We recognize bottlenecks throughout the sales process. You can often see the sales process functioning as a hurry up and then wait, kind of game. Integrating electronic documents into sales simplifies the process and creates an organized environment for faster turnarounds and lower costs. Learn how to utilize electronic documents to benefit your sales team in this week’s episode.
INTRO: Building a great company is a marathon not a sprint. Each week Krista Ankenman and the team TANK New Media take on growth challenges explore technology and interview business leaders that are always upping their game. If you're ready to build scalable systems to drive your business forward. This podcast is for you.
KRISTA: Hi everyone. Today we are with Taylor Kack. She's part of the design department at TANK New Media. She's worked with sales teams to create documents to assist in everything from prospecting to closing deals. And today we're gonna be talking about how to accelerate sales with integrated electronic documents. Welcome Taylor.
KRISTA: So where are you seeing some challenges in completing sales.
TAYLOR: Yeah. So I think this is a great question. Unfortunately I don't think there's one singular answer but we often see these bottlenecks throughout this whole entire sales process where it kind of operates like this hurry up and wait kind of game you know you may finally get that thumbs up or go ahead to...
KRISTA: Get the verbal?
TAYLOR: Yeah, kind of move through and I use that one a lot that you can kind of create these documents in the sales team you know kind of takes a chunk of time to do that or get the approval or sign off internally to be able to send that out and you know I was reading an article the other day that said the average inbound lead kind of looks at three to five organizations when they're ready to buy a service and 50 percent of those companies buy from the person that reach out reaches out to them first.
KRISTA: Oh wow.
TAYLOR: Yeah it's incredible. It really shows that if you can get your foot in the door first or contact them early on you really have a great opportunity to close that sale. So I don't want to just pick on the sales teams. I know that you know we often get busy and we often see bottlenecks in the customer handoff portion. You know, you finally get all the hardware done and out the door and you're feeling really great. And then I mean you often sit and wait and it can be you know we see months before know you're like these people should be excited and getting that back to us and what's going on you know and everyone's busy so it just, you know, kind of gets lost to the bottom of the inbox. You know, that happens to me constantly. I'm still a strong advocate for the "mark texts as unread" because...
KRISTA: My gosh, I do that all the time.
TAYLOR: I read them all the time and then my sister will text me back and like Are you alive? Like I texted you two months ago or something you know. So I think we've all been there and it's not any one person's fault. I think it's just a symptom of you know the proposal and document creation system kind of being a little clunky and outdated still so.
KRISTA: So you said it's kind of a clunky and outdated, what does that mean? What does that mean. What were some of those ways of getting signatures?
TAYLOR: I mean I'm sure you see this all the time Krista. So I mean you can kind of maybe back me up on it but you often get these documents and you have to print them out you know, review it make sure everything looks OK, track down everybody who's involved in who needs to read it and you know sign it, and get it scanned back in and then emailed and sent off and you know that's really in this ideal world where nothing goes wrong. I mean...
KRISTA: And everybody's in the office.
TAYLOR: Yeah. Your printers working, it's not out of ink.
KRISTA: Yeah our scanner has been broken for months.
TAYLOR: Yeah. You know you have to kind of factor all these things in that really go into each document system and or process I guess and you know kind of look at how cumbersome that has to be for people.
KRISTA: Yeah. Definitely we just had. We just did another podcast that was about friction and this definitely seems like a friction point something that really kind of slows down the process but it sounds like potentially an electronic signature might be a good way to kind of speed that up. Can you tell me what that is?
TAYLOR: Yes. So I probably won't put this as eloquently as the dictionary would, but electronic signatures are data in electronic form and I think most simply it's data in electronic form that's logically related to other data in electronic form that signatories can sign. So I'm gonna throw in a little Asterix footnote here. I'm not a lawyer and as long as nothing's changed over the past couple of weeks I don't think you're a lawyer yet Krista. So we don't necessarily know all the legality and nitty gritty of that. So getting a second opinion on your legal standing on some of this is always a good idea. But often this type of signature is kind of in that same legal standing as a handwritten signature. As long as you're kind of following the regulations it was created under so.
