What Is a Service Level Agreement (SLA)?

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A service level agreement (SLA) is an arrangement between two parties that details the services and deliverables (or fees) each party agree to provide one another. Typically, you’ll find SLAs in business-to-consumer settings, but they’re also a valuable tactic for synchronizing sales and marketing teams.

Businesses thrive when sales and marketing teams work together, but often these two groups work in silos with little understanding of each other.

Misalignment between sales and marketing teams is more common than you think, and the damages speak for themselves:

  • Rising tensions.
  • Inefficient marketing-sales funnels.
  • Time and money wasted on the wrong leads.

So, how do you get your sales and marketing teams in alignment? Draft a service level agreement or SLA.

SLAs outline responsibilities, goals, and deliverables for both teams. In turn, sales and marketing better understand how their roles are interconnected.

How SLAs optimize lead handoff

The biggest reason marketing and sales managers draft SLAs is because of inefficiencies (and frustrations) with the lead handoff.

Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) become sales accepted leads (SALs) during this handoff, and they eventually transition into opportunities and paying customers—assuming the sales department converts on the deal.

To put it bluntly:

The lead handoff is important.

Yet, handoffs often fail if marketing and sales teams both do their own thing and use different definitions and indicators for MQLs and SALs.

When sales and marketing teams don’t understand the difference between MQLs and SALs, the entire foundation of the handoff process crumbles.

Marketing ends up pushing through bad leads, and sales teams mishandle good leads. As a result, sales blames marketing for always sending bad leads, and marketing blames sales for not converting on good leads.

Here’s where SLAs come in handy:

SLAs solve handoff issues by clearly defining marketing qualified leads and sales accepted leads. What’s more, SLAs also outlines broad goals, performance expectations, and procedures for the marketing-sales funnel.

In doing so, SLAs establish team-to-team accountability, create a unified workflow, and inspire a common goal.

How to draft a service level agreement

  • Set clear outcomes/goals
  • Define terms and indicators for MQL and SAL
  • Establish processes for handling (and handing off) leads
  • Establish benchmarks, metrics, and KPIs for measuring success
  • Audit your SLA regularly
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) keep your sales and marketing teams working together toward a common goal instead of at each other’s throats. Click To Tweet

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About the author

Lorraine Roberte

Lorraine Roberte is an experienced personal finance writer living in sunny South Florida. She helps readers make informed decisions about their mortgage, insurance, credit cards, small business finances, and more. Her work has appeared on sites like The Simple Dollar, The Balance, I Will Teach You To Be Rich,, and numerous others.