The human element: Managing contracts is managing relationships

human elementContracts, at the end of the day, are really just one manifestation of a business relationship.

The more complex and important the business relationship, the higher the expectations on both sides of the table for a “good” working relationship. It’s not written down on any contract, but this is managing the human element of any business agreement – and it is difficult to manage.

When it works well, the payoff can be enormous. When it doesn’t, well, we all can think of a few cringe-worthy examples.

One of the truly pragmatic features of using a contract management solution is that it helps to organize and share information about those relationships.

Everyone keeps notes on calls with clients or customers, but having a contract management solution such as Contract Assistant allows entire groups or departments to create and store notes and other detailed documents in one place in record-specific notes or documents.

For every contract record, users can create associated Overviews, Notes and Comments, and File Links (or directly store related documents, as in the Enterprise edition). It may be tempting to use this feature for basic information, but there can be a real bonus when you share call notes or notes about the client/vendor/customer relationship – things that don’t fit neatly into conventional contract information.

This means going beyond the mere “what” and “when” of contracts.

  • — Use notes to share call notes or summaries of email exchanges, paying particular attention to how key contacts deal with problems or share information.
  • — Note what happens when problems arise and how they get solved. Go a step further, too, and identify who was particularly helpful and why in problem resolution.
  • — Use notes to record preferences of key contacts for communications. This can be more important than you think in emergencies.
  • — If you see a pattern in “best ways to respond” to client or vendor questions – use the notes or create a “cheat sheet” in a word document and link to it or store it in contract record database.

Even these relatively easy steps can come in extremely handy when key contacts within your company aren’t available to respond to an urgent vendor or customer request.

Also, a recorded history of vendor or customer interactions that are connected to a client contract record provides valuable insight for your organization.

Many businesses, when looking to expand a client relationship, for example, will gather deeper information on a client’s needs. This is a task that can take a business development employee many hours to compile when relying on scattered, incomplete information from internal sources.

Consider the boon to someone in business development when they can go to a single source for call notes, incident reports and even notes on individual client contacts. This can be a wealth of information that can be mined for future business opportunities. In Contract Assistant, all Notes fields are searchable, too, making this kind of task easier.

Contract Assistant Standard and Pro editions both feature the ability to record notes and link to documents residing on a network. Contract Assistant Enterprise edition features the ability to store related documents directly in the same database – making those related documents fully searchable as well.

There’s almost no organization where employees don’t track their business relationships in some way. Having a contract management solution is a good way to organize what may be happening already in a far more unorganized, haphazard way. It may not be the ultimate tool for managing business relationships – but it can certainly be an easy and efficient way.

[About the author: Todd Hyten is a former business journalist who now writes about B2B topics and consults on content marketing. You can find him on Twitter and ]

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