KRISTA: Yeah definitely and most of the companies that we work with are able to accept electro... Electronic signatures on occasion we'll have somebody that needs a wet-signature so to speak on a few things but they do seem to you know really kind of help the process. So tell me a little bit what are some of the main benefits of using electronic signature systems or proposal software?
TAYLOR: Yeah so this is kind of where I get excited. Maybe take me back a little bit if I go off.
KRISTA: I'll slow you down.
TAYLOR: But I think really one of the biggest benefits is it's simple and easy to use. You know people are more intuitive with electronic systems anymore and you know people are on their phones all the time and it really does make it super easy and efficient for people to use and you know a lot of them. There's a lot of variety of systems you can use and they all kind of operate under the same premise. You know you upload or create a document you designate signers and recipients and send it off and they sign and I mean it sounds like that's too simple but I mean it really is. There's some work upfront to get to that point but it really is, it's almost as easy as you know opening up a link and hitting a button. So I mean I think that is really appealing to people who, one have to send these out all the time and two that are constantly looking at information like this.
KRISTA: Definitely with all the all the proposals and estimates and quotes and everything that people make it makes it so much easier.
TAYLOR: Yeah. If you can do it on your phone you know or you know when you're not necessarily next to your computer or whatever you know.
KRISTA: Definitely definitely. So tell me a little bit about the security?
TAYLOR: Again I'll start off with that little footnote, I'm not a lawyer. I don't have a ton of legal background but getting that second opinion can kind of always help with that regard. But believe it or not, most of these electronic signatures can be safer than the traditional handwritten ones. You know those can be forged or the document duplicated or altered in some kind of way even destroyed. I think you know you can reference the banking industry. They run into this constantly you know with checks being forged and altered or you know a little 0 added to the end you know. So I think you can kind of make that reference on how the old paper-based transactions can kind of you know have some risks in them and the electronic software's kind of allow you to contain more traceable information inside the document not only who signed it but where, when maybe, and those kinds of data insights are a little bit more enforceable than a traditional paper-based transaction. And I kind of like a little caveat here you know a lot of people feel like these handwritten signatures are more tangible but that doesn't necessarily make them more secure. You're often still sending them via e-mails. So you know you're making this like make-shift less sophisticated proposal software system on your own when you're kind of maybe trying to advocate for We'll know it needs to be printed when we're kind of still using these electronic methods to send them out.
KRISTA: So absolutely. And I mean I think that plays a little bit into the convenience factor because people are dispersed.
TAYLOR: Yeah I mean everybody is all over the place anymore I think even small businesses today are. If you're not you know geographically located all over the world you're probably work working with a vendor or a supplier or a partner that maybe is in a different location. So it really is a solution that kind of gives the opportunity to be able to provide them with a convenient option instead of mailing or courier sending something through the mail.
KRISTA: Pony Express. I hear you. So this has to be faster for people that has to give faster turnarounds, does it?
TAYLOR: Yes. And I think that this is kind of this should be what appeals to most people the convenience again is super easy for people to turn these around a lot quicker. Instead of sending the document to one party, and printing it out, and finding the next person to review and signed it... sign it, and find the next person, and so on and so forth, and then scan it back in, and send it off. Finally, you know you really have an option that can almost be turned around in seconds.
KRISTA: If in an ideal world.
TAYLOR: Yeah but you don't have to really wait for people to you know hunt down everyone you can kind of send the link to everybody involved or they can review it at their own time and sign and send it back off. And you know, a really convenient feature with a lot of these is you can set up little nudges or notification reminders that hey you know you've been sitting on this contract for a couple of days I know that I do this all the time with any shopping cart where I'm like oh I just need to look one more place to see if it's cheaper. I'm like Oh yeah I put that T-shirt in my cart four days ago. So the same kind of idea can be set up with the proposal softwares you know just a little reminder that you haven't signed this yet. Do you have questions? Are you getting stuck on a certain point? And you know in the article I was reading it said that these little notifications can increase your chance of sale up to 30 percent. So you know PandaDoc has done the research on this and provided information that shows these opportunities can really improve your sales close rate.
