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Ironclad Is for Closers Pt. 4: How Digital Contracting Powers Sales

November 20, 2019 5 min read
Chris Young, Ironclad General Counsel

In Parts 1-3 of Ironclad Is for Closers, Ironclad Sales Engineer Alvin Cheng, VP of Sales Damon Mino and Account Executive Melanie Wong laid out how a digital contracting platform helps Sales shepherd agreements to close during the quarter end rush. Now, we close out the narrative by spotlighting Sales’ partner in Legal at the finish line, Ironclad GC Chris Young

Chris, so far, every stakeholder has talked about how digital contracting accelerates contract management. As head of Legal, what are your concerns when everyone’s moving so fast?

Lawyers are risk averse. We have a hard time “unseeing things” and lie awake at night wondering if what we don’t know but should know is going to bite us and the company. 

If Sales is trying to close deals without proper review, all in the name of hitting their numbers, they may introduce company risk and liability. That can be maddening — because no matter who’s at fault, the buck — and liability — ultimately stop with Legal. 

Fortunately, by giving everyone full visibility into contracts and encouraging full, cross-functional collaboration with stakeholders, including Sales, Ironclad mitigates anxiety in-house counsel have when they are charged with moving quickly yet responsibly. You can know you’re putting your best foot forward to advance the business without giving away the kitchen sink or leaving your company exposed. 

Without a digital contracting platform, could legal teams still work as fast with dozens of sales people flooding their office with agreements? 

They wouldn’t be able to do it responsibility. By that I mean, you wouldn’t be able to adhere to every business rule and protocol for every contract and pay attention to the risk threshold for the business. 

As a GC, I’m charged with protecting the organization, ensuring our risk profile is reflected in decisions we make between multiple parties, all flying through Legal. Sure, it’s possible to approve dozens and dozens of agreements if you don’t read them. But if you take your charge seriously, your team is going to review every redline edit, no matter how small, even if it’s during crunch time at the end of the quarter. 

That’s virtually impossible to do without a single source of truth, a contracting platform that can keep track of every contract version, every signature, every term. 

How does Ironclad make you, as a legal leader, more efficient in your job and responsibilities?

Ironclad cuts out the noise — Slack notifications, email, taps on shoulders. Those make your job harder, especially fielding email strings from dozens of sales reps, business development reps and counterparties. 

With a centralized digital contracting platform, I can rest assured we’re working within legal and business guardrails, holding everyone accountable, from Finance adhering to revenue ops rules to Customer Success not overpromising service to customers. Staying laser focused is harder if you’re spending time emailing dozens of sales people and counterparties or looking for the latest version of a contract. 

Here’s an intangible benefit of Ironclad: Our platform allows the organization as a whole to appreciate Legal’s effort in the sales process, recognizing them as a partner, not a blocker, which is very satisfying. In fact, you can emerge as a business leader when you have clear visibility into the data inside all those contracts you’re helping close.

I know you place a premium on the value of contract data and how it’s often an untapped source of insight for not just Legal and Sales, but the business as a whole. 

To truly become a business partner to the business, data is the way for GCs. Show your business stakeholders a dashboard with a bird’s eye view of average contract turnaround time, for example, and they will take notice.

But this is not just about closing agreements more efficiently or highlighting parts of the contracting process that might need improvement. By monitoring process metrics that show how many agreements we can close at quarter end with existing resources, we’re setting internal business benchmarks for the future. 

If, as we grow our business, Legal wants to maintain the same level of service to Sales quarter to quarter, we know that we will need to add headcount. But justifying headcount won’t be just a guess or intuition. Knowing exactly how much time it takes for Legal to turn agreements based on how many account executives and business development reps we have presents a compelling case for more resources in Legal.

It sounds like contract data is also invaluable when it comes to forecasting, which, historically, has been the purview only of Sales.

Digital contracting gives you unique insight into forecasting that you can’t get from Salesforce alone.

For example, based on tracking process metrics over the past few quarters — number of redline reviews, how long it takes to move from contract version 1 to version 2 with the counterparty, average contract value and discounts in flight — we can more accurately forecast how likely and when deals will close. 

This leads to much more accurate forecasting for both Sales and our Executive team. You just can’t do this without having access to contract data. 

With in-house legal chronically understaffed, how does digital contracting help a team amplify its focus and effort?

As I said, I don’t worry about sorting through emails and Slack messages. I live in Ironclad and its Activity Feed. There, I’ll be pinged when redlines are ready to review. I don’t chase signatures. I don’t have to replace clauses by cutting and pasting from emails.

All our legal team does is negotiate deals — that is, we do only the legal work.

Without digital contracting, you might be able to negotiate a single deal in three hours. We can do 10 with Ironclad. There’s only one path and that path — with guardrails — is through Ironclad. It lets us move quickly and responsibility, and comply with internal policies and ever changing laws and regulations. Until Ironclad, you just couldn’t do this without hiring a department of lawyers.

Moving responsibly would be harder without building a partnership between Legal and Sales. To close this out, what part does a digital contracting platform play in that collaboration?

I hear it all the time at conferences from other GCs and in-house counsel, who commiserate over how hard it is to work with Sales. When I tell them how many contracts we process with our lean legal team and how collaborative Sales and Legal can be, my peers are stunned, their minds blown. They’re like, “Wait, what?” They’re used to Sales going around Legal, asking for forgiveness after the fact.  

The more Legal can partner and collaborate with Sales, the more empathy you build. When Sales trusts you and appreciates that you’re always looking out for the benefit of the company, they’re not going to avoid you. Instead, you can address issues together as you both help the company avoid undue risk.

That’s important. Every quarter, our contract volume is increasing. Every quarter, our contract value is increasing. As we mature as a business and with every funding round, we tighten up our risk as our risk profile evolves. But that’s to be expected, if you’re doing your job responsibly. Having a contracting lens as a resource in this effort is essential.

In the end, a digital contracting platform, a single source of truth, helps Legal add real value to the sales cycle.

For more on powering the Sales and Legal partnership, download our guide Dealmaker to Dealbreaker.

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