If you’re in business, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Always be closing.”
OK, if you have even the slightest knowledge of pop culture, you’ve probably heard that one. But honestly, closing the sale isn’t worth much if you can’t get the client to sign the contract.
Sure, everyone is hopped up on adrenaline when the initial deal is made, but an inefficient contract workflow and a lack of communication among departments can derail even the most promising of partnerships. On the other hand, streamlining the contract process can save time and money and ensure that the energy put into closing the sale pays off.
So here’s another expression for you: Don’t count your chickens before the ink is dry.
Obstacles That Can Derail Even the Most Ironclad Deals
Signed contracts are the linchpins of successful deals, but they can seem like a marathon to push through. This is mainly because several people on both teams often need to review and edit them before they’re finalized, but there are other potential roadblocks to consider:
• Manual data reentry: A contract might undergo several revisions before both parties are ready to sign, and updating the data and reentering the information can eat up valuable time. Automate the process through a customer relationship management system such as Salesforce to make it more efficient.
• The long approval process: Moving quickly is key to ensuring a deal goes through. Everyone involved needs to communicate at the different stages. On a software and services contract, for example, the chain of approval might call for the head of development to review, edit, and approve the scope of work, followed by the head of sales or finance signing off on pricing before the business owner gives it the go-ahead. If the process and time frame for departments isn’t clear, the contract could stall, and the outside party will lose confidence.
• Version control: Companies often rely on Microsoft Word and email for the contract-signing process. Although they were once the best tools for writing and signing contracts, they’re now more of a hindrance. Emailing new versions of the contract back and forth becomes confusing and requires someone to compare the documents and manually integrate changes. This workflow is slow and disorderly, and printing, scanning, and emailing the signed document adds another layer of wasted time.
The longer it takes to get a contract signed, the greater the risk is of losing money or even the deal. But evaluating your contract workflow and looking for ways to simplify the process can help you avoid conflicts and delays.
How to Simplify the Process
Speed is everything after a closing a deal, so shortening the time span between the initial handshake and getting the contract signed will give you a better chance of success. If a client can say yes and sign a contract immediately, he will do it. But if it’s going to take a few hours or days, he’ll put it on the back burner, where it could be delayed for weeks or even months.
Microsoft Word and email are the tools traditionally used for contracts, but they don’t support collaboration well. If you’re using a CRM option, you can use e-signature products that integrate with the CRM software, pull information from it, and fill out the contract automatically. The only pitfall is that these tools don’t allow document editing.
Contract assembly software is a much more comprehensive solution. These software products generate sophisticated legal documents based on questionnaires and logic you create. Your company’s unique needs will dictate which products or combination of products suits you best, but automating the contract process will streamline this phase and increase the odds of a successful deal.
These systems can be lifesavers during busy periods such as the end of the quarter, when your legal team is bogged down. An automated system can help move contracts to their desks faster, allowing them to make changes and give approval in a timely manner.
A clear contract process that can be executed quickly improves the chances of a deal going through, and it makes your business look smart. There’s a reason everyone hates cumbersome paperwork. A simple method for revising and signing the contract will earn you respect and a leg up on competitors. Find an automated system that meets your company’s needs, and let your team get back to doing what it does best.