Have you ever had a situation where your sales proposal was agreed to, the customer confirmed they were ready to move forward and then, during the legal process, everything came to a screeching halt? Do you call your legal department the “sales prevention” team? Here are a few things you can do as a sales person or sales manager to help the legal process along.
It’s not unusual for an inability to reach swift agreement on a contract to upset both your customer/prospect and you as a sales person.
You did all the right things. You met regularly with your customer/prospect to ensure both parties understood key activities, dates and responsibilities using a Sequence of Events document. And, based on continual review of the document, you became confident that the deal would close on or around a certain date based on the fact that they needed your product and services to be in production to meet a specific goal. And as any good sales person, you reviewed the sales proposal with multiple members of your customer/prospect team, including key stakeholders, and ironed out all the details.
But then came the crash and burn, when the legal process threw a wrench in your sales deal. Why all the angst?
In short, your lawyers are there to protect your company, with an eye towards negotiating certain terms to further that protection. More often than not, discussions about business terms in the contract, such as limits of liability and termination clauses, cause your legal department to push back. And, certain items are simply non-negotiable. Most of the time, we hope and pray that our customers/prospects will be fine with the terms, which in other cases, have caused sales processes to slow down – causing the buyer to miss key dates and milestones.
What can you do? You really have two choices: (1) Do nothing and hope for the best, or (2) Take a more proactive approach. I recommend the latter.
With a proactive approach, you would include the key business terms, such as limits of liability and termination clauses, as part of the proposal. Think back to certain terms in the contract that would typically come as a surprise to your customer/prospect until the contract was agreed and finalized. What if you included those terms early on in a proposal, providing adequate time to discuss, negotiate or lose early – if that is the last resort?
There was a time in my career when we did just that. Our deals were typically six to seven figures and we only closed one to three of those per year. So, we had to maximize our percentage chance of closing within our customer’s target timeframe and our fiscal year. We started listing key business terms in the contract, which began discussions well before the legal process.
As a result, we not only were able to understand their issues early on, we could holistically negotiate both price and business terms in one go. This also greatly reduced, and in some cases eliminated, the number of “gotcha” moments when sales things got held up in legal for business terms that – for our company – were non-negotiable.
What’s your legal process like? Is it seriously delaying or even killing your deals? Would including business terms in your proposals help or hinder your sale?