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Kyle Bento

By Kyle Bento

Jan 11, 2017


Inbound Sales
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Inbound Sales

Keep the Peace: 7 Things Needed in a Service Level Agreement

Kyle Bento

By Kyle Bento

Jan 11, 2017

Keep the Peace: 7 Things Needed in a Service Level Agreement

Even though sales and marketing are on the same team, sometimes you'd swear they were working for rival companies.  

It would be one thing if this lack of unity was just watercooler chat, but the reality is this misalignment limits results. Big time.  

Luckily, creating a Service Level Agreement (SLA), or agreed upon terms between teams, is the key to clearing the conflict and amplifying revenue results.

According to a study by the CEB, 87% of sales and marketing professionals use negative terms to describe each other. There's a good chance this doesn't surprise you, right?

Much of this conflict can be attributed to poor sales and marketing alignment and the lack of an SLA.

A common disagreement may go something like this...

Marketing Manager: Why did your team only close three leads this month?

Sales Manager: Your marketing team wasn't giving me much in the way of qualified leads.

Marketing Manager: This report states that my team sent sales over 100 leads in the last month.

Sales Manager: Again...75% of the leads sent had less than 20 employees and were outside of the state, making them unqualified.

And the disagreement between the two teams will continue.

Just because marketing generates 100 leads doesn't mean any of them were actually qualified. That's because the two teams probably don't have the same definition or set of criteria that makes a qualified lead for the company.

To help keep the peace, see how you can create an alignment between sales and marketing with a service level agreement.

The Advantages of a Service Level Agreement

HubSpot’s 2015 State of Inbound Marketing report highlighted three compelling advantages for companies that maintain their SLA:

  • Companies with an active SLA are 34% more likely to experience greater year-over-year ROI than those companies that aren’t.
  • They’re 21% more likely to get greater budget allocations.
  • They’re 31% more likely to be hiring additional salespeople to meet demand.

Fostering Sales and Marketing Alignment: Smarketing

Smarketing is the concept of ensuring sales and marketing teams are on the same page and working as a unit.

Smarketing is an ongoing practice that starts with getting both teams organized around the same goals and continually focused on achieving those goals together.

Develop a Marketing Goal

To prevent disagreements from happening month after month, the marketing department should be setting a concrete numerical marketing goal that aligns with the sales team.

When considering sales goals, it's important that sales isn't in this by themselves -- marketing has to help sales meet that goal by generating a certain amount of qualified leads.

How do you know how many qualified leads you need to help sales reach their goal? Great question, you just need to wipe some dust off your math skills and keep reading to learn how you can create a service level agreement.

Develop an Agreement

Hopefully, each team is effectively communicating with each other and understands what information can help them become more accountable.

Sales and marketing should now develop their service level agreement, detailing the marketing goal (that could be number of leads, number of qualified leads or revenue) and the sales activity to help them follow up with leads generated by marketing.

With an agreement, it makes it easier for sales and marketing to work together.

Calculate Marketing

Before you start calculating anything for the marketing side of your SLA, you will need for gather some information.

You will need the following information to calculate some marketing SLA metrics:

  • Total sales goal in terms of revenue
  • Percentage of revenue that comes from marketing versus sales generated leads
  • Average sale
  • Average lead to customer close percentage

I'll give you a second to gather that information before we start doing some calculations.

You will want to calculate the following:

  • Revenue goal, generated from marketing = sales quota X % of revenue from marketing generated leads
  • Customers Needed =  revenue goal, generated from marketing / average sale
  • Leads Needed = customers / average lead to customer close percentage

Now that you know how to calculate the marketing side of your service level agreement, you will want to make sure that you reevaluate it every month.

Due to different factors and time, your numbers within your calculations can actually change. Therefore, be sure to recalculate your marketing SLA, either every month or every quarter. To be the king or queen of your marketing SLA calculations, you should create a spreadsheet containing your calculations.

Track the following metrics in your spreadsheet:

  • Number of marketing generated leads
  • Number of leads that became customers
  • Revenue from closed leads
  • Total revenue generated by marketing leads for the month
  • Total revenue closed for the month
  • Average sales cycle

If you're not just interested in the quantity, but also the quality of your leads and customers, you can take your marketing SLA calculations one step further by doing the above analysis for each subset of leads and set up separate goals for each quality level of leads.

We all know that all leads are not the same, therefore, your sales and marketing teams value some leads more than others. If your sales team has a hard time determining which leads are more qualified than others, you should start implementing lead scoring.

Calculating Sales

Just like with marketing, you should also be calculating the sales side, in regards to the speed and depth of follow-up for marketing generated leads. Do you know the optimal number and frequency of follow up attempts should be made for each lead?

If not, you should develop a chart outlining the speed from conversion event to sales follow up. checkout the extensive analysis done by, who found that:

  • The first 5 minutes are critical to develop higher contact and lead qualification rates, than waiting 30 minutes
  • Recommended follow up attempts is between six and nine calls

Not every lead is going to be sales ready, perhaps marketing needs to nurture those leads and help push them down the sales funnel. Once a visitor becomes a lead, either sales or marketing should make contact with each lead to start developing a relationship, whether it's through lead nurturing or following up with a sales call.


