Does Your Company Have a Lead Generation Service Level Agreement?

    by Prashant Kaw

    Date

    April 2, 2009 at 8:20 AM

    Butting Heads

    At the same time, the greatest horror for any marketer (such as myself, responsible for lead generation) is spending time and money generating leads that sales reps don’t follow-up on.

    This leads to bad blood and an overall sad situation. It impacts the productivity of both teams, there is a lot of finger pointing and the bottom line of your company is impacted.

    So what can sales and marketing do to alleviate this situation?

    Here are some recommendations that should form the core of a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between marketing and sales departments to help with their lead generation efforts:

    1. Define What You're Measuring: Leads

    What is the definition of a lead and what is a qualified lead. A lead might be someone who filled out a form on your site (or made a phone inquiry) or perhaps more specifically an individual from a B2B company who made that inquiry.

    A qualified lead might be that individual from a B2B company with over $50 million in sales (determined by qualifying questions on your sign-up form). These definitions need to be agreed upon by marketing and sales.

    At HubSpot, our definition of a lead is pretty broad, but our definition of a qualified lead is very strict.  Inquirers must meet very specific criteria and only those qualified leads get a follow-up call.

    2. Agree on a Number

    How many leads and qualified leads will marketing deliver to sales every week, every month or every quarter?

    Some companies might choose to measure opportunities.  Whatever you choose to measure should be agreed upon by both sales and marketing. This creates accountability for the marketing team. 

    Our marketing team at HubSpot is responsible for delivering a certain number of qualified leads every month. This is not an imagined number. It is based on various criteria including sales growth goals, historical conversion metrics of leads to qualified leads, qualified leads to sales and budget. 

    3. Guarantee Lead Follow-up

    If marking accountability is Yin, sales accountability is the Yang part of the SLA. 

    Sales needs to agree to follow-up on a certain number of those leads as well as guarantee the follow-up will take place in a certain time frame (so the leads are still warm when spoken to).

    The fresher the follow-up, the greater the impact, but the most important outcome of this follow-up is helping marketing determine what is working and what isn't. Where are the good leads coming from? Here-in lies the crux of closed-loop marketing, the feedback cycle from sales to marketing is complete.

    The HubSpot sales team follows-up on 100% of qualified leads delivered.  That makes our HubSpot marketing team more efficient.

    4. Emphasize Business Goals

    Lastly, and most importantly, the lead definitions and lead goals in question should be based upon achieving business results.

    Let me repeat that: It’s about achieving BUSINESS RESULTS – not Sales results, and not marketing results – but what is right for the company.

    The primary objective of the SLA is to win the best possible customers for the business. This might mean compromising a little on sales results and marketing results (marketing delivering fewer leads but better quality leads would be a good example of such a compromise).  At the end of the day it's the business results that matter.

    A lead-generation service level agreement is a great way to get sales and marketing working together like a well oiled machine -- and as with any machinery, tune-ups are necessary. Revisit those definitions and numbers on a regular basis and revise them based on changes in the market and changes in the business. Use a system like HubSpot's closed loop tracking system in conjunction with a powerful sales automation platfrom like SalesForce.com for monitoring marketing effectiveness and tracking your sales funnel from lead acquisition through close.

    Are there any other components you would add to your lead generation SLA? Let us know if you think a sales and marketing SLA would be helpful in your organization in the comments below.

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