When it comes to closing deals, Sales and Legal are bound together in a three-legged race — ultimately working together but feeling burdened by the pull or drag of the other teammate. But the most successful teams have figured out how to work in lockstep, and the key is transparency.
To dig into how Sales and Legal can cut the entropy and focus on wins, we asked Lexion’s Sales Director, David Smart, and Senior Legal and Business Operations Manager, Krysta Johnson, how they manage communication and expectations to keep deals agile.
Here are 4 practices Legal and Sales teams should prioritize and tips for implementing an accelerated sales mindset.
1. Align on priorities and value — early
From Krysta (Legal): I frequently ask David (Sales), “I have these three deals on my plate. Which is the most important to you? Which one should I do first?” Align on priorities and ensure you understand that you’re doing the work they think is the highest value first.
When working with individual account executives, this can be tricky, so Legal and Sales team leaders should discuss priorities before involving the larger group. Sales leadership must be able to reassure their team that Legal is aligned with their goals while also ensuring the Sales team is doing their part.
From David (Sales): When I look at my sales team, I ask, “Are we doing what we can to ensure things are going to be done effectively and efficiently at the end of the month?” We have to plan ahead.
Developing an end-of-deal checklist can put Sales teams in a better position at the end of the month. This provides a clear outline for what still needs to be done so they can collaborate with Legal as necessary and helps them focus on their own work. Getting contracts reviewed, getting language in front of customers, and completing security reviews earlier in the month creates a better working relationship between the teams.
2. Build trust through transparent methods
Sales teams are asked to trust that Legal is handling contracts, but that’s hard to do if they can’t quickly check on the status of a deal. Nobody wants to be the person filling up the Legal team’s inbox or sending endless Slack messages. Yet sometimes, it feels like the only way to get through.
Sales and Legal teams reach their shared goals through distinctly different processes. Developing ways to 1) share what the process looks like and 2) ensure everyone can reference this information will enable leadership to minimize friction.
Legal tech is an excellent example of how using the right tool can directly impact the business’s bottom line. Lexion’s contract management software, for example, features a workflow component that tracks everything related to a specific task, including project status, approvals, communications, document versions, etc. It integrates seamlessly with Salesforce and HubSpot, too, so that team members can track the status of tasks with legal, see the latest activity, check signature status, and more without having to leave the comfort of their CRM.
This kind of transparency has numerous benefits:
- Promotes a culture of trust between teams
- Helps to set expectations appropriately
- Provides insight into how both sales interpret each task and legal
The redlining process is a prime example of sales and legal learning from each other through workflow transparency. David (Sales) explains, “We’ll look at [a contract] and say, ‘Not many redlines, so this should be easy,’ or ‘Lots of redlines; this is going to be difficult.’
But there can be a small redline that has a huge impact and can take a lot of time, or you can have something with easy redlines, and we can go right through it. Those indicators aren’t necessarily good ones for whether the process will be difficult or not.”
Krysta agreed, noting that she immediately goes to specific sections in every contract to determine how complex the negotiation process will be. Items like indemnification or limitation of liability are always on her radar, whereas a sales account executive might not understand the complexity and importance of wording surrounding those contract terms. Being able to refer to the workflow and see changes in near real-time can help to inform future deals.
With Lexion, legal can also track the time it takes to negotiate and execute contracts on first party versus third party paper (which often take longer to close). With that data, legal and sales can share the understanding that oftentimes one of the biggest steps toward closing deals faster is by asking prospects to use the company’s first party paper.
3. Practice operational education
Reliable tools can do a lot for a team, but having background information makes those tools even more valuable. David believes legal teams generally have a good idea of how sales teams operate, especially during the end-of-month hustle. He also acknowledges that people put themselves under pressure by not preparing for that anticipated time crunch. From the outside, this can look like a lack of respect for the legal team’s time and resources.
To help prevent this, schedule regular check-ins between Sales and Legal. This could be a meeting at the start of the month to review goals and check in again before the month’s end. (Allow extra time during end-of-quarter and end-of-half meetings, as there will likely be more ground to cover.)
It’s important for Sales to help Legal understand the pipeline, goals, and key metrics so the two can work together to remove points of friction throughout the process. Similarly, Legal should educate Sales on how it can best help them improve key metrics, hit sales targets, and reduce conflict. Setting expectations and designing processes together gives sales and legal the best shot at working smoothly and effectively to close more deals in less time.
David and Krysta schedule one-on-ones at least twice a month to discuss current deals, account executive feedback, and how specific deals are forecasted to close that given month are tracking. This is in addition to their end-of-month meetings when they take time to prioritize deals and evaluate the likelihood of which ones will close and which will require more work.
Legal and Sales teams should also review other items together, such as:
- What resources does the other team regularly have?
- How do they manage workloads?
- Where could they use more help?
- What does a typical day look like on this team?
- Which times of the week, month, and quarter are busiest for them?
Legal tech can also provide valuable metrics that identify workflow bottlenecks, which sales teams can use to plan their contracting timelines accordingly. Johnson uses these metrics reports to determine which tasks can be automated (i.e., functions that take up the most volume) and to see where each contract spends most of its time. People typically think contracts get stuck in legal review, but that’s not the case.
“More often than not, it’s in counter-party review, or there’s a business unit that needs to approve,” Johnson said. Being able to show this to Smart’s team means “they can check in and increase that deal velocity … I can push that along and decrease the amount of time a contract is in that stage.”
Access to metrics also empowers sales teams to be more proactive in future contract negotiations. Smart said, “If we usually have issues with a specific section of the agreement, or our terms will be redlined around the same area, we can get familiar with what we can and can’t do. We can have conversations and set expectations with the customer upfront so that we’re not running into unforeseen issues at the end of the month.”
4. Let go and learn from each other
There are good and bad risks in business. To legal departments, though, all risk is bad risk, and it can be easy to get hung up on nailing down every last detail before moving a contract forward. However, Johnson said it’s important to know when to trust the other team and move on.
“We’re trained to spot risk and prevent it, but sometimes there’s a risk it’s okay to take,” she said. “You have to get comfortable sometimes letting business make those decisions and understanding that there’s a difference between business risk and legal risk. While they might intermingle, sometimes you have to let things go.”
In these situations, it’s important to compromise. Sometimes, one side or the other won’t get exactly what they want, but it’s vital to know what sales and legal can or can’t concede.
Getting [the business side] to understand, ‘We’ve conceded on all these points, but we can’t on this one,’ and teaching them why that’s important — educating each other. David teaching me [about business risk] and me teaching him, and his account executives, about some of the legal concepts builds trust.”
Partnering with sales and providing scalable value is possible and becomes more challenging as the sales organization grows (and the legal team probably doesn’t). Join us on Tuesday, November 8th, at 3pm ET / 12pm PT, as Jessica Nguyen, Chief Legal Officer at Lexion and seasoned B2B SaaS attorney, and Joe Colliss, Director of Legal at Lacework, bring their years of legal operations experience to explain how to build a scalable and trusted legal team effectively.