Little did I know that when I started selling 20 years ago, I’d end up creating, managing, and espousing Service Level Agreements. While SLA’s were normally applied to the tech support world (i.e. priority 1 tickets get a response time in 60 minutes or less, priority 2 in four hours etc), they are a growing presence found in use between marketing and sales departments.
The Old Way
We all know the old adage of marketing chucking leads over the fence to sales. Sales ignores 99% of them with no follow up and no outreach. Marketing gets pissed, says we’re spending good money and sales is dropping the ball. Fingers get pointed, sales don’t get made.
Closed Loop Processing
But that’s changing. The hand-off today between marketing systems (used by the marketers) and CRM systems (used by sales) now permits you to determine when a lead gets passed. Only leads that meet an agreed upon criteria get sent to sales, so that marketing may demonstrate they’re not wasting sales rep cycles. Sales reps then have to take action on that lead, which is tracked in the CRM & marketing system so there’s proof the rep did their part (or as my marketing team calls it – closed loop processing).
Marketing-to-Sales SLAs: The Beginning
At Marketo, we make marketing software that fuels this process. In Marketo’s early days, we built our first Marketing-to-Sales SLA: when a rep received a lead that “met” marketing’s criteria, they had 24 hours to make the reach out (which was then indicated by a value change in the CRM). If they didn’t make the reach out, they got a reminder 24 hours telling them that the lead is getting stale. At 48 hours, the rep and their boss got an email and eek, at 72 hours that alert went to our CEO. No bueno if you’re a sales rep working in a marketing automation company.
Marketing-to-Sales SLAs: The Last Mile
But that wasn’t enough. The process didn’t go the last mile and tell us the true disposition of the lead. All we knew was that a rep had followed up. What happened to the lead after that? So we extended the SLA — once a rep reached out, a new SLA started: the rep had 7 days to qualify and convert the lead. They had 3 choices on what could happen to the lead. They could turn the lead into an opportunity — best outcome! They could defer the lead — there was no opportunity at the time. Or they could recycle the lead, meaning push it back to marketing to manage while they focus on selling active opps.
This gave our marketing team that coveted “closed loop” view of their marketing efforts. It also gave us killer data on what percentage of our leads converted to opportunities and what percentage of opps became deals. This was great for us as we grew. It improved our forecasting and helped us decide when it was time to hire new reps.
I’m fascinated by SLA’s inside companies and how it’s helping them look holistically at their business. I’m interested in learning about your marketing-sales SLA’s and how you’re using them to run your business, so please comment!