May 21, 2024 Digital BIAS

How to define SQLs: An SLA for marketing and sales teams

Digital BIAS specialise in RevOps and GTM, with one wholly reliant on the other; we try to break down the how with our content for our readers. This article covers the SLA marketing and revenue teams that need to drive success.

Internal alignment typically refers to technological alignment between sales and marketing teams. Cross-functional alignment is another term for the amalgamation of these teams, which focuses on solving a problem and is usually pipeline-related. 

If your business is pivoting strategy, say from sales-led to product-led, you would also need cross-functional teams, which, in this case, is sometimes referred to as a tiger team. There is a defined scope of work or a framework to operate in all cases. 

Yet, I seldom see posts that dive into what an SLA between marketing and sales should look like and how it should be reinforced.

Without a contract, there is no SLA

Creating a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for marketing and sales teams to define the quality of a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is crucial for ensuring alignment and efficiency in the lead generation and conversion process. 

So often, we see verbally agreed service level agreements, which are then argued in context at the board meetings and create unnecessary friction between the teams from which they are designed to benefit. Work on the rule that if there is no written and signed SLA, it doesn’t exist.

Below is a detailed example of an SLA tailored for a B2B SaaS or FinTech company.

Service Level Agreement (SLA) for Marketing and Sales Teams


This SLA aims to establish a clear understanding and agreement between the marketing and sales teams regarding the criteria and quality of Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) for our B2B SaaS/FinTech company. This agreement aims to enhance collaboration, improve lead conversion rates, and ensure that both teams align their goals and processes.


  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): A lead that has shown interest in our product or service through marketing activities but has yet to be ready for direct sales engagement.

  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): A lead vetted and deemed ready for direct sales engagement based on predefined criteria.

Lead Qualification Criteria

(Lead qualification frameworks are a vital element to the success of your agreement. Marketers and sales reps can build a robust sales process by being specific and realistic about what research behaviour is and what constitutes buying behaviours.

Unqualified leads in the sales pipeline cause friction and pain points for all involved and negatively impact the bottom line.)

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) Criteria

  • Engagement: The lead interacts with marketing content (e.g., downloads an eBook, attends a webinar, fills out a contact form).

  • Behavioural Indicators: The lead has shown interest through actions such as multiple website visits, email opens/clicks, and social media interactions.

  • Demographic Fit: The lead matches the ideal customer profile (ICP) based on factors like industry, company size, and job title.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) Criteria

  • Budget: The lead has the financial capacity to purchase our product or service.
  • Authority: The lead is a decision-maker or has the authority to influence the purchasing decision.
  • Need: The lead has a clear need that our product or service can address.
  • Timeline: The lead has a defined timeline for making a purchase decision.
  • Engagement: The lead has shown high engagement, such as requesting a demo, viewing pricing pages, or engaging in a consultation call.

You could also use MEDDPIC to define your decision criteria, a more prevalent qualification system for tech sales teams.

Lead Scoring System

A lead scoring system will be implemented to ensure consistency in lead qualification. Points will be assigned based on the following criteria:

  • Explicit Scoring (Demographic Information):
    • Job Title: 10 points
    • Company Size: 8 points
    • Industry: 7 points
    • Geographic Location: 5 points
  • Implicit Scoring (Behavioral Indicators):
    • Website Visits: 5 points per visit
    • Email Opens/Clicks: 3 points per interaction
    • Content Downloads: 7 points per download
    • Webinar Attendance: 10 points
    • Demo Requests: 15 points

  • Negative Scoring (Disqualifiers):
    • Unsubscribing from Emails: -10 points
    • Visiting Career Page: -5 points
    • Competitor Company: -15 points

Handoff Process

  • Lead Identification: Marketing identifies and scores leads based on the abovementioned criteria.
  • Lead Qualification: Leads that meet the MQL criteria are nurtured until they reach the SQL threshold.
  • Lead Handoff: Once a lead qualifies as an SQL, marketing will notify the sales team through the CRM system.
  • Sales Acknowledgment: Sales must acknowledge receipt of the lead within 4 hours.
  • Follow-Up: Sales will contact the SQL within 24 hours of acknowledgement.

Performance Metrics

  • MQL to SQL Conversion Rate: Percentage of MQLs that convert to SQLs.
  • Lead Response Time: Average time taken by sales to acknowledge and follow up on SQLs.
  • SQL to Customer Conversion Rate: Percentage of SQLs that convert to paying customers.
  • Lead Quality Score: Average lead score of SQLs handed off to sales.

Review and Adjustment

This SLA will be reviewed quarterly to ensure it remains relevant and effective. Adjustments will be made based on performance data, feedback from both teams and changes in market conditions.


By signing below, both the marketing and sales teams agree to adhere to the terms and conditions outlined in this SLA.

