Sales agreements stuck in 'legal review' forever? Employ these techniques to reduce the time it takes for a sales contract to be signed.
There’s nothing more important to business growth than sales contracts. They need to be created, issued and signed to recognize revenue - whether it’s a commercial lease, a SaaS agreement or any other kind of sales agreement, you can’t grow without it.
It’s surprising, then, that sales contracts are often pretty awful - both in terms of content, and in terms of the process by which they’re agreed. And bad contracts lead to bad outcomes: deals that go unsigned, or messy contracts that create risk, or poor experiences that sour the relationship between the vendor and its new customer.
Through helping companies to automate them, we’ve learned a lot about sales contracts - what to do, what not to do, and how to get them signed faster. Here are 9 tips to make sure contracts don’t block your revenue growth.
What's a sales contract?
A sales contract is a binding agreement through which the seller transfers goods or services from one party to another. They are amongst the most common types of contract in the business world, and often also the first contract workflow to be considered for automation.
1. People want to sign a simple sales agreement ...
… rather than something incredibly complicated. Humans naturally favour fluency and simplicity when they’re processing information; lawyers, on the other hand (while still human) have a natural bias towards complexity.
Making sales contracts simple, so counterparties can read and understand them quickly, is perhaps the biggest shortcut to achieving a quick signature. It’s not always easy making things shorter and simpler. This is particularly true for contracts, which unavoidably contain some difficult or complex concepts from time to time.
But working on the layout and the language really pays off when it comes to time-to-signature. For a quick primer on how to make contractual language simpler, start with the OG destroyer of legal jargon, Ken Adams, author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting.
2. Your sales contract should look good
This is the key document that needs to convince your potential new customer to take the plunge and eSign on the dotted line. Don’t send it out looking like a high school project from the 90s. Brand it with your logo. Remove as much clutter as you can. Include images and illustrations if your contract editor can handle them.
A branded contract in the Juro editor.
Document design shouldn't be an afterthought - you want your prospect to be excited about the idea of working with you, not confused and disengaged by an ugly wall of text and bad formatting.
3. Don’t hide the contract’s key details
If there’s a term or clause that counterparties often negotiate, you aren’t going to get around it by sneaking the words into a sub-paragraph in the middle of the contract and hoping they don’t notice. And even if you could, do you want to start your commercial relationship by trying to hoodwink them?
Getting sales contracts signed quickly means getting your counterparty up to speed on the key terms quickly. So put key terms like commercials, duration and so on in a table at the top of the document - better information design should lead to better alignment on both sides, and a quicker outcome.
Key details highlighted in a Juro sales contract.
4. Consider your audience
A sales contract is like any other piece of writing - it needs to be written with its audience in mind. Whether it’s a simple sales agreement for a software subscription, or a complex digital licensing agreement for two corporate partners, content needs to be tailored for its reader.
Increasingly this means the same approach for B2B contracts as for B2B. After all, businesses are run by people too. Don’t soak your audience in dense legal jargon; don’t condescend; don’t project hostility or elitism. This is the documentary equivalent of a handshake - make it friendly!
5. Prepare your contract’s fallback positions
If your sales agreement is with a bigger or more powerful counterparty, then negotiation is likely. To land deals of a certain size, you might need to be prepared to bend or yield completely on certain terms in the contract.
Get clear on the fallback positions you’d be prepared to accept. If your contract automation platform allows it, you can use conditional logic to create these branches within your contract template - for example, varying the indemnity cap automatically, depending on the value of the deal.
However, if you have fallback positions you need to rely on again and again, and they’re commercially acceptable, could you just soften the terms to that level to avoid contract negotiation altogether? If you optimise for signing, rather than your preferred terms, you might end up with more signatures.
6. Make the sales contract process frictionless
Once you’ve done all this, and you have a perfect sales contract template that will attract minimal negotiation, whilst giving your counterparty a great experience and setting your relationship up for success - automate it.
Create your template as a digital document within a contract automation platform. Salespeople can then generate their own contracts on demand, without needing a legal counsel, or other senior figure, to supervise the contract creation process.
For more information, read this deep dive on how to automate a SaaS agreement.
7. Control contract access
You might be comfortable with salespeople creating contracts from the defined template, but you probably wouldn’t want them to freestyle contract terms and go around changing parts of the document to get the deal done.
In Juro you can lock parts of the contract, so that only template owners can edit them. Day-to-day users simply go through a natural language Q&A flow to populate key fields in the contract - dates, names, dollar values, and so on - and everything else is fixed by the template.
This helps sales teams move quickly to get their contracts agreed, but without the risk of rogue terms creeping into the contract.
8. Negotiate in-browser (if you have to)
As mentioned above, it’s better to try and create templates that attract minimal negotiation, or none at all. This might mean having less advantageous terms in the contract, but it should mean that you sign more of them.
However, negotiation at some point is probably unavoidable. So if you have to do it, do it in-browser.
By using a contract automation platform with internal and external commenting and negotiation, you can make sure to capture all negotiation data. If negotiation happens offline, then you’ll never know why changes were made and it’ll be impossible to learn from these experiences and improve your contract process accordingly.
If you negotiate in-browser in Juro, there’s a secure, digital audit trail of what was changed when, and by whom - so your sales team can learn for next time.
9. Sign sales contracts on mobile
If you really want sales contract process to accelerate, then you need to empower counterparties to sign on mobile. Reps can be sending contracts from their phone on the way back from meetings (like in this case study) to get things moving. If eSignature is a step up in efficiency from wet signature, then mobile eSignature is a step up again.
Juro features secure, mobile-responsive electronic signature on any device, as part of a host of features designed to enable businesses to automate routine contracts at scale - all within the browser. To try it, and to discuss any of the techniques outlined above, hit the button below and supercharge your sales contract process today.