KRISTA: So they are effective, and that as a salesperson I don't have to remember you know that I need to remind somebody to fill that, I don't need to check constantly because that can be something you know when you have a lot of them out, it can be hard to remember all of that.
TAYLOR: Yeah. I mean to that extent, your I know I sent that document two days ago and it was like two weeks ago. I'm I going into that trap all the time anymore.
KRISTA: All the time. Yes. And you know by having them in an, in a digital system you can also make sure that you sent it out without having to search through your email to see where it is. That's definitely I mean for me I know that's been a really big benefit just tracking my activity.
TAYLOR: Where at all is.
KRISTA: Definitely. So I'm sure people out there are thinking yeah this is great but I'm sure it's going to cost a lot. You know what. How is this going to affect my business. Can you talk to us briefly about kind of cost implications here?
TAYLOR: Yeah. So there is usually a cost upfront for the software but it really is a cost effective alternative to their traditional pen and paper. You know you're not spending as much on ink and paper, but as well as postage or sharing or back to the time thing it saves you time which ultimately really does save you money. And every little bit adds up over time, so you will see maybe some upfront cost or some software cost at least. But it really does have an impact on the bottom line.
KRISTA: So we've talked quite a bit about some of those benefits. Now I am curious when you get into some of these digital signing platforms, is, are all of your contracts going to look the same. Can you customize them, how much flexibility do you have?
TAYLOR: Yeah. So this is probably my favorite part. I'm gonna kind of geek out here. You can usually customize them almost exclusively to how you want them to look. There's some functionality that has to operate the way you know it needs to but you can create these template galleries that are branded underneath your company's brand, or your sales brand, or whatever that looks like for you. And with that you can create you know these documents to be set up the way you intend them to be time and time again. I think a lot of sales teams run into this problem where somebody accidentally deletes a box or you think you're typing on page 4 but you're on page 2 still somehow.
KRISTA: Or you opened up an old document to start from you didn't resave it. I've never done that before.
TAYLOR: I'm literally the worst at that. So you know it helps keep those portions that you need to be locked down that are maybe a little bit more legal or they don't need to be changed, they're consistent across every contract or template. So you know it gives you this opportunity to create these contracts or proposals or documents that are going out accurately time and time again. So yeah that's one portion of it. I think you know you can create these pricing catalogs or little libraries almost that have your product or service in them. And again that goes back to making sure your information is accurate. You know the prices consistently going to stay the same. The information on the product doesn't really need to change. So that's all logged in there and it auto calculates discounts and taxes and you know.
KRISTA: Sounds like it is great. Yeah because there's so many like me.
TAYLOR: Yeah. We work with a manufacturing company who they have. They sell those machines and it can have component A component B and upgrade see in the X, Y, and Z and for them to compose these contracts it's really labor-some. And if you can provide all of that in a light or a pricing catalog for them to be able to just pull like this is what this person wants and they want this upgrade and it auto calculates all of that for you. I mean that's what they better.
KRISTA: Definitely. So the technology sounds pretty good but does it integrate into other systems.
TAYLOR: Yeah. And I think I would ultimately recommend that you should integrate it especially into your CRMs one of these features that you can customize is the tokens and fields. So not only is it automatically pulling data into your CRM, your CRM is also implementing data into the contractor document. So, for example, we often work with the PandaDoc in HubSpot integration and not one benefit for that is you don't even have to go to the PandaDoc software to create the document you create it when you're in the contact record, you pick the template you need, you can set up those tokens so it automatically fills information based on that contact's records. So name, email, things that one aren't usually changing and two a typo can be kind of catastrophic to that. So you know you're kind of ensuring that this information gets implemented accurately and then it's super easy for a salesperson to just kind of hit create and edit what they need to.
KRISTA: So go from there, yeah that you know and that just kind of leads into my next question. So we've talked a lot about overall you know it's improving overall if efficiencies. Can you just dive a little bit deeper into that and just talk a little bit more about how this really improves internal efficiency?
TAYLOR: So there's a stat out there from the electronic signature and Records Association that businesses experience an 83 percent performance improvement and getting approvals along with an 86 percent savings in document costs.
KRISTA: That's insane.
