Contract Enabling Your CRM System
by Russ Edelman on May 13, 2022
Let Your Salespeople focus on what they do best… selling; not contracting
In life, it can be said that one must take the bad with the good. In the world of selling, the good means just that, working on and making a transaction come together and then closing the deal. The bad at least for purposes of this post, is the administrative burden associated with initiating, processing, negotiating and signing contracts and other related contracting activities. However, deals typically cannot be completed without a contract so they remain a necessity. Compound this with the contract professionals who have little to no interest in working within a CRM system and you are presented with a real quandary.
With the right technology and discipline, the contracting burden for salespeople can be substantially reduced, allowing them to do what they do best; sell. Interestingly, this also means that contract managers can live in their world without compromise and have a powerful conduit from sales directly into the contracting process and vice versa.
What does nirvana of this magnitude look like? Well, it is here where our story begins as we review key focus areas that can introduce bliss into the world of sales and contracting. As we share this story, we would suggest that there are three main chapters to be reviewed.
Chapter 1 | The Salesperson
As noted above, the salesperson’s effectiveness is largely influenced by how many hours per day he or she can focus on selling. When it is time ring the bell, most businesses require that a contract is signed to officially seal the deal. To this end, the salesperson’s interest in contract management can focus on the capabilities noted below with the understanding that there are many others that have material relevance based upon the nature of how your organization transacts:
- Request Contract in less than 30 seconds from within the CRM System | if the CRM system has been properly configured, most if not all data that will be needed for a contact can typically be found within the Opportunity or Account level. As an FYI, Opportunity and Account are the two most popular data structures within most CRM systems and this is most definitely true with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365 CE. To this end, when a contract request is initiated from within the CRM system, the data should auto-magically be transferred from the CRM system to the contract management system and the entire process should not take more than 30 seconds. Within this process, the integration between the two systems should deal with all of the technical uglies that salespeople don’t like to deal with; dynamically transforming data from one system to another, being able to pull data from virtually any “data object” within the CRM system; concatenating data fields from one system to another and other related functions; all of which should be completely transparent and without effort for the salespeople.
- Within the CRM system, find out the status of the contract within 30 seconds | When a salesperson wants to check on the status of a contract which relates to an opportunity, it should not take more than 30 seconds, and ideally, no more than 15 seconds. Imagine if you will, step 1, go to opportunity, step 2, show contracts in process, step 3, check status of that contract. That is it; three quick and efficient steps which immediately provide visibility into how the contract is progressing to support the opportunity. And all of this should be done without ever having to leave the CRM system and as needed, via email notification.
- Within the CRM system, easily access contract documents within 30 seconds | It is often critical that a salesperson can easily access contract documents related to their opportunities and to do so without having to break a sweat or move more than just a few fingers. Specifically, when salespeople access an opportunity, there should be an automatically generated and secured link that allow for those contract documents to be accessed by the salesperson. Once again, the salesperson should never have to venture outside of their CRM house as the information should be dynamically available.
- Scratching a few other sales related itches when Contract Enabling Your CRM System | In keeping with the spirit of “living within your CRM system”, keep in mind that the same 30-second rule should apply to sending contracts out for negotiation, initiating e-signature, creating child contracts, loading up other important documents such as SoWs, amendments and other functions that allow the salesperson to focus on the mission; selling with minimal administrative burden as it relates to contracts.
Chapter 2 | The Contract Professional
While larger organizations may have the luxury of contract professionals that are focused on either sales contracts or procurement contracts, many need to support both constituencies and they must do so as efficiently as possible. To this end, their time is also precious as they stay in their contracting zone; ready to process contracts, protect the interests of the organization and de-risk business transactions by ensuring that contracts have all the appropriate protections. Forcing them into a foreign CRM system is akin to asking a salesperson to navigate a contracting system; neither wants to do it. So, with the right integration between the two, contract professionals should be able to live in their contracting world with relative ease. In terms of supporting contracts coming from CRM systems and the salespeople that initiate them, the following capabilities are typically prime targets that would appeal to contract professionals.
