It’s a common problem. You build a relationship. You convince the prospect. You close the sale.
But, the contract kills the deal.
It doesn’t matter whether you wrote your own contract, used a form you bought online, or paid a lawyer to draft your contract. If it doesn’t work with your sales process, it can be more harm than help. It doesn’t matter if your contract protects you from every possible liability if no one will sign it.
Sales people have it hard. You have to convince people to put their faith in not only you, but also your company. You have to convince prospects that your product or service will improve their life. You have to convince the prospect that your company is different than all of the others. You care about the client. You care about the work. You will take care of them.
But, your contract does not say all of that.
Why do we still have contracts that make a deal die?
Why does the legal team (or the owners) refuse to learn the sales process.
Why does the legal team (or the owners) refuse to learn what will help close a deal?
You spend all of your time focusing on the sales funnel. Your sales funnel is full. You have done your job.
But, the contract is the cork in your sales funnel.
Customers expect a contract. They sign contracts all the time. Most of them do not even read it. Unless, it is scary. Unless it is something that freaks them out.
Why do we make contracts scary?
Rarely, but still sometimes, you see contracts with fine print on legal sized paper. Most of the time this is reserved for buying a house, but there are still plenty of other businesses that try to make their contracts look “more legal” or “more official”. I will let you in on a little secret I learned in law school: There is no font requirement that makes a contract binding. The signature does that.
So, how do you fix it?
Take a minute and think about how your sales process works. Think about what your sales materials look like. Does your contract complement these materials? Or, does it stick out? Are there places you can use your legal to prepare the customer for the actual contract? Can you use legal throughout the process to soften the blow?
Now, take a minute to think about the questions you get during the sales process. Do you know what your contract says? Are you prepared to explain anything your customer has questions about? Do you say things during the sales process that are contradicted by your contract?
Your contract should be a part of the sales process. When you draft a contract, you need to think about (1) how your company sells its products; (3) how many touch points there are with the customer; (4) what promises the sales people are making; (5) how do you want your customers to think of you.
Contracts are inherently more formal than many other forms of writing. Contracts, by nature, must be more direct than sales people. They do this because contracts deal with the what-ifs and the contingencies if things do not go according to plan. Contracts do not, however, need to cork the sales funnel.
Do you train your sales people on your company’s contracts?
Do you give your sales people a thorough understanding of why certain aspects of your contract are included?
Did you even consider your customers when you wrote your contract?
Traditionally, contracts are written to make sure the author is completely shielded from liability. But, is that who you really are as a business? It would be bad business to give away everything, but are you including provisions in your contract you regularly remove to close the deal? Do you have provisions in your contract that you wouldn’t even enforce if it came down to it because it wasn’t worth it?
Template contracts (the contracts you use again and again) should be drafted differently than negotiated contracts (contracts for a specific deal with specific parties). Template contracts need to be drafted with your customer in mind. They need to protect your business, but they need to work in many different circumstances. Everyone who touches the contract needs to know what it says and why it says it. Your sales people need to understand it so they do not contradict it.
But, if you really want to make your contract a part of the sales process:
Work on your contract when you work on your sales process. Bring in the sales people. Do not draft contracts in a vacuum. If you pay someone to do it, do not allow them to draft your contracts in a vacuum.
If something does’t work in your contracts, fix it. Make the changes when you discover the problem. If you change your sales process, make sure the contract works with it.
Create a process for your contracts. Create a system. Do not simply use a document you copy over and over again. This is the process in your business that can cause the most problems, but it is also the process most often ignored.
Do you have systems you use to make your contracts work in your sales process? Let me know in the comments!