To automate or not to automate? In a fast-moving world, the answer seems obvious. But for many sales teams, the answer is a little more complicated when it comes to sales documentation.

The explosion in popularity of CRM and communications software has created closer alignment of diverse business functions and stakeholders. A consequence is the automation of strategies that fuel growth, increase efficiency, and improve customer relationships. But even with so many tools and technologies available, many legal teams still depend on manual processes to create and manage their contracts.

Additionally, the amount, type, and urgency of documents that sales teams handle every day is staggering—from pipelines to proposals to contracts to renewals. Valuable hours are spent pulling together data from multiple sources and updating data in multiple places, just to create—or re-create—the same documents for different audiences at each stage of the buying cycle.

So, it’s no wonder nearly three quarters of sales professionals say they spend too much time on data entry and only about one-third of their time each day actually selling.

Fortunately, contract automation is changing the game.

More time, greater efficiency.

Instead of accepting that some manual processes are just a cost of doing business, sales and legal teams are beginning to see the far-ranging benefits of automation. Automation software reduces manual work, improves data quality, and enables data-sharing capabilities.

In return, sales teams are able to be more efficient, respond more effectively to customers, and focus much more time on strategy, revenue growth, and strengthening the brand. 

Here’s what contract automation looks like:

Pipeline and opportunity reports

Sellers, marketers, and executives rely on pipeline, performance, and trends to forecast growth and hit revenue targets. But the time- and labor-intensive process of generating those reports is why  88% of marketers say cutting down on preparation and analysis would be helpful.

Automation can alleviate these challenges by:

  • Easily compiling data from various sources
  • Distilling information into a single format
  • Sending accurate, timely reports to internal and external stakeholders

Quotes and proposals

Winning new business is a repetitive process better served with templates and smarter data input. Sales teams can boost success at the start of the buying cycle by:

  • Quickly generating consistently branded quotes and proposals
  • Mapping and pre-populating key Salesforce data
  • Tracking what goes out to prospects and the insights that come back

Contracts and renewals

New business increases profits, but customer retention often goes unsung as a revenue source. Tech buyers overwhelmingly prefer to buy from vendors who can clearly demonstrate ROI, and companies using automation solutions do that by:

  • Drafting and delivering error-free contracts
  • Facilitating quicker changes and negotiations to close deals faster
  • Generating business reviews when it’s time for renewal

Account plans and project report cards

The best-performing sales teams are the ones that have a defined, targeted plan for approaching each of their accounts. Automating account planning and ongoing project execution is key to meeting and exceeding client expectations and growing the relationship by:

  • Accessing, cross-referencing, and updating account data and plans in real time
  • Tracking project status, client feedback, and delivery timelines
  • Expediting communications between sales, clients, and project managers

Invoices  

When it’s time to collect payment, accuracy is essential. According to The IOMA (now the IOFM, nearly 4% of invoices processed manually have errors, potentially costing companies millions of dollars annually in outstanding collections or in refunded payments. Automation software ensures A/P accuracy by creating and delivering correct and timely invoices, scheduling invoice reminders and follow-ups, and tracking unpaid invoices.

The ROI of automation

According to Forbes, 38% of enterprises are already using AI technologies, and 62% will use AI technologies by 2018.

The rise of AI points a spotlight at the need for integrating intelligent technologies into our business processes -- particularly around contracts. Creating effective automation rules is a necessity, as contracts are a critical component of business but are complex to create, difficult to negotiate, time-consuming to manage, and often create bottlenecks and slow-downs. Poor contract management can lead to lost work time (or more time spent on administrative, trivial tasks), slow contract and business cycles, longer time to revenue, loss of control, and greater risk.

The accumulated effect of these problems has a very real effect on your bottom line. When the cost of manual processes is no longer feasible, automation is no longer just a consideration–it’s a necessity.