TAYLOR: Yeah it almost seems unbelievable but it really does say save the sales team time having to track down these documents that they make. You know if not daily I mean it's got to be weekly, so you don't have to track which version which product you know you don't have to track down the person to approve it every time if you can get these templates made and get there sign off you're kind of cutting down on the amount at least that they have to approve if they can approve one to two sections.
TAYLOR: Yeah it's way easier than the whole document every time. So I think it just creates this consistent experience for the sales team to be able to feel confident in creating these documents and kind of gives your business peace of mind knowing it's going out accurately, consistently, and knowing if you do need to make a change you're kind of going to catch them all in one fell swoop you know where everything's living. If you make a contract update here you know that it's going to continue to go out. Now when you're ready accurately and then logs you know a history of every document you sent the status can send those automatic reminders. So it just creates this you know almost personal assistant to your sales team to be able to start you know maintaining and kind of watching these contracts that are going out.
KRISTA: So what does this do from a customer standpoint?
TAYLOR: Yes. So that's a big one. I think it really is a solution that's tailored to them. You know it's providing a very positive user experience and any more reporting that 74 percent of Americans are prioritizing experience over products. So you know that kind of goes to your whole you know marketing and everyday items. You really need to be prioritizing this user experience and you know you would hate for them to have this great experience coming through. You know the buyer's journey or your marketing process and then get to the end and kind of dread the point of sale or that contract. So this really provides them with a less frustrating way to kind of get these documents or proposals. You know they're not experiencing these big long time gaps or these kind of like lags in information from the sales team and ultimately it allows them to feel like your, they're your number one priority right. They are top of mind for you, you're turning this stuff around for them so much you must be sitting at your desk thinking about them all day long, Right? You know that's the only way they can get this document turned around so quick. So I think it really is you know a solution that is tailored to them and their experience.
KRISTA: So we've talked quite a bit about sales. Where'd you see you know digital signatures being used?
TAYLOR: Yeah. So you know the contract or sale process is obviously a big portion of that but I think there's a variety of you know kind of innovative solutions that you can look at implementing these in one that comes to mind is kind of these prototype or production milestones. Maybe you need a design approval or a prototype sign off or one of our clients kind of needs these sign off that they're going to send the appropriate information for them to set up the equipment properly so those types of things where you need somebody to one read what you're saying and then agree to or sign off on you can kind of use those in those types of situations. Or you know maybe you have safety or.
TAYLOR: You know plant tours or something to that effect where you know you often go. I'm sure everyone's been at least on a tour where they kind of have to sign your life away or you know something like that. Yeah I'm not going to farm as big boiling pot of water or something that I don't. Maybe you're in a big noodle company or something. I don't know but, so things like that where you're getting people to kind of you know sign some type of liability or I've read this or I acknowledge that I've read that kind of thing and then you know H.R. onboarding/off-boarding processes can also kind of utilize these things.
KRISTA: So have you really seen the impact of this firsthand?
TAYLOR: I think the best way for me to kind of maybe answer that one is to talk a little bit about a client we've worked with you know Pack Leader USA is is a manufacturing client we've worked with. And they were really having troubles in the sales process because you know, I kind of talked about it before they were having to compile these contracts with a ton of information about the product they needed to assemble the equipment and the add ons and upgrades, and you know you can sign off not doing this portion of it, or sign to have this training you know, and so there was a lot of pieces involved and they were kind of all over the place and you know each sales guy was kind of doing their own thing. So.
KRISTA: I heard that before.
TAYLOR: Yeah. You know and it's kind of hard to keep track of all that. As they were you know selling more they kind of needed a system that would help maintain all of that and make sure that their contracts were coming back on time. So we ended up implementing PandaDocs for their sales team and integrated it with their HubSpot CRM. And you know I think it's great when they kind of talk about it they say you know it used to take days for contracts to come back. Which I'm going to admit I'm like wow is that still kind of you know weeks or months, but so they went from days of these contracts being out to hours will turn them back around an hour or so. I mean they were able to close 75 percent more leads over a year so I think it has you know a tremendous impact on definitely the sales process.
KRISTA: Improvement you know getting more out there and being able to do more with the same team.
