Everyone likes to know a secret. But some are worth more than others – much more.By Michael J. Festa
Do you want to know a secret about how to boost your business’s 2017 revenue by three to five percent? Of course you do. The real question, then, is how?
The answer might not be what you’re thinking: setting higher sales goals, and getting sales people to dig up more leads.
The secret to generating more revenue actually is reducing the length of a sales cycle and shortening the time it takes to close a deal – and this can be done using contract management software.
Sound crazy? Hear this out:
By shortening the time to close a deal and increasing the speed of quote to cash, a contract management solution slashes the typical length of sales cycle and removes sellers from parts of the process they don’t need to be involved in.
What that adds up to is that instead of sellers slogging through the contracts process from start to finish – looking for the right template, dealing with the legal department, trying to keep track of where a contract is and who has it, blindly estimating when a deal might close – they are out doing what they do best: selling.
A sales force that is primarily focused on the higher goal of closing deals can make a serious impact on a company’s revenue: If a typical sales cycle is three weeks, contract management software that can cut that down to three days gives sellers an additional two and a half weeks of time to pound pavement, identify buyers, get them in the door and sell. Do the math: This can potentially allow a company to take in five quarters’ worth of revenue in just four – putting a company well ahead of its budgeted yearly goals.
But firsts, a business needs to find the right contract lifecycle management (CLM) software – something that will speed up the quote-to-cash process and get sales people closing deals faster.
Look for the following must-haves in your contract management software:
A CLM must be able to manage unstructured data like contracts, memoranda of understanding, scopes of work, service level agreements (SLAs) and more, by treating all of these like documents – not pieces of data – which facilitates searchability and reduces risk.
Contract management software should have the ability to track contracts throughout the process and see on a virtual dashboard where they are, and what needs to be done to advance them – so a company will never lose track of a contract or have to hazard a guess where it is and what is holding it up.
Users should be able view progress toward goals and see at a glance the contracts in motion and the ones that have not been touched. Every contract must be traceable – who sent it to whom and when, when it was opened, whom it was passed to, who signed it, etc. – ensuring a given version of a contract is the latest and most updated one.
Contracts are time sensitive, but they can get lost in various black holes – specific departments or certain participants’ desks. There is particularly a precedent of back and forth between a business’ sales and legal departments, so a CLM should alert a company to any breakdowns in the process or recurring issues, allowing them to be corrected.
An added bonus is a system that sends updates and notifications on contract progress or assignments via email or through CLM itself, which creates efficiency and visibility by ensuring everyone is on the same page at the same time. Additionally, this reduces business risk by tipping off users to when contracts will expire well in advance of the actual expiration date.
Storing information in a cloud is becoming standard business operating procedure for critical software, applications and documents. Using the cloud for document storage makes contract processes more agile by facilitating collaboration and sharing.
Unlike a solitary hard drive or a local NAS, cloud storage allows accessibility from anywhere across the globe, both inside and outside an organization, which lets a business collaborate with its customers throughout the entire contract lifecycle process.
Keeping contracts in the cloud means they are all in one place and versioned, eliminating the need to dig through email, local repositories or piles of paper to find the right and latest one, and making the process less confusing.
Workflow Management and Automation
A CLM can speed up approvals by introducing consistency and moving contracts along a predetermined path. It can route documents for approvals and signatures to each participant and then shuttle them to the next to expedite the process and reduce bottlenecks. Nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), for instance, can be especially sticky, and contracts cannot get off the ground without them – but a CLM can speed up the creation-to-signature process of an NDA.
Not every part of a contract process needs human eyes or hands on it, and software that can complete some tasks automatically will accelerate time to closing and help simplify the sometimes-complicated contracts process, as well as eliminate human error. This has a direct impact on revenue: The faster and more accurately a contract can get through the workflow and signed, the faster a company will cash in.
Integration with CRMs
The sales team is, effectively, where the contracts process starts, as a contract does not exist without a sale behind it. The most optimal and seamless way to manage contracts is to integrate them with a sales team’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform – where the sales team lives.
Products that can integrate with CRMs give a sales team instant access to everything they need to manage the contract process from where their sales activity occurs. This way, the sales team does not have to leave its own platform to shuffle through another, wasting valuable time when the team could instead be selling.
The contract management process then becomes part of a sales team’s workflow without the need for a separate database or platform – everything is in one place.