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How to build an effective Sales and Marketing SLA


According to the State of Inbound report, fewer than half of marketers would describe their respective companies’ sales and marketing teams as ‘generally aligned’. At many companies, it can feel as if there are sometimes 100 miles between sales and marketing.

This is where a Service Level Agreement or SLA is crucial in setting the standards of what good looks like and providing a framework for delivery across both teams.

So what exactly is an SLA?

An SLA, in its simplest form, creates an agreed-upon benchmark for what constitutes ‘good’ performance across both teams - making it much easier to quantify poor performance and areas for improvement.

SLAs can sometimes feel a bit arbitrary and not always feel like you’re measuring things that directly support your company’s bigger business objectives, which is why revisiting SLAs regularly is vital.

Starting off on the right foot

The process for creating a workable SLA starts with bringing the leaders of all disciplines into the same room to discuss roles, responsibilities, processes, targets and accountability. Everyone needs to be on the same page from the outset.

Standardise the language and find common ground

Introducing a common language early on in SLA discussions is really important. Using standardised lead definitions such as MQLs (marketing qualified leads) and SQLs (sales qualified leads) can make or break your marketing and sales efforts. Agreeing your ideal client profile or persona is a crucial first step to ensuring everything else that follows is on the right lines.

Set clear goals

It’s important to establish some baseline metrics that can be reviewed and refined as you revisit your SLA. Some examples of metrics to consider are: overall business revenue goals, monthly leads generated by marketing (MQLs), monthly leads followed up by sales (SQLs), the average lead to customer conversion rate and the average lifetime value of a customer.

Track, measure and assess performance metrics

If your teams are large, determine who will serve as the ambassadors for each team and organise a time to get together each week. Agree the agenda with common themes around tracking, measuring and assessing wider marketing and sales activity in line with wider business goals; you may consider setting up a shared scoreboard. It’s not uncommon to have no director-level input in these meetings - it’s about looking at the day-to-day challenges and big rocks can be escalated if needed.

Ask yourself, is this working?

Aligning your sales and marketing teams using a shared internal SLA is not a quick win. The process takes work and energy on all sides to find common ground. Incremental improvements around how you are performing is crucial, so finding time to review your SLA as a team is something that should be diarised to happen at least quarterly.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

It’s easy to spend more time planning what is going in a SLA than executing it effectively. Both sales and marketing teams would benefit from having an agreement in place and the reality is that when these two teams are in sync, the organisation is more successful. Therefore, don’t delay and get an SLA in place asap, the detail can be ironed out as you go along - just starting the process by talking about an SLA will start to build that alignment.

Still wondering how to get your marketing and sales teams better aligned? Read our blog here for a deeper look into this topic.

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