What do B2B companies want? Well it depends upon who you ask. Ask the marketing department and their top priority is driving more leads. Ask a sales rep and their top priority is closing more deals. Both of these make sense as marketing is judged on how well they create opportunities and sales is judged on how well they monetize those opportunities. Each department has a different objective and definition of success.
Without the two departments working together you run the risk of creating a situation where they are adversaries rather than allies. After all if sales would only act on marketing’s leads more promptly they would close more deals. From a sales perspective, they would close more deals if marketing was providing better quality leads. It’s time to break out the old “there’s no I in team” mantra and get these two departments working together for a common cause …the business.
So what is the one B2B marketing strategy that will get marketing and sales to work together? By implementing a Service Level Agreement between the two departments. It doesn’t matter if you are a 200+ employee business or have less than 10 employee business. If sales and marketing are separate, this will get them on the same page.
What is a Service Level Agreement?
A service level agreement is an agreement that defines the scope, responsibilities and commitments between two or more individuals, departments, etc. In this case its between marketing and sales.
How does a Service Level Agreement Work?
Like any relationship there is a set of expectations that often are not formerly written down. Marketing will secure leads and sales will work those leads. If each knows what they are doing, then what’s the problem? The problem is that often each is thinking only about their needs and what the other is going to do to help them meet those needs. To eliminate this self-absorbed departmental mindset you need to have a set of written guidelines and agreements of how each will work with the other for the ultimate goal of driving new business.
Service Level Agreement Basics
Speak a Common Language
Part of the purpose of the SLA is that you want marketing and sales to communicate. No Chinese firewall here. We don’t want one speaking English and the other Russian, so we need to define common terms and definitions. What is a lead? What is a qualified Lead? How is “Prompt Contact” defined? (is it 3 hours or is it 24 hours). Skip this step and you’re going to find that rather than aligning the two, you’re actually pushing them further apart.
Create Shared Goals and Objectives
Previously marketing and sales had departmental based goals and objectives. Now we need to expand the scope so each of these goals and objectives are viewed in the context of how it affects the other. A great way to start is to focus on the end result and work backwards.
Let’s say the business needs to drive $500,000 in new sales this quarter. Each client is worth $50,000 (so we need 10 new clients). Sales typically closes 1 out of 10 qualified leads … using these numbers we see that for Sales to reach their goal they are going to need 100 qualified leads. Now we know what marketing needs to deliver to sales, and what amount of deals they need to close.
Marketing now knows it needs to drive 100 qualified leads. Reviewing analytics we know that 1 in 10 leads is a qualified lead, so they need to drive 1,000 leads. And lets just say that to drive 1,000 leads marketing activity needs to generate 3 white papers, 2 Webinars, and 60 blog posts.
With these numbers we can set goals and objectives that will guide us towards the final combined goal.
Track and Communicate Consistently
In a perfect world everything would proceed as planned by simply following the above road map. But as we all know things rarely follow a script. We need to track everything related to what is actually happening. If instead of 1 in 10 being a qualified lead, we’re now experiencing 1 in 15. Obviously marketing is going to have to increase their content marketing activity or sales is going to have to close at a higher percentage.
If sales drop from 1 for every 10 qualified leads to 1 for every 17 qualified leads, then it’s going to impact both. In a football game when the defense gives up a lead, the offense has to step up and retake the lead. And the defense has to step up its game to preserve the new lead. Same thing here. The key is that they are tracking what’s happening in real time, communicating so they are both on the same page and making adjustments as needed. This only works if both marketing and sales are aligned in the ultimate goal and working as a team.
The value in communicating is not only that both can quickly adjust what they are doing, but sales can provide marketing with great insight and feedback they are receiving from prospects who purchased and those that did not. Conversely marketing can help sales better understand how the market is responding to what sales is selling and identify areas of opportunity for new products or services.
Marketing and sales are not playing a zero-sum game. One doesn’t have to lose in order for the other to win. If your marketing and sales teams are not joined at the hip, then it’s time to ask why not. Its time to take steps that will integrate the two into a highly effective revenue generating machine and drive 20% annual growth.
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