Marrying Sales and CLM: The Benefits of a Strong Integration

The sales and legal teams each view contracts from a unique vantage point. One emphasizes revenue while the other seeks to mitigate risk. More often than not, these viewpoints wind up conflicting with each other. Whether the sales team becomes frustrated with the amount of time lawyers take to review contracts or the attorneys worry that the sales staff may accidentally overlook potential risks in an agreement, their shared goal of efficiently creating high quality contracts that bring value to the business can become lost in translation.

However, a successful integration between a CLM tool and a sales technology can change that. By taking steps to understand the contract process from both sides during implementation, sales and legal teams can develop better collaboration strategies to accelerate the revenue cycle and manage contracts with greater efficiency. Here’s how!

Is a Sales Integration Necessary with Every CLM?

The answer is: it depends. Small companies starting out with a low volume of contracts may only need a contract management tool that has a handful of essential features like a contract repository. However, larger organizations that manage a higher volume of contracts may come to expect a certain level of integration, especially in a business world that has been drastically changed by the pandemic and the technology used to adjust to those special conditions.

Employees rely on integration for seamless communication. If everyone only works within their own isolated systems, processes could become less efficient as miscommunications, conflicting information, and mismatched versions of documents throw bottlenecks into the revenue cycle. Not to mention, integrations have become a more common feature among other workplace technologies, centralizing everything from communication to company information. Why shouldn’t contracts move toward a more centralized approach as well?

Integrated contract systems allow contract professionals to draw business insights from a variety of sources outside the legal department. Data from the sales, procurement, and finance teams can combine with data from the legal team to drive a better and more comprehensive understanding of how contracts function within the organization as well as what works in the contract process and what doesn’t.

Benefits of Marrying Sales and CLM

A lot of good comes from integrating your organization’s sales technology with your existing or soon-to-be-implemented contract management technology. More than just a marriage of convenience, though it does certainly make many daily dealings exponentially more convenient, a successful integration drives the velocity of sales by both increasing retention rates and forecasting future agreements.

An integration between sales and CLM technology often results in better customer retention because it enables employees to move through the sales cycle at a faster pace and improve the overall customer experience. Oftentimes, these tools allow both the sales and legal teams to see where an agreement currently exists in its lifecycle along with who is currently reviewing it. This allows them to prepare for the next step in the cycle and process requests more quickly. 

Essentially, gone are the days of miscommunications, drawn out negotiations, and lost versions of documents. Sales can happen at the pace the commercial team desires without sacrificing in the risk department, keeping the legal team happy as well.

A marriage between sales and CLM technology also helps with consistency and forecasting. Commercial teams can rely on a clause library to substitute disputed phrases with pre-approved options from the legal team, building standardization into future contracts. At the same time, contract professionals can pull data from existing contracts to inform their decisions, redlines, or comments. This data also drives many different kinds of business insights and tracks important information that can tighten up the bottom line like contract renewals.

How to Drive a Successful Integration

Use these 6 steps to successfully integrate your CLM tool with your sales technology.

1. Engage Stakeholders

Engaging with contract stakeholders early on in the implementation process is key for any CLM implementation, but it may be even more important with a sales integration. Speak directly with members of the sales staff to learn about what they would need, want, and expect from a successful integration in order to ensure that the final tool is user-friendly and efficient for everyone who will be using it. Find out how the tool can potentially break down existing barriers between the legal and sales teams, helping them collaborate seamlessly.

2. Generate Excitement

The driving force behind any large enterprise project is excitement. If those who will be using the tool are not excited about the change, then you may be met with resistance and, subsequently, a lower rate of user adoption.

One of the best ways to generate excitement around a project like a CLM implementation is to keep everyone informed, engaged, and updated throughout the entire process. Send out frequent emails letting staff know about recent updates and progress. Do your best to make employees feel like they are a part of the change, not just that the change is happening to them or around them. And, perhaps most importantly, ensure that everyone knows exactly how this new tool will benefit them in their daily life.

3. Work Closely with IT and Your Vendor

A common mistake among companies is leaving IT out of the early stages of the implementation process for a new CLM tool. This can be particularly detrimental when you have a custom integration happening with an existing technology like the sales tool. Not only will lawyers be potentially bogged down attempting to make changes to the tool themselves, but they may run into roadblocks like cyber security. The IT department can foresee challenges such as these and provide solutions before the problems actually arise.

Working closely with your vendor is also important when it comes to integrations between CLM and existing technology. Inform potential vendors early on that you will be interested in an integration to learn how they plan to handle it, whether through an existing managed plan or a custom integration. This may help you determine which tool will suit your integration needs best. Vendors can also assist with the development of informative guides, videos, or seminars to train contract professionals who will be using the tool.

4. Offer Training

Training is essential for user adoption, especially during integrations. The sales team already knows how to operate within their own system, so asking them to integrate with another tool without providing any sort of training would likely be disastrous. 

Offer frequent training sessions throughout the implementation process. You can even use these sessions as opportunities to gain user feedback to shape the plan for the integration. Informative guides, training videos, and other means of troubleshooting should also be easily accessible to staff at all times.

Incentive is another key part of training. Not only should all employees feel prepared to navigate the change and equipped to handle the tool, but they should also understand how the tool will make their lives easier. Don’t just emphasize the benefits to the entire organization. Focus on individualized benefits as well to encourage maximum user adoption.

5. Gain Support from Executives

This is where knowing how the tool will benefit the entire organization comes in handy. If you can successfully convey those benefits to the executive team, they should back the project. Having that support from the top will make it much easier to definitively make decisions throughout the process and garner respect for the project across all departments.

6. Simplify Your Processes First

Unfortunately, many companies remain under the impression that technology acts as a bandaid, immediately fixing broken processes to patch up a dragging revenue cycle. However, that is not the case with CLM implementations. Complex and convoluted workflows hinder the effectiveness of any implementation. By streamlining contract processes first, you can ensure that your chosen CLM tool enhances existing workflows rather than complicating them further.

You can still choose to implement a tool before your processes are completely nailed down. In this case, you might want to go with an agile system that can readily adapt alongside the organization as you continuously make improvements to the contract lifecycle. This may not be the most efficient path to choose, but it does allow you to tailor and customize your system as you grow, building it out into a fully integrated tool that synergizes with the entire contract team.