It's extremely important to maintain open communication between the two teams. Each team should be consistently tracking their goals and addressing any concerns along the way. If the other team isn't on track to meet the goal, don't be afraid to address your concerns.

Think of achieving your goals as a team effort. Each team should work hard to fulfill their half of the service level agreement.

Here is a list of some reports to help keep sales and marketing accountable:

  • Daily leads waterfall graph, compare that graph against your goal for the month.
  • Develop a list of workable new leads, breaking them down into categories such as open, in progress, qualified, unable to qualify and unqualified.
  • Monthly marketing report, should show the impact of recent activities. Look at visits, leads and customers by source. Sources can include; organic search, referrals, social media, email marketing, paid search, direct traffic and others.
  • Determine how effective your web pages, landing pages, blog articles call to actions and other content are performing.
  • Sales should also be calculating how fast it takes for them to follow up with a lead. How many days, 0 to 10? 11 to 20? or 21 to 35 days?

The 7 Things Needs in a Sales and Marketing Service Level Agreement

To begin this process, you should get your marketing and sales leaders in the same room to formulate a strategy and map out the details of your agreement. 

You have the freedom to include anything you want in your service level agreement, but we suggest the following items to start with.

1. Buyer Personas

Sales and marketing will never be in alignment if the two teams don't agree on who they are trying to attract and close. Buyer personas need to go beyond basic demographics and get specific.

It's always tempting to skip this step assuming you know who your buyer personas are, or to breeze through it because you don't take it very seriously. However, your buyer personas create the foundation for all lead generation practices and inbound marketing in general.

2. Defined Qualified Leads

What your marketing team defines as a qualified lead might not match up with how your sales team defines it. You clear this up right away by having the two define and agree on what makes a lead and what makes a qualified lead.

When both teams are in agreement, marketing can't say they're sending qualified leads to sales when they're not -- and sales can't make excuses for not closing leads because they aren't qualified. It keeps both sides accountable.

3. Agreed on Clear Goals

Whenever you set your goals, you want to be methodical about it. Don't just come up with some number that sounds nice, do your research. Set SMART goals.

What are the strengths/weaknesses of your team?

What results have they got in the past?

What are your current lead generation numbers?

Taking all of that into consideration, come up with realistic goals for each phase of your funnel.

4. KPIs to Track

Both teams need to agree on which key performance indicators (KPIs) that everyone is going to track on an ongoing basis to measure performance. 

With everyone tracking the same KPIs, it keeps both teams on the same page regarding what's working and what isn't -- plus, it keeps both sides accountable.

Setting up Marketing SLA Reporting

Once you've set your goals, now you need to track your progress. This isn't something that you should just be checking once a week, it should be done daily. A great tool to help you track your progress is a daily lead waterfall graph.

daily leads waterfall graph

If you aren't using HubSpot, you won't automatically see this graph. A great option that HubSpot offers allows you to change what you're comparing the results to. You can choose from custom goal, last month, this month, last year and last three month average.

For those not using HubSpot but still looking to utilize a daily lead waterfall graph, you can create your own in excel. To achieve your goals and to ensure you're on track, you will want to calculate your daily goal for each day of the month by multiplying 1/n (where "n" equals the number of days in the month) by your monthly goal. Just remember to graph your results everyday.

Setting up Sales SLA Reporting

At a minimum, Sales should be reporting and tracking their progress with two graphs, one monitoring the speed of your sales people following up with leads and the depth of the follow up.

  • Speed of follow up should be calculated by taking the date the lead was sent to sales and the date the lead got their first follow up. The difference between the two will tell you how many days it took sales to follow up.
  • With depth of follow up, you want to focus your attention on the leads that have not been reached yet. Within a particular time frame, a week, two weeks, or a month, look at the average amount of follow up attempts that your sales team has made. 

5. Defined Hand-off

The handoff between marketing and sales is an important step in closing leads, but too many companies get it wrong because they don't have a set protocol. 

Your SLA needs to define when and how a handoff should occur, considering your system for lead scoring and how you determine when a lead is ready for your sales team.

6. Criteria for How Leads Are Managed

Sales and marketing teams are notorious for accusing the other team of not managing leads correctly. It's time to put this issue to rest once and for all.

Your SLA should clearly outline how and when both teams should communicate with leads. It should also incorporate closed loop reporting and define how sales should report accepted and rejected leads.

7. Plan for Ongoing Review and Improvement of the SLA 

Your SLA isn't going to be set in stone forever. It needs to be regularly reviewed and updated with new information.

Somewhere between bi-annually and quarterly works well for most companies. The faster your growth, the more often you should review and update your SLA.

Although a SLA is fundamental to aligning sales and marketing, the process of keeping both teams aligned is never-ending. However, managing that process is significantly easier and more effective when you have a solid SLA in place.

Aligning Sales and Marketing with an SLA

This article covers the basic steps that most organizations go through when developing a service level agreement for their organization.  It's important to note, however, that this process is going to vary widely in your organization.

What won't change is the goal: getting your sales and marketing teams to support and amplifly eachothers efforts.

Happy Aligning!

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