Drive Better and Faster Sales Agreements with Contract Automation

Today’s sales contract process is more complex and time-consuming than ever.

Inefficient, disjointed agreement processes can quickly overwhelm sales teams, creating poor employee and customer experiences. And it’s harmful to the bottom line: According to World Commerce & Contracting, cumbersome contract management can cost businesses up to 9.2% of revenue.

Streamlining the end-to-end sales agreement process—from custom contract generation to signatures, business workflows and document analysis—removes administrative burdens.

I recently participated in a panel discussion at the Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference in Las Vegas. I heard directly from customers about their challenges in overcoming the burden of inefficient processes and tools.

Here’s what I learned:

Sales leaders face macro challenges

The current macro environment is producing new, daunting challenges for sales leaders, including:

  • Difficulty attracting and retaining talent
  • Smaller sales teams with too many responsibilities
  • Larger sales territories
  • Multiple sales tools to navigate
  • Less administrative help and support

A recent report from Allego shows that 39% of companies use more than five sales tools, and 86% of users get confused about which tool to use for which task, leading to a massive waste of time and effort.

But even before these recent challenges, 34% of sales representatives cited “too many non-sales activities” as a top challenge in hitting quotas, according to the Sales Sentiment Index Report.

An evolving work environment has also placed greater pressure on sales leaders. Sales professionals, who embraced the mantle of “road warrior” before it was fashionable, were among the earliest adopters of remote and hybrid work. Following the pandemic’s onset, 96% of B2B sales consulting teams switched to remote selling, either entirely or partially. Moreover, 65% of B2B leaders found remote work as effective as traditional in-office work. And now, the next generation of sales associates expects a remote-friendly work experience.

But to successfully incorporate remote and hybrid work into the sales process, organizations must have access to the right tools that enable sales professionals to communicate seamlessly internally and externally with their customers and prospects.

Lack of access to data and manual, disjointed processes can lead to sales contracting errors, resulting in a poor customer experience and delayed sales closings, effectively leaving money on the table. According to EY, inefficient contracting processes resulted in lower revenues and lost business at more than half of surveyed organizations.

When contract management is not automated, it creates issues in three areas: operational efficiency, customer and employee experience, and increased risk—including unfavorable business terms, profit leakage and compliance issues—for the organization. There’s an adage that says, “time kills deals,” and the ability to close a deal in days versus weeks can sometimes mean the difference between closing the sale…or not.

Docusign survey of more than 1,300 contracting professionals found that over 96% of respondents reported that human error impacts their current contracting process, with almost half saying it happens often. Because of the delays and inefficiencies introduced by manual work, less than half of contracting professionals consider their existing system reliable or efficient.

A poor onboarding experience for sales staff also leads to shorter tenure and higher turnover rates. This is a big issue for sales organizations challenged to find and retain productive professionals. According to CareerBuilder, 36% of companies don’t have a structured onboarding process, choosing to focus on an initial orientation instead of long-term employee development and success.

When factoring in a standard ramp-up time of three to six months, the typical sales professional provides less than a year of optimum productivity before leaving the organization. This places enormous pressure on sales leaders to implement a practical, ongoing training and coaching program to maximize productivity on the front lines and achieve an adequate ROI for each employee.

Lastly, too many sales organizations are hampered by outdated, manual processes and legacy technology. Recent research has shown that 1 in 3 B2B organizations still use manual processes to move sales and marketing data across tools.

Anyone in a revenue-generating role knows reducing cycle time and increasing productivity in the field are huge differentiators for customer and employee experience. In exit interviews, frustration with the contract management process is among the top reasons cited for leaving. Field executives work hard to win the trust of their customers, and when the contracting process is disjointed or rife with errors, it increases dissatisfaction.

Transforming the contract management process

Given these multiple pain points, contract management is ripe for transformation. On average, 80% of enterprise sales teams execute over 500 contracts each month, and for many, this process is still filled with complex, manual steps that can result in critical errors and delays in closings.

There’s no single solution, but CSOs now have options for streamlining sales processes and reducing or eliminating time-consuming, redundant manual steps throughout the agreement process. Contract lifecycle management (CLM) software helps organizations improve how they create, manage and access agreements throughout their lifecycle. Effective contract management can help businesses save time and money, minimize risk and boost sales potential.

Digital CLM solutions facilitate a human-machine partnership that automates repetitive tasks and enhances human decision-making during the contracting process. Specifically, robust integrations and APIs give sales teams access to critical documents within the platforms they’re already using.