TAYLOR:That's you know that's the key to it. You know they have the same number of people kind of operating under this system and you know just improving efficiency can really make an impact.
KRISTA: And if somebody is interested in kind of reading the full story there on what was done with Pack Leader USA you were saying and getting a little bit more detail about that particular example we'll have a link in the show notes for that as well. So how do you identify places in your process where you can really utilize these systems? What what steps can you take?
TAYLOR: Yeah. So that's a little bit of a loaded question. I think every process could look a little bit different. I think there's some big key ideas or sections you could look at. I'd start by asking yourself for your sales team you know where do we see bottlenecks in our process? And I guess let me take that one step back. I think it doesn't have to be your sales team right? If you're looking at implementing this in an H.R. system or onboarding or safety I mean really start asking your teams where they're seeing a bottleneck in their process and can a solution like this where they're needing signoff and approval on something really help streamline that. And you know to that effect if even if you don't even need the handwritten signature but you kind of need somebody to look at it you may look at, hey can you initial this that you've seen it and moved on so that you're not waiting for somebody to look at something. If you can kind of if it works for your process to send off to have them look at it you know on their phone or on their own time when they get an email or have a chance to look at it you can kind of help.
KRISTA: And I think that would help like make sure people look at it too. People tend to take a little bit more attention if they have to initial it or sign it versus just like sending a PDF via email.
TAYLOR: Yeah no yeah I totally look like a month.
KRISTA: I'm not guilty of that at all.
TAYLOR: I never have seen this site never even look at it this. So I mean just little things like that you don't maybe need the official signature on it but it could help.
KRISTA: You want to make sure they saw it. Yeah I could definitely see that.
TAYLOR: So then yeah looking at other tools that you know existing systems or software that you have can integrate with those. And once you kind of see those friction points or you know kind of these red flags where maybe the process is kind of stalling I think you can then look at the tools that are available to you. So I think one thing that's great is if you can look at templates or examples that already exist to kind of get you rolling, the ball rolling and starting to implement these a little quicker. That's a great you know kind of quick win maybe you don't have to have you know the full the best solution that you want right out the gate if you can kind of use an example that exists that will kind of get you out the door and you know to kind of go along with that I think it's really important that you kind of take an internal look at yourself and see can we implement this. You know it kind of can end up being a little bit of a process. There's a lot of data to go through what can what can't be customized what tokens do we need are if you are integrating with your CRM you know what, do new fields need made, do new tokens need to be created. Is that data even in your database? So really taking a step back and saying OK can we get this implemented successfully internally or do we need to partner with somebody who can kind of help us along and understanding the kind of pieces that go along with those processes is important. So I think you know that kind of gets you into this tools and software figuring out a little bit of a plan how you're going to get it going. So I think then you know next really comes like implementing the system. Let's get it going let's get it out there and start training your team. I will say we worked with you know the manufacturing company that their sales team was not onboard when they wanted to implement this. They didn't really see the benefit. They were a little bit you know difficult to adopt it at first. And so I think it took some training and understanding to know and feel confident that they could you know really use this and you know now it's like constantly they come back constantly I mean what can we automate this portion of it. I had to type this in on two. Can we auto-populate that and you know so I think it could take some time to adopt but if you really train your team well and get them excited and see the benefits and opportunities to improve later on I think those are kind of some key points to look for.
KRISTA: Absolutely we'll thank you so much, Taylor, I'm sure everybody really has enjoyed hearing about how to really improve their pricing of these processes internally and we appreciate your time today.
TAYLOR: Thank you. It's great to be here.
KRISTA: You got it. Don't forget to write and review and subscribe everyone! For tools and resources visit manufacturinggrowth.com.
Co-founder & VP, Client Services
Krista also has more than a decade of professional experience under her belt. Her expertise lies in graphic design, project management, and digital marketing for both high-profile and growing businesses. Currently, she functions as the VP of Client Services and lead strategist.
Building a great company is a marathon, not a sprint. Each week Krista Ankenman and her team at TANK New Media take on growth challenges, explore technology, and interview business leaders dedicated to growing better through continuous improvement. If you’re ready to build repeatable and scalable systems to drive your business forward, this podcast is for you.
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