There’s nothing easy about growing a startup. Building the product, sales, operations – your business is likely to be up against giants in every area, with little brand recognition for you to fall back on. Throw in the pressure that comes from venture capital backing, and you’ve got a mountain to climb and no time to waste.
First-order problems like actually building the right thing, making your customers happy and successful, hiring the right talent and nailing down your go-to-market strategy are critical to the future of your company. At least, they’re where you’d like to be focusing your efforts. But too often, entrepreneurs trying to scale their businesses get bogged down in more prosaic, process-related problems. Chief amongst them is paperwork.
If you’re a sales-led company, gaining traction and trying to grow aggressively month on month, then closing new deals is pretty much the most important thing you can do – particularly in an environment like B2B SaaS. Signed contracts are the ultimate goal, but unfortunately, the contract process is an area where customers frequently have bad experiences, and businesses find themselves battling bottlenecks.
Data from the IACCM shows that 83% of people are dissatisfied with their business’ contracting process. With 80% of the revenue that flows through B2B deals governed by contracts, do you want to build your growth on a process everyone hates, that slows your sales team down, rather than enabling them to hit their target?
As a contract management provider, the team at Juro has been fortunate enough to see what paperwork looks like at hypergrowth companies like Deliveroo, Babylon Health and Skyscanner. Here are five lessons to make sure contracts don’t block your team from closing deals, and enable your growth instead.
Paperwork doesn’t mean *actually using paper*. Are you still spinning up new Word documents, printing, signing and scanning them? Do you think this process from the 80s is even remotely appropriate for your cutting-edge tech-driven startup?
Don’t try to sign new customers at scale with medieval techniques – your salespeople have zero chance of squeezing through high volumes of new customers when the crunch comes at the end of the quarter if you’re still doing everything manually. Search for contract management software and see what options are available, and suitable for your needs. Aside from speed and efficiency, there are all sorts of benefits around security, searchability and collaboration that come with a cloud-based contracts tool.
Integrate with your systems of record
A digital contract workflow will help to unblock paperwork, but only if your teams use it. All too often, tech deployments fail because colleagues don’t end up adopting the new solution, preferring to stick with the tools they know and love.
It’s simple enough to avoid this happening at your company: if your team doesn’t want to leave their favourite platform, then don’t make them. If your sales team lives in Salesforce, find a solution that integrates with it and enables team members to create their order forms directly in Salesforce. If your people team doesn’t want to leave Greenhouse or Workday to create new employment contracts, then find something that integrates with their HR systems. You’ll have an easier time optimising contracts if they slot seamlessly into your existing tech stack.
Keep it brief
One way to keep contracts moving, and get some velocity in that sales pipeline, it simply to make your legal documents shorter. That’s not to say you can just cut stuff out unthinkingly; many legal provisions are essential. But what’s not essential are reams of dense legal text or 100-word sentences where 20 would have done it.
If you make your terms simpler, easier to understand and faster to read, then potential customers will naturally have an easier time reaching their decision in a time frame that works for both sides. This goes for employment contracts, as well as sales contracts; in fact, any legal document should be designed for readability.
Use your own paper
Contracts issued and negotiated using your own templates are much easier to control, in terms of a speedy timeline than those originally produced by the other party. ‘Third-party paper’, as it’s known, will inevitably be more complex to manage, as it comes with third-party systems and processes.
If your business is based on high volumes of sales contracts, then it should be simple enough to keep contracts on your paper, and managed in your system of record. If the process is fully in your control, it’ll be easier to remove friction and grow faster. And if you choose the right tool, there’s another key advantage …
Track data – and use it
As a startup, no doubt, you have meetings where you crunch your data around lead generation and revenue. Alongside all of this, make sure you’re tracking contract data too. How long are contracts taking to sign? Are your terms of business always being negotiated? Which clauses attract the most pushback? By what kind of percentage do prospects typically negotiate a price? Which people sit on documents the longest without signing them, and how can you unblock those bottlenecks? Your volumes might not be high enough to need all this data right now, but by the time it is, you’ll wish you had robust data capture in place.
Once you’ve captured the data to optimise your contract workflow, make sure you use it. Like everything else in sales, going on gut feel might work for a while but it’s ultimately pointless when you can remove the guesswork and make data-driven decisions. This should be an ongoing process – monitor that dashboard constantly and make the changes you need to make paperwork painless.
If you solve the problem of paperwork, you can turn your attention to the hundreds of other puzzles you’ll need to solve to achieve rapid month-on-month growth. Contracts are necessary – they don’t have to be evil.