The Sales Operations Guide to Creating a Sales and Marketing SLA

4 min read

Engineering a perfectly aligned sales and marketing function can seem like an elusive dream. But with the help of a sales and marketing service-level agreement (SLA), the dream is becoming a reality for many companies.

Traditionally an agreement between a business and its customers, SLAs are becoming commonplace between sales and marketing departments. And more often than not, sales operations are involved in designing and implementing these agreements.

We spoke to our community of sales operations leaders to find out how they use SLAs, what they entail, and whether they live up to the hype.

Melinda Forest, Sales Operations Manager, Decibel

I would say that the responsibility to create a sales and marketing SLA belongs to the department heads. However, in a lot of ways, sales operations acts as the mediator since they have insight into both platforms and processes. They can translate the needs of both teams  and use their domain expertise of the tech stack and available KPI analysis to develop measurement for the SLAs and create actionable change.

From a salesperson’s perspective, their SLA is dependent on the lead definition. The marketing team is saying: Here is a qualified lead. We have agreed that this is a qualified lead based on the expectations given prior. And the sales person then guarantees that they are going to follow up in a timely fashion and they are going to provide more insight into what went right and what went wrong with this lead. If they want changes made to marketing SLAs they have to provide feedback, and they have to have done everything in their power to have tried to convert this lead.

Conversely, to meet the marketing SLA, there may need to be exceptions to the accepted criteria. Because it’s often difficult to balance capturing enough lead information without risking form abandonment. I think it is really important that the sales department supports a weighted score here. Someone who comes in through a form, who is directly engaging with your site, is likely going to have a higher score and should be prioritized higher, despite lacking a job title or headquarters.

It’s up to that sales and marketing operations person to devise a Plan B in that scenario to enable velocity of this lead through the stages, whether that’s a round robin lead assignment, or creating some kind of incentive on these high score leads.

Read our interview with Melinda.

Denis Malkov, Director of Revenue Operations, PandaDoc

We have SLAs where the SDRs are partially incentivised on Stage 0 to Stage 1 progression. Stage 0 is basically Qualified Meeting Booked and Stage 1 is Sales Accepted. If we fall below a certain percentage threshold of Sales Accepted, the SDR’s compensation is impacted. This means we ensure we are passing qualified opportunities, not just as many opportunities as possible.

Our SLAs comprise of two components.

First, we lean pretty heavily on automation for our non-ICP cohorts. So again, because we have very high top of funnel traffic, we need to only serve customers that we think will be valuable but not necessarily put a human in front of them.

When I say ‘put a human in front of them’ I mean white glove, one-on-one SDR to prospect interactions from day one. We have cadences built out for smaller, less ICP-centric businesses that are fully automated. We will send them email drips and content and once they respond, we will put them into the right person’s hands. But we are not going to be writing customized emails, reaching out to them on LinkedIn or sending them direct mail from day one.

That one component is again looking at whether they are ICPs and managing them appropriately.

Secondly, for those that we do put an SDR in front of from day one, the SLAs that we have are oriented around call volume, email volume and time to the first touch. Typically speaking, an SDR will perform an average of 80 – 100 activities per day. And that volume is high because, again, we are very inbound driven. They will be making somewhere between 40 – 50 calls and sending about 40 – 50 emails on any given day, which is the bottom-up activity metric. Then for response time on chat (we use Drift at the top of our funnel on our website), we have a sub-1-minute SLA because those are high-intent, highly interested leads that are coming in and they want to talk to somebody now.

Read our interview with Denis.

Cris Santos, Director, EMEA & LATAM Sales Strategy & Operations, Docusign

We have SLAs for the sales development reps. They need to process leads in 24 hours. In the four years I’ve been here we’ve definitely improved on that. We’ve specialised the SDR roles to some focus on leads from events, others focus on leads from webinars and so on.

We have tools to monitor what the reps are doing. In EMEA, we were the first to adopt a gamification tool. We have screens across the floors where we track opportunities and how fast those opps are qualified. It’s on full display and it works really well as we can see from the fact that here in EMEA they have the highest productivity per head. It’s also good for morale and culture. It’s the fun of competitions and being on the leaderboard and we’ve really seen the results.

Read our interview with Cris.

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