SLA-blog-post-header

The Complete Service Level Agreement (SLA) How-To Guide with Workbook

If your sales and marketing teams are at odds then you’ve got some business problems to solve. One way to solve them is with a service level agreement known as an SLA.

Service Level Agreements Marketing and Sales

Why is alignment important between marketing and sales? Without the right dynamic between the two teams, there could be conflict, confusion, and a lot of effort going to waste.

There are a number of common contentions between these often rival departments. Marketers will often complain that the sales team is wasting the leads they have generated. The salespeople, on the other hand, complain that they get poor quality or a low number of leads from the marketing team.

Tools for SLA Success

During a co-webinar with ActiveDEMAND, our CEO, JP Werlin, and ActiveDEMAND CEO, Sean Leonard, delved into sales and marketing alignment and with that — the importance of the SLA. Watch the webinar here.

Besides the webinar, we’ve got another great tool for you. As this post suggests, a great way for you and your teams to gain alignment is to hunker down and draft a service level agreement (SLA). First, read our blog post. Know more about what the SLA is, why it is important and how you can draft one. Then download an SLA guide and workbook as well as an SLA we’ve utilized at PipelineDeals in the past. The downloadable guide and sample are located toward the end of this post. Okay, let’s get started on your SLA journey!

SLA Fundamentals: What You Should Know

What is the service level agreement?

A service level agreement (SLA) traditionally defines what a customer should receive from a service provider. However, it could also play a crucial role in internal operations, especially for sales and marketing teams.

The simplest definition of a service level agreement is a contract establishing the set of services that one party should deliver to another.

Definition of Sales and Marketing Service Level Agreement

A sales and marketing SLA is a contract that holds the two teams accountable to specific expectations that they agree upon so as to reach a common goal. Such an agreement would detail the marketing goals and their supporting sales activities that would facilitate the fulfillment of the stated goals.

Why is SLA the Key for Sales and Marketing Alignment?

Having an aligned marketing and sales team means having the two parties working towards a common goal with each party understanding the role they need to play to achieve that goal. Therefore, for both teams, the aim of the SLA is to encourage the two teams to support each other on the basis of specific, numerical goals.

Let’s take this example into consideration. What if the two teams together have an objective of generating $2 million in new sales. They’ll need to think about the following:

How many leads should the marketing team generate for the sales team?

What strategy will they use to generate these leads?

How will the sales department follow up on the leads and close deals to reach the overall objective?

What does an SLA consist of?

Let’s outline some of the major components that you should not miss in your SLA:

1.     Agreement Summary

The most important part of an SLA should offer a glimpse into what the agreement is all about. What services are the parties agreeing to deliver? How will they measure success?

2.     Shared Goals

If at all the two departments are to enjoy collaborative cooperation and fruitful communication, they need to define their common goals. This will allow everyone involved to be clear on their expectations. It will also serve to steer the teams in the right direction as they strive to achieve the goals.

Remember that in a business setting, the best goals are tied to hard numbers and this, in turn, translates to actual financial growth if and when the goals are realized.

3.     The Roles of Both Teams in Meeting the Goals

You have to break down the common goals to ensure both sides understand their roles in achieving them. This will make it more likely that when marketing hits its target, the sales team will succeed too as a result.

4.     What do the two teams need?

The agreement should also outline what the two teams need to reach their goals. Writing this down on paper will eliminate the tendency to assign blame when things go awry. For example, the marketing department might need frequent updates on the state of the sales pipeline. This would assist them to adjust their efforts accordingly to generate more or higher quality leads.  

One example would be the tools the teams need. In a recent blog post, we took a look at how ActiveDEMAND marketing automation software integrates with PipelineDeals CRM.

5.     Teams’ Points of Contact

Someone should be accountable for ensuring that both teams meet their goals. After figuring out the roles of both teams, assign an individual on both sides the roles of reporting performance and addressing the other side’s concerns.

