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How to convince a big customer to use your contract form – and get your sales people to support you in it

At my former company, our contract form was extremely customer-friendly.  Every time we made a concession in a contract negotiation, we asked ourselves whether we could incorporate the concession into our standard form, in the interest of reducing the time to signature. 

The result was rave reviews from our customers. One customer lawyer said to me, when I first read your contract, I wondered if someone had already negotiated it for us.

Another customer’s lawyer said, I told our business people that if your software is as good as your contract, we’re getting a great product.

We might have given away some theoretical legal advantages, but nothing worth worrying about, and the business people loved the speeded-up sales cycle.

A fringe benefit of having such a customer-friendly contract was that I could enforce a policy with our sales people: We would not negotiate a customer’s contract form until the sales manager got me a five-minute phone call with the customer’s contracting people.

In most cases, I was able to persuade the customer’s contract reviewers that using our contract would get us to signature with less work for all of us.

In the cases where we did end up using the customer’s form, that initial five-minute phone call helped establish a positive working relationship which, among other things, helped soften the blow if we had to do a serious markup of their paper.

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