- Leveraging internal sales contract templates | Most sell-side contracts are typically written on the supplier’s templates as compared to customer templates. To this end, automated document assembly functionality should play a key role in terms of driving efficiencies. For example, if a salesperson just closed a deal which includes a Master Services Agreement (MSA), the data from the CRM opportunity should be used to automatically populate the actual contract and conditionally include/exclude language within the contract based upon the nature of the opportunity.
- Drive contract approvals from Sales data | Once a contract request has been submitted from within the CRM system, the contracting process should go through its paces; including the appropriate approvals/steps based upon the contract required, coupled with the contract value and risk-level. As the contract progresses through its approval process, the status should be readily available from within the CRM.
- No effort notifications and updates for salespeople as the contract progresses | One of the most painful aspects of sell-side contracts, or for that matter most contract types, is having the salespeople (requestor) regularly ask the contract professional about the status of the contract. With a well-tuned contract automation effort, this time-consuming effort is largely negated as the contracting system should be able to automatically generate notices and alerts as to how the contract is progressing. This information, as noted above in Chapter 1, is also readily available from within the CRM system.
- Automatically generated links to CRM data from within the contracting system | As much as contracting professionals may loath the notion of entering another system to find information pertaining to a contract; however, it is a necessity for many investigations and one that should not be taken lightly. In support of making life easier for the contract professional; links to the CRM records should be automatically populated such that when a contract professional would like to access the CRM system, it can be accomplished in just a few seconds as the link has been established.
- Automatically generate CRM Opportunities for Contract Renewals | One could very successfully argue that this capability should be in chapter 1 for the salespeople. We elected to put it here as often, contract managers serve as “farmers” for sales opportunities and this capability; regardless of ownership, is vital. The focus of this capability is to automatically create a CRM opportunity for contract renewals based upon the upcoming contract renewal date. This is typically accompanied by some type of lead time such that notifies your salespeople of the opportunity X days ahead of the actual renewal or termination.
Chapter 3 | Capabilities that simply make these processes easier
The first two chapters focus on capabilities that will typically jump out at people when exploring how best to contract enable your CRM system. However, there are a host of capabilities that you simply may not consider until you after you are well-underway and then it may be too late. A few of these capabilities are noted below:
- Master Data Replication – Automated Synchronization Or On-Demand | No one enjoys duplicative data entry and to ensure that it does not happen, a mechanism is needed to push key data from your CRM system to the contracting system. For example, a salesperson or contract professional should never have to reenter account information. Rather, it should be synchronized or pushed in some capacity. However, you must really think through the technique that best serves your interest as in most cases, you don’t want to automatically push all Account data from CRM to the contracting platform. Rather, you would typically look to synchronize accounts that are associated with awarded contracts. Alternatively, when a contract request is initiated, it should be able to initiate the creation of the account in the contracting system.
- Subordinate Data Replication | How about them line items? Many CRM systems will have a child data entity such as product(s) that allow for the specific items/services being sold to be associated with an opportunity. Often there is a need to employ a mechanism that allows for those products to be copied directly into the contracting system and to then get associated with the contract record. Without, there is a lot of additional data entry as there may be tens or hundreds of rows of product line items (or other related subordinate data).
- Rolling Up To The Account Level | Imagine if you will that you have multiple salespeople working on new opportunities for the same account and that security is important. For the salespeople, it may be appropriate that they only see contracts that relate to their opportunities. However, for sales leadership (and other executives), there is often a need to see a dynamic roll-up at the Account level. Allowing for contracts to be dynamically associated with opportunities AND accounts (or other data entities) quickly becomes an important requirement for many.
- Reaching Into Other CRM Data | Most organizations have elected to configure and customize their CRM systems be introducing new and/or altered data entities. These additional data entities (projects, products, pricing, etc.) may require some form of integration with the contracting process as well and as a result, there may be a need to a) provide some form of integration with other data entities and b) a need to obtain data from these other data entities such that it can be incorporated into the sales process.
There you have it; a flagship recipe book on factors to consider when Contract Enabling your CRM System. We hope that each chapter made sense and we of course welcome any and all feedback.