Creating sales contracts and getting them signed are crucial activities for driving growth and scaling. So why are so many companies failing to optimise the process?
This is a chapter from our eBook, 'Scaling B2B sales: how to build a revenue rocket ship', featuring sales leaders from some of the fastest-growing companies around. Download the free guide in full here.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the majority of business commerce depends on contracts. Indeed, the IACCM estimates up to 80% of the revenue that flows through B2B deals is governed by contracts. But they also estimate that 83% of people are dissatisfied with contract process and that includes dissatisfaction from sales teams and their prospects.
Getting to yes quickly is a core aim for all salespeople and this ultimately means getting a signature on a page. Arguably the contracting process is the single most important touchpoint in the sales process - get it wrong and you risk longer sales cycles or, worse, losing momentum in the deal. So for every business looking for high growth and quick scaling, an optimised contracts process is a must-have.
Unfortunately, too few businesses have woken up to the unfair advantage that a frictionless contract workflow provides. The IACCM estimates that 80% of contracts are still managed with clunky, manual processes. Time and again we see the same bottlenecks appear, slowing down sales cycles, creating resentment between legal and business teams, as well as corners cut in the contract lifecycle - baking in risk to be discovered at some indeterminate point in the future.
“You have zero chance of pushing through high volumes at the end of a quarter if you still insist on using manual contract processes”
If you want to design for scale, and create a sales contracts process robust enough to handle unstoppable growth, here’s what we recommend:
1. Digitise the process end-to-end
This should go without saying, but that familiar process you encounter when signing a rental agreement, where you print stuff, sign it, scan it, email it, send it back and forth several times and generally waste away hours of your life that you can’t get back? That process has no place in a high-growth business looking to scale quickly. Don’t try to sign new customers at scale for your cutting edge tech business by using some kind of medieval technique. You have zero chance of pushing through high volumes at the end of a quarter if you still insist on doing it manually.
2. Brevity and clarity
Don’t stuff your documents with jargon, indecipherable by anyone not fluent in legalese, and then be annoyed when people ask lots of questions and take weeks to sign. Legal services as an industry does a bad job with user experience, and contracts in particular are a regular offender. Before we even tackle the jargon, length alone is a turn-off in legal documents.
One way to keep contracts moving even while you scale is simply to make legal documents shorter. Of course, sometimes it’s impossible to avoid dense legal information, but more often than not boilerplate wording and standardised clauses add no real value and denigrate the contract experience.
3. Try to avoid accepting third-party paper
Making sure your contract workflow is frictionless means keeping control of the process. As you scale, more and more of these legal documents can get in the way: order forms, NDAs, MSAs, and so on - so an obvious way to keep this moving is to keep your contracts and templates on your own paper. Accepting documents from a third party means working in unfamiliar territory, involving legal counsel and wasting time. Sometimes you just can’t avoid it, but - and I say this as a lawyer - having to involve lawyers does not generally lead to faster closing.
“Trying to make sales decisions on gut feel is pointless, when there’s so much data to be exploited - contracts are no different”
4. Streamline negotiation
Of course, it’s unavoidable that at some point you’ll need to negotiate a contract - perhaps heavily - to get a deal over the line. If this has to happen, then remember point one above - don’t fall into old habits, wind the clock back 20 years and start swapping Word documents in private inboxes.
Try to keep things in the cloud, so that you can collaborate both internally and externally on live documents, without losing control of the process.
To reduce friction further, consider asking your lawyer to build a simple playbook of positions you can and can’t accept. Some points genuinely can’t be accepted - we have seen unlimited liability requests at Juro, for example - but the plain truth is that most legal terms we see in contracts don’t add very much value. Ask your lawyer to enable you to stop bothering her and she will thank you in the long run.
5. Capture data and use it
Even legal teams have woken up to the need to be data-driven by now. Contract data is an area where sales and legal teams should be aligned, so make sure you use your contract management tool’s analytics function to learn and iterate on your contracts. Which contracts take the longest to sign? Which function do they sit with the longest, and why might there be a bottleneck there? Which clauses are negotiated the most, and is there a valuable trade-off to be made in adjusting the terms to achieve better time-to-close? We’ve seen elsewhere in this guide that trying to make sales decisions on gut feel is pointless, when there’s so much data to be exploited - contracts should be no different.
6. For everyone’s sake, integrate
If your reps don’t want to join procurement meetings, scope requirements, get training and then spend all day in a new contracting tool, then there’s a very simple answer: don’t make them. Find a solution that integrates with everything else they use - particularly CRM (whether that’s Salesforce or any of the other big players).
If reps can get contracts to signature without leaving the platform they use all day, and you can build in the legal approvals, then the sales team doesn’t need to worry about anything except closing and the legal team will remain your friends. And we can speak from experience - when Unbabel adopted Juro and started creating order forms directly in their Salesforce instance, they sped up closing by 30%. That kind of velocity is bound to make scaling just that bit easier.
7. Make contracts great again
Signing a contract should be one of the happiest moments in your business’ life. It means you have a new customer. But it should be a great moment for the other side too. They found a new commercial partner. So make the contracting experience frictionless - delightful, even.
“If signing a contract marks the start of your relationship with a new customer, it’s worth the effort to make this as frictionless, intuitive and delightful as possible”
If you really want to scale, rather than just talking about it, then being a genuinely customer-experience-led business is a proven strategy. Research from Forrester found that experience-led businesses typically have 1.6x higher brand awareness, 1.7x higher customer retention and 1.9x return on spend. You only need to look at success stories like Intercom, Invision and Zendesk to see the value that a focus on customer experience can bring to your growth trajectory. If signing a contract marks the start of your relationship with a new customer, it’s worth the effort to make this as frictionless, intuitive and delightful as possible.
For many businesses, contracts represent the forgotten touchpoint with new customers. Making contracts faster, smarter and ultimately more human can have a dramatic impact on sales cycles. At Juro, we’ve seen the difference that scalable contract workflow can make, for customers who came to us signing 10 contracts per month and now sign more than 1000. If you offer a branded, personalised mobile-responsive experience, not only do you get to yes faster, but you also set the right tone for relationships that will power your business from startup to scaleup and beyond.
Download 'Scaling B2B sales: how to build a revenue rocket ship' in full here.