Old-Fashioned Contracting Views That Slow Down Business Growth

Are outdated views and practices about contracting holding your business back?

Things change notoriously slowly in the legal world. But for modern contracting to succeed, you need speed, agility, and an environment that allows the lawyers who review your contracts to do their best work. Clinging to dated ideas about how contracting should work can slow down your sales and legal teams, your deals, your growth and your cash flow.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the dated views and practices that we still regularly come across and that could be slowing you down — plus a bonus, not at all old-fashioned, idea that might accelerate your contracts.

The value of accelerated sales contracts

The “legals” is often all that is left between a sale and revenue. Reducing time to close adds real business value.

If your sales and contracting teams can spend less time working on each deal, they’ll have the capacity to do more without needing to work any harder. Your business will miss fewer opportunities, meet your revenue growth targets more easily, and have more capacity for new customers.

What’s more, quicker contracts lead to happy customers. If you can make the process easier for your customers, you will start your relationship on a better footing and help them realise value faster.

One way to accelerate your sales contracts is to outsource the more repetitive ones to an alternative legal services provider, such as Radiant Law, who can help you deliver faster closing but the issues below will still apply to the more complex contracts that your team supports.

Seven old-fashioned practices that slow down sales contracts

1 - Thinking contracting is about winning points

The adversarial approach to contracting - each side trying to ‘score points’ off the other - is unhelpful in the modern business landscape. It undermines business relationships, which should be collaborative and based on mutual trust.

Some think a successful negotiation should leave both sides equally unhappy, but we believe in both sides feeling good about the deal - both the outcome and the process that led up to it. How do you achieve that? With:

  • first drafts that represent a ‘middle ground’ and focus on what is essential to successful delivery
  • a ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ approach - don’t fight the other party over details that don’t really matter!
  • the aim of cooperating for your mutual benefit. Dig into what the customer is trying to achieve and find ways to help them, as far as you can
  • a cooperative attitude. Even where the parties’ objectives conflict, keeping the discussions friendly and cooperative makes it easier for solutions to be found, and sub-ideal positions to be accepted.

2 - Trying to exclude all risk

Risk comes with responsibility, and you can’t start a business relationship on the basis that you’re not going to assume any responsibility: it’s neither realistic nor conducive to the collaborative process outlined above.

Instead, go straight to the middle ground and focus on what you actually need to make sure the contract works for both sides and to avoid things going wrong.

  • Clarity, so both parties understand what their responsibilities are
  • Boundaries, so you aren’t taking on any additional responsibilities that your operations team will struggle to deliver
  • Align risk and control, so you can deliver what you promise.

3 - Assuming large customers will always insist on their terms

Everyone prefers to use their terms, and large customers will usually try, but if you are selling a specialised product, then you may have more opportunities to use your terms than you realise.

The key is to make sure that your terms are so obviously better for the deal that everyone agrees that they are the best starting point:

  • Keep them short, clear and relevant.
  • Make them middle of the road and reasonable, so that the customer’s objectives are addressed and they are terms that the customer can live with without needing to negotiate.
  • Address any regulations that may apply to the customer.

You won’t always win the battle of the forms, but you can make it easier to include the terms that you need in the agreement.

  • Use modular product descriptions and commercials that can be included within the typical customer contract structure. Procurement will appreciate being able to 
  • Use playbooks to make sure you address the key points. With playbooks for the other side’s paper, these often work best as checklists of points that you want to see and points that you don’t want to see.

4 - Treating all deals the same

Not all deals—or customers—are created equal. Of course, it saves time and resources to work with standard terms rather than reinventing the wheel for every contract. But it also makes sense to treat your biggest customers differently, and they’re likely to expect more customised deals. But these largest deals can dominate your