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You’ve probably heard of alignment between sales and marketing, and if you’re following the inbound methodology the way New Breed does, then you might even have a Service-Level Agreement which details what that alignment looks like. But sales and marketing aren't alone: every set of two departments could likely benefit from alignment. Today, our focus is on your sales team and your service team. By aligning these two departments, you can ensure your sales team isn’t overpromising the capabilities of your services team — and your services team isn’t under-providing.
What is the Purpose of a Service-Level Agreement?
The primary purpose of a Service-Level Agreement (SLA) is to create criteria for alignment and accountability. By outlining these criteria and setting expectations in a sales and services SLA, you can make it easier for teams to better understand the role of their counterpart and be on the same page about their own responsibilities. A sales and service SLA will give your services team members a clearer, more cohesive picture of what leads are coming in, and give your sales team a better idea of what the services team needs from those leads to successfully provide the product or service. Such an agreement will enhance collaboration and ultimately improve workflow.
Buyer Personas in an SLA
Ideally, you want to be sure that your sales team is only selling to buyer personas that make sense for you to service. Therefore, the establishment of clear buyer personas is critical, and information about those personas should be built into your SLA. You need to sell to the buyer personas who your solution will most benefit and who your team can best support. With this in mind, it’s important to understand that fit will feature prominently in a sales to service SLA.
What an SLA Between Sales and Services Should Include
Your agreement summary should define specific criteria for an effective interaction with leads from both the sales and services teams. Keeping timing in mind as your draft, as the SLA should define when to follow up with a new lead (for sales) or customer (for service), and how often they should be touched.
For this portion of the contract, you should outline concrete examples of how you plan to progress the customer journey, and your expectations should be in line with your goals and agreement summary. These expectations will act as a threshold for your SLA, and determine the cadence of your partnership between the two teams.
For example, New Breed's sales and onboarding teams have a commitment to submit all operational onboarding tasks within five days of a deal closure, and we use checklists within our project management tool to be sure each task is outlined and accounted for.
A successful SLA will not only have the goals of each team outlined, but will also include examples of how to continuously support one another. Hubspot says this can look like weekly consulting, reporting or technical maintenance — but it will all depend on the needs of your teams. By paying close attention to each other’s goals, your sales and services teams can find opportunities to strengthen the lead nurturing process and customer journey, and ensure they are working in tandem.
Contact and communication between both teams is crucial for success, which is why it is important to establish a point of contact and communication plan. Who will be responsible for keeping track of goals? Will you be sending reports via email or dedicating time to meet in person every week?
A postmortem is a process of meetings and documentation that takes place after a benchmark of a project, which is usually at the very end. Within this process, documentation reveals aggregate data which can help you develop next steps and any changes you may want to make to your SLA. This process will help you figure out what’s been successful and what needs to be improved within the sales-service partnership.
Depending on your goals, the metrics you observe may vary. Take some time to establish a plan in case goals weren’t meant and identify weaknesses in your partnership that you could continue to build on. Include the rules and criteria for a successful postmortem in your SLA.
In order to have a successful SLA, frequent revisits and constant communication are both crucial. Postmortem conversations for every sales-service interaction or project will help you determine your next steps as you review your metrics and ultimately, lead to better workflow.
By developing an SLA between your sales and services teams, you can ensure that your sales team is setting expectations for customers that your services team can actually follow up on, helping those customers have the best experience possible.
Karin is Content Lead at New Breed. She specializes in developing content strategy and copy at every point in the creation process, from persona design to final edits