March 18, 2021

The Benefits of Marketing-Sales Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

Marketing and sales teams both need each other to be successful. The leads marketing produces must be closed by a sales rep in order to become customers. For sales to close customers, they require leads and enablement materials from marketing. Unfortunately, there’s often a lack of alignment between those teams around who’s responsible for what.

A marketing-sales service-level agreement (SLA) is a cross-team commitment that establishes a shared set of expectations around each team’s responsibilities.

A marketing-sales SLA will include:

  • Goals for marketing about the quality and quantity of leads that should be produced at each lifecycle stage
  • Goals for sales about how quickly leads should be followed up with and how many outreach attempts are required
  • Definitions of lifecycle stages and lead qualification
  • Guidelines for communication and feedback between the teams
  • Explanations of revenue team values and culture

By documenting how the two teams will work together, you minimize the chance of misalignment and increase the efficacy of both teams. 

Download our Service Level Agreement template to get your teams aligned

The Benefits of Marketing-Sales Service-Level Agreements

1. Create accountability between both teams

Misalignment between marketing and sales is almost always caused by misunderstandings around expectations and responsibilities. SLAs provide clear, concrete documentation of what each team is responsible for, so there is no room for such miscommunication. 

SLAs translate marketing and sales expectations into quantitative goals. This takes the emotion out of the collaboration and reduces uncertainty. Neither team can blame the other for a perceived lack of work unless there’s data backing them up. And, if one team isn’t meeting its goals, it’s clear where the responsibility for that lack of performance falls.

2. Accelerate revenue

When silos exist within your company, there will be inefficiencies, things that slip through the cracks and a lack of holistic control. Marketing-sales SLAs break down the silos between your marketing and sales teams to align them around a unified set of goals and expectations. 

This enables them to better work together and ensures that their efforts are building upon one another’s. The clarity provided in an SLA will lead to a more streamlined marketing-and-sales funnel. When managing your funnel is a true collaborative effort between marketing and sales teams, the output of that funnel will be better, leading to more revenue for your company.

3. Reduce resource waste

Marketing-sales SLAs create a shared understanding about what defines a qualified lead and when such leads are ready to be handed off to sales. Because of that, marketers won’t waste time nurturing leads that sales deems a poor-fit. 

Similarly, the expectations set for sales around follow-up speed and cadence will ensure that all the qualified leads marketing produces get addressed appropriately, so none of marketing’s work goes to waste.

4. Provide guidelines for feedback

Marketing-sales SLAs create guardrails that make communications between the two teams easier. 

With an SLA, marketing won’t be able to just go to sales and say, “I don’t think you’re following up with my leads sufficiently” and sales can’t go to marketing and complain, “The leads you’re sending me aren’t good.” Before either of those claims are made, they’d need to be backed up with data and compared against the benchmarks established in the SLA. 

If there is validity to those claims, the SLA will also provide guidance around how that feedback should occur. What are the appropriate channels? What team members should be receiving the constructive feedback? Those guidelines will ensure that such feedback is received by the right people and addressed in a timely manner.

The Takeaway

A marketing-sales SLA can lead to increased performance from both teams. However, the way you use that documentation is what ultimately determines whether you’ll see any benefits from it, so it’s critical to create and implement your SLA strategically.

For SLAs to be effective, they need to be made through a collaborative effort from both teams and upheld by both teams over time. So, educating marketing and sales team members on the information within your SLA and enabling them to use it is what will ultimately benefit your company.

Download our SLA template

The post was originally published May 9, 2017.

Beth Abbott

Beth is a Senior Manager of Revenue Operations at New Breed and specializes in optimizing how processes and platforms support revenue growth.


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