6.     Consequences for Failure to Meet Goals

Though this might not seem important, your SLA should include consequences for failing to meet the objectives. It should, however, not be serious enough to end business. For instance, you could create a plan for recovering lost revenue which results from failure to reach the sales target. Include the team in this, right from the onset, appointing specific members on both teams as accountable for addressing low-performance issues.

7.     SLA Cancellation Terms

Equally important is defining the terms for contract cancellation, especially in cases where it is simply not working. An example of such a scenario is the failure to meet stipulated goals for three consecutive months. It can also be canceled if the people involved do not fully agree with it.

The aim of cancellation should be to come up with a better SLA which will hold a higher likelihood of success.

Importance of an SLA for Marketing and Sales Teams

Creating an SLA is by no means smooth sailing. The impact makes it all worthwhile. Consider some of the top benefits of SLAs:

1.     More Effective Strategies

Both teams know their specific goals and constantly review what they need to do to achieve them. The result is that they are more confident in their strategies, which inevitably leads to better results. This creates a cyclical effect of success for both teams.

2.     Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing

The sales and marketing departments are the main revenue generation drivers in any organization. When they move in opposite directions, the whole company suffers. But with an SLA in place, they are aligned around the same goals for business growth. When they work together, there is bound to be an improvement in performance.

3.     Higher ROI

Having the sales and marketing departments working in sync is important to growing a business by generating new leads and ultimately, increasing revenue. And since everyone is reading from the same script, they are more likely to collaborate for better results. This leads to higher ROI.

4.     Better Monitoring and Oversight

Working together under the terms of an SLA requires a lot of tracking and evaluation along the way using a reliable reporting system. By constantly monitoring performance, teams are incentivized to increase their efforts and channel them in the right direction. They are better able to know when a strategy works or fails and adjust when necessary. On the flip side, teams that work without such monitoring in place are often disconnected.

How to Create an SLA for your Sales and Marketing Teams

Now that we are clear on the benefits we can derive from having an SLA in place for sales and marketing, let us figure out how to create one. I’ll outline some steps below and then offer up an SLA template for you to download. First here are the steps to consider:

1.     Bring Everyone to the Table

The most important first step is to have everyone involved on the same page. Listen to the stakeholders on both sides and put all the details of the agreement down in writing. You also need to make sure that the two teams are using the same approach for lead scoring.

Next, define the target leads to ease a common point of tension between the two teams. Have everyone agree on the kind of leads to target. Align the processes of both sides because the two are inextricably linked. This should involve the process for handing over leads from marketing to sales and back again when necessary.

2.     Working Towards Specific Goals

At this point, you can set the goals for each team, making sure that they are complementary and transparent so that everyone can see what is happening. And then, establish a way to track progress for both sides. They should be able to see where they stand at any given time so as to be able to adjust efforts when needed.

3. Review the SLA Regularly

Finally, make it a habit to review the SLA regularly, the overview, goals, and reports. Reviewing them will ensure that the SLA evolves at the same pace as the business. Note that before you make any changes, you should inform or consult with the stakeholders to maintain alignment.

Get Started on Your SLA Today!

To help you out, you can download the guide, worksheet and sample below. We’ve taken the points mentioned in our guide and simplified it down to get you started and get you thinking. Feel free to add more to it. After all, every business is different.

Sales and Marketing SLA Sample


Setting a Stable Foundation for Business Growth

You’ve got a sales team. You’ve got a marketing team. They are both great at what they do. Make them great as a bigger team, with a revenue-driving mindset based on shared goals. Getting this step right can boost the bottom line. It’s no longer about the two teams battling it out. It’s about coming to an agreement.

As you are getting to that agreement, be sure you’ve got the right CRM helping you along with perfecting your sales and marketing process. Try PipelineDeals today, get started with a 14-day free trial by clicking here.

Share this post:

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Don't miss another post! Sign up here.