframe to close, or to disqualify the lead and place it into a lead nurturing program. Create rules for pulling back leads that have not been promoted or disqualified back into teleprospecting (a process we refer to as “passive” recycling).
- The SLAs are built on three pillars. Each SLA should be kept focused so that it isn’t too onerous, but it must have teeth. Include the definition(s) of leads that will be passed from one function to another. Pinpoint the responsibilities on each side of the equation; for example, how will marketing deliver its leads to teleprospecting? How long will teleprospecting have to accept or reject a lead? Finally, establish other relevant rules. Here, what will be the reasons why a receiving function can reject a lead without ever working it?
Systematic, repeatable b-to-b demand creation is much like a marriage. The creation of a series of SLAs acknowledges the relationship that must be forged between the two functions to drive this success, and puts defined boundaries around what each party must commit to in order to keep the relationship strong. Should either not be willing to commit, we’re pretty sure both will wind up in therapy—or worse—down the road.