The SLA is Dead: Why You Need a Real-Time Marketing & Sales Strategy Now

They say patience is a virtue. But, I’m not much for waiting.

My answer to the interview question, “What’s your greatest weakness?” is always – without hesitation – “I’m impatient.”

But a lot of people are impatient. Especially today’s buyers.

As we become more digitally-connected and globally-minded, buyers expect companies to follow suit – and scale operations for a 24/7 world.

The good news is, it’s getting easier to do that. With the advent of new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), chat, and automation, “always-on” businesses are becoming the gold standard. 

The bad news is, B2B companies have been slower to adapt to our real-time reality. B2B marketing and sales – where convoluted funnels and go-to-market processes still run rampant – are particularly guilty of not meeting buyers and customers on their terms. And buyers are sick of waiting.

It’s time for a change. Here’s how marketing and sales can adapt to deliver the always-on digital experience buyers and customers expect:

Embrace the Future of Real-Time Engagement

A Harvard Business Review study found that if sales waited longer than five minutes to follow up after a person completed a webform, their ability to connect with that buyer decreased by a factor of 10. That study also found that only a few companies responded within a five-minute window.

This research dates back to 2011.

A lot’s changed since then:

  • Buyers’ preferences have shifted
  • Technology has advanced
  • 2020 happened

And for many buyers, even five minutes is far too long.

The question is: How fast is fast enough for today’s customers?

We asked this question in our recent benchmark report. Here’s what your buyers had to say:

46% of respondents said they expect a response within 5 seconds or less when using a chatbot; 43% expect the same using online live chat; and 33% when using a phone or video call. In fact, this need for immediacy grew across the board averaging an increase of 25%.”

State of Conversational Marketing, Drift

Five seconds or less – that’s how fast today’s buyers expect a reply from a chatbot or via live chat. One-in-three buyers expect the same via a phone or video call.

And this call real-time engagement has only grown. The 2020 pandemic has sped up digital transformation for most companies by years. More than one-third of B2B sellers now prefer digital self-service and engagement over in-person meetings.

Fortunately, both marketing and sales teams have greater access to AI and sales and marketing automation – like Conversational Marketing and Sales – than years prior. This means companies can not only help buyers without the restrictions of a nine-to-five workday, but approach engagement with unparalleled insights that drive conversions.

account based marketing notifications

But tech alone does not a strategy make.

Let Go of Old Sales & Marketing SLAs & Focus on Action

Service-level agreements (SLAs) are a commitment between a service provider and their client and cover the availability and responsibilities of the two parties. In a “marketing and sales” SLA, marketing is the service provider and sales is the client.

Yes, alarm bells should be going off in your head right now. This thinking is problematic for two reasons:

  • Sales should want to follow-up with buyers. Marketing shouldn’t have to “force” sales to follow-up.
  • Marketing shouldn’t be viewed as a service provider. Sales shouldn’t be viewed as a client. These teams are partners.

For companies that have embraced real-time engagement technologies, SLAs create opportunity blockers. If a buyer is ready to talk now, sales shouldn’t wait to reach out before the account is assigned to them. And marketing shouldn’t make it harder for buyers to find the answers they need with gates.

In a world without waiting, both marketing and sales need to focus on helping buyers now, action, and common goals.

The SLA is Now

In Drift’s latest book, The SLA is Now, we dig into the rise of always-on businesses and the steps B2B companies need to take to create a real-time marketing and sales strategy.

Here’s a look at what’s inside:

  • A deep dive into the technologies powering real-time digital engagement
  • A customizable go-to-market template to action marketing and sales teams
  • Marketing best practices for creating engaging, personalized digital experiences that convert
  • Sales strategies for building strong SDR/AE partnerships, improving productivity, and accelerating deals to close

As you begin your own digital transformation, use this book as a guide to drive results across your GTM teams.

Want to create your own real-time marketing & sales strategy? The SLA is Now includes actionable templates and proven best practices to level up your marketing and sales strategy. Download your copy of The SLA is Now here.

The SLA is Now

Is your marketing and sales team prepared?