Sales departments were, by far, the most interested in automation. Sales agreements were, by far, the most common type of contract to automate
Contract automation is a still new field. We are still waiting to see how powerful the automation technologies will grow, what limits they will have, and how regulation will curb them.
Meanwhile, we are also still in the early stages of figuring out what to do with office automation tools in the current technology landscape.
What kind of problems is automation supposed to solve?
Who wants to solve it? And what value do these people expect from it?
To find out, we launched a research project last year. We offered all our users unlimited contract automation. They could request what they want and their imagination was pretty much the limit. Over the year, we had 7000 conversations about contract automation. We took notes along the way and used an intelligent tagging tool to gather and analyze data in order to complete a survey on what companies want from contract automation.
What we saw was pretty interesting.
Sales departments were, by far, the most interested in automation. Sales agreements were, by far, the most common type of contract to automate. And the most requested automation feature was, by far, being able to sync data between a CRM and a contract management system. Companies want their CRM systems automatically updated based on the data in their sales contracts, and they want to be able to generate sales contracts based on CRM data.
There is no doubt that our data shows that sales departments were the most automation-friendly department of all. In fact, operations people, who were the second most interested group, were often looking for contract automation setups on behalf of their sales teams. It was our experience, in general, that sales teams are the most techological advanced department in most companies.
So why is that?
Why are sales departments at the forefront of the automation agenda?
The main reason is that the value in optimizing a sales process is very tangible. It’s easy to measure the ROI of new tech initiatives in sales. If we reduce manual touchpoints in a sales process by 50 % by automating the sales contract, the sales rep will get 50 % more time to close deals and create value for the company. And if we increase the closing rate by 5 % by cutting the time-to-signature on a contract in half, then it’s easy to calculate the improvement. That is harder in legal teams or in HR where a productivity boost can’t be measured to the same degree. With optimizations in sales, you can see results on your bottom line short term and when you are able to prove your value, you often get your way.
That creates a snowball effect. The sales tech landscape is fairly mature and centralized around a few standardized setups and solutions (Hubspot, Salesforce and Pipedrive). That makes it easy to develop automation workflows around it. In comparison, the HR-tech landscape is very fragmented which makes it a bit harder to build automated workflows around. There is an exponential logic at play here. The more digitized you are, the easier it is to digitize more. And the more comfortable and tech-savvy you are already.
The third reason relates specifically to contracts. Sales contracts are some of the most frequent contracts in a company. They are also some of the most simple and standardized. It makes sense to automate high frequency / low complexity work. The more of your work is repetitive, the more likely it is that tech can do it faster, cheaper and better. There are plenty of such low complexity tasks in a sales process. Data you need to insert. Copy/pasting.
Deal stages to move.
Contracts to draft. You name it.
There is an enormous potential in automation all that stuff.
Tech-consumers are usually way more pragmatic than what tech companies take them for. They are not into flashy AI or complicated emerging technologies. They are searching for tangible solutions to often very simple problems. And sales teams seems to be the most pragmatic of them all.