Sales and Marketing Service Level Agreements: 3 Tips

SLA quoteA growing trend for aligning sales and marketing teams in Saas companies is to establish a service level agreement (SLA).

We all know an SLA is a contract (in our case, between marketing, sales development reps and account executives) where responsibilities and expectations for a relationship are clearly defined. For the companies creating sales and marketing service level agreements, this often means documenting the roles of each team at an organization, especially within sales and marketing. Content may include: 

  • Definitions of sales and marketing roles
  • Details around the lead qualification process
  • Details around the process of passing leads from one role to another (Ex: from your sales development team to your closers)
  • Definitions of lifecycle stages, along with details on how those should be documented in your CRM

But what’s should you know before creating an SLA?

Alex Turner is the Director of Business Development for Wrike, a California-based company that builds online project management and work collaboration software. He’s in the process of building out an SLA to align the teams at his company and has a ton of great experience in doing so. We recently asked for some of his best practices on the process. 


3 Tips for Building Sales & Marketing Service Level Agreements:

1. Understand why you need SLAs.

Part of putting together a service level agreement is getting both you and your sales and marketing teams to understand what it’s about and why it’s important.

For Alex, SLAs are all about clarity, accountability and managing expectations.

“If business development expectations, prospect expectations and account executive expectations are all in line and clearly communicated, then everyone is on the same page,” Alex said. “You don’t have any room for finger pointing.”

Whenever information is handed off from team member to team member, it leaves the potential for a gray area. But a service level agreement creates a common understanding for all sides of the table — in this case, specifically around roles and responsibilities.

“If you have one statement of record that everyone has agreed to, then there’s no gray area. It’s black and white,” Alex said.

2. Prioritize communication and collaboration.

The keys to drafting up your sales and marketing service level agreement are communication and collaboration.

Step one: Talk to your sales team.

“I want to hear what my top sales reps say they’re excited to see as a new lead in their mailbox,” Alex said.

But he warned against caving to everything exactly as the top salespeople want it. The SLA requires a sign-off from all teams involved: sales development, direct sales, marketing, etc.

In short, everyone’s opinion needs to be heard. Ultimately, you need to come to a decision for what’s best for the company and what’s best for growth.

Then when it’s time to roll out the SLA, Alex recommends doing so to each team individually.

“I meet with each team, lay it out and get their feedback on the document as it stands,” he said. “When it’s finalized, everyone signs it.”

3. Learn from experience.

To build a sales and marketing service level agreement for his current team, Alex is pulling from his experience at NetTel Partners, which provides leads, opportunities and on-site appointments for technology companies.

The difference between NetTel and most companies is that it provides leads for customers, which means several SLAs with several different requirements. Alex, as Vice President of Client Services and Sales, managed the agreements. He learned how to get immediate feedback on meetings and leads to ensure that they were in line with the SLAs and the defined criteria of what “qualified opportunity” meant for each customer’s organization. While the setup at NetTel isn’t the same as Wrike, he’s using this experience to build a service level agreement in his new role.

Even if you don’t come from expansive SLA experience, plenty of opportunities exist to learn from other companies, too. SalesLoft, a SaaS company with a sales development platform, actually made its SLA available for anyone to use as a template (check it out here). Whether you go with this sort of format or something entirely different, if you want to better align sales and marketing, commit to putting one in place.

Looking for more best practices from sales influencers? Check out these hiring tips:

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