Marketing Team Lead: 
Sales Team Lead: 

This SLA ensures that both marketing and sales teams are aligned on what constitutes a high-quality lead, thereby improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the lead generation and conversion process.

Use this as a basis for your agreement, customising and specifying the KPIs your specific business needs to track and the processes that get each team there. Leave nothing to ambiguity or “understanding”; be clear and transparent to avoid future misunderstandings.

marketing and sales teams

How often should the marketing and sales teams meet to discuss lead qualification?

The frequency of meetings between marketing and sales teams to discuss lead qualification can vary depending on the organisation's size, sales cycle, and specific needs. However, my experience and best practices suggest that regular and structured communication is essential for maintaining alignment and optimising the lead qualification process. Here are some recommendations:

  1. Weekly Meetings: Regular weekly meetings can help ensure that both teams are aligned on current campaigns, lead quality, and any immediate issues that need addressing. This frequency allows for timely adjustments and quick feedback loops.

  2. Monthly Reviews: In addition to weekly meetings, monthly reviews can provide a more in-depth analysis of lead quality, conversion rates, and overall performance metrics. These reviews can help identify trends, assess the effectiveness of lead qualification criteria, and make strategic adjustments.

  3. Quarterly Strategy Sessions: Quarterly strategy sessions are beneficial for long-term planning and alignment. These sessions can focus on broader strategic goals, upcoming campaigns, and any significant changes in market conditions or business objectives.

  4. Ad-Hoc Meetings: Ad-hoc meetings should be scheduled as needed to address urgent issues or significant changes in lead quality or market conditions. These meetings ensure that both teams can respond quickly to new challenges or opportunities.

Summary of Meeting Frequencies

  • Weekly Meetings: For ongoing alignment and immediate feedback.
  • Monthly Reviews: For detailed performance analysis and strategic adjustments.
  • Quarterly Strategy Sessions: For long-term planning and alignment.
  • Ad-Hoc Meetings: For addressing urgent issues or significant changes.

Regular communication and feedback between marketing and sales teams are crucial for maintaining alignment and optimising the lead qualification process. This structured approach ensures that both teams can work together effectively to improve lead quality and conversion rates.

What challenges can marketing and sales teams face during lead qualification meetings?

During lead qualification meetings between marketing and sales teams, several common challenges can arise, impacting the effectiveness of the lead qualification process and overall collaboration between the teams.

Lack of Alignment

One of the most significant challenges is the need for more alignment between marketing and sales teams regarding the definition and criteria of a qualified lead. This misalignment can lead to conflicting definitions of lead quality and inconsistent lead qualification processes. To overcome this, it is essential to establish regular communication, collaborate on defining lead qualification criteria, and work together to improve lead quality.

Regular meetings, whether weekly or monthly, can help both teams discuss and refine lead qualification criteria, review lead quality, and adjust processes as needed.

Insufficient Data and Poor Data Quality

Another common challenge is dealing with insufficient or poor-quality data. Incomplete or inaccurate data can hinder effective lead qualification, making it difficult for both teams to assess the true potential of a lead. To tackle this issue, organisations should invest in robust data collection tools, implement data validation processes, and regularly update and clean their lead databases.

Using online forms with mandatory fields to collect accurate and relevant information from leads and employing data validation techniques can ensure data integrity and improve the lead qualification process.

Ineffective Lead Nurturing

Ineffective lead nurturing is also a prevalent challenge that can lead to disengagement and decreased conversion rates. Inadequate nurturing efforts can result in leads losing interest or turning cold before they are ready for sales engagement. To address this, marketing teams should develop targeted and personalised lead nurturing campaigns based on lead segmentation and behaviour analysis.

Continually testing and optimising these campaigns through methods such as A/B testing on email subject lines, content types, or call-to-action placements can enhance engagement and conversion rates.

Premature Handoffs and Missed Follow-Ups

A lack of communication between marketing and sales teams can lead to premature handoffs and missed follow-ups, negatively impacting the lead conversion process. Establishing clear documentation and protocols for lead handoff and follow-up can help mitigate this issue.

Ensuring that both teams are aligned on the timing and criteria for lead handoff and that there is a structured follow-up process in place can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of lead management.

Overlooking Long-Term Potential

Another challenge is the tendency to overlook the long-term potential of leads that are not immediately ready to buy. These leads may still have significant value and potential for future sales. It is crucial to nurture these leads appropriately and maintain engagement until they are ready for sales interaction. By recognising and nurturing the long-term potential of leads, both marketing and sales teams can ensure a steady pipeline of qualified leads for future opportunities.

Addressing these challenges through structured communication, data management, and collaborative processes can significantly improve the lead qualification efforts and drive better business outcomes for both marketing and sales teams.

If you are a SaaS or Fintech, you can find more aligned go-to-market information in our ARISE GTM product here. 


Published by Digital BIAS May 21, 2024