Digital contract management helps sales leaders improve contract generation speed, accuracy and analysis to:

  • Sustain growth through disruption: A dynamic marketplace is forcing sales leaders to incorporate digital selling models into their processes. According to Gartner, “50% of CSOs will shift their focus from being leaders of sellers to leaders of selling.”
  • Automate manual processes and deliver greater efficiency: Even as sales budgets continue to shrink, organizations are looking to evaluate automation and AI-powered selling models to maximize limited resources and drive better sales outcomes.
  • Improve the customer and employee experience: Modern CLM systems integrate sales agreements more effectively into cross-functional workflows, enabling organizations to deliver more intuitive and seamless customer and employee experiences and get from quote to cash faster.
  • Increase sales motivation: Sales and HR leaders are collaborating more closely to hire, retain and motivate a new breed of sellers who desire more value and purpose in their work. CLM reduces the administrative burden and risk of errors, empowering sales professionals to focus their time on meaningful, rewarding work and direct interaction with customers.

Ciena enhances legal-sales partnership through CLM

Attending the Gartner CSO event also gave me the opportunity to meet with Linda Swan, director of legal operations at Ciena, a global leader in optical and routing systems, services and automation software. Her legal operations team works closely with the sales function, particularly when it comes time to close new deals.

“We partner very closely with sales,” Swan said. “It's a unique model where our legal team is deeply embedded in the business. Individuals on our legal team partner with specific sales teams on specific accounts and help them ferry the deal process from initiation all the way through to execution.”

This legal-sales partnership has traditionally faced many challenges in meeting its goals, including a need for more visibility into the contracting process, resulting in delayed deal cycle times and impacts on the customer and employee experience.

“Legal is sometimes seen as the bottleneck or the one who always says, ‘No, you can't do this,’” Swan said. “Instead, our goal is to partner with sales to get to yes as quickly as possible through the contracting process, but also behind the scenes. A contract lifecycle management system is integral to getting data and metrics at all points throughout the lifecycle so that we can continue to serve the business, speed up the contracting process and help sales make better business decisions and prioritize their deals. It’s really critical to capture the data along the way.”

Ciena’s legal operations team implemented Docusign CLM about a year ago, and the project is already paying dividends. Ciena has seen improved transparency, greater access to relevant data and metrics, and a reduced cycle time that results in better experiences for the sales team and customers.

“From the sales perspective, it's the most important thing in the world going on right now,” Swan said. “CLM is making it really simple for us to gain visibility into where a contract is, and what's coming. We're a year in now, and we've got a year's worth of data. We're getting even better with our analytics … it’s a constant learning curve and we are continually improving. Learning to balance risk versus speed and having the data to back it up has been critical. CLM is really the key to getting the data to make better decisions. That's been the biggest return on investment that we're getting from CLM.”

Automate the agreement process to meet technology expectations and close deals faster

Docusign helps sales teams fully automate the agreement process, from custom contract generation and signatures to business workflows and document analysis. Today’s sales professionals want to use the latest technology to close deals with just a click inside the customer relationship management (CRM) system they already use, creating a seamless, frictionless process for customers and the sales team. This allows sales organizations to maximize the value of their sales tech stacks and achieve outstanding results—while reducing the administrative burden. Key integrations include Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and Oracle Sales.

Docusign offers sales teams unparalleled value through a solution that’s:

  • Smarter: With Docusign’s streamlined quote-to-cash process, sales teams can close more deals faster. With tools like Docusign Gen for Salesforce and Insight, users can configure, edit and send quotes for electronic signature in one simple step. And CLM+ adds AI-driven analytics to Docusign’s market-leading CLM product, leveraging over 100 pre-trained AI models to extract, analyze and report on key contract data points and legal topics—to enable risk scoring, power workflow steps and provide portfolio-level visibility. This allows organizations to do business faster, with more transparency and less risk.
  • Easier: Using PowerForms, pre-built integrations and APIs, firms can implement a true end-to-end electronic signing experience for sales professionals. In addition, the AI-driven power of CLM+ enhances workflow efficiency and visibility.
  • Trusted: Docusign CLM enables users to store all contract data in a single, secure and searchable repository, boosting security and compliance, reducing risk to the business and enhancing trust and document accessibility.

Manual, disjointed systems and human error can cause significant delays, missed opportunities and revenue loss. However, automation has become a game-changer for many businesses looking to streamline their sales contract process. Automating the contract process increases efficiency and productivity while reducing administrative burden and risks.

Docusign—Gartner’s Customer Choice winner for eSignature in 2022 and Magic Quadrant Leader for CLM three years in a row—helps digitally transform how sales teams operate, from onboarding staff to automating manual processes and interacting with prospects and customers. With more than a dozen products and over 400 integrations, Docusign solutions address the entire agreement process, helping sales teams focus on accelerating their quote-to-cash journey

To learn more about the benefits of digitizing your contract lifecycle management processes, download our latest eBook: How Digitization Can Help Address Today’s Top Sales Challenges.

Meaghan Riley
GVP, Enterprise and Commercial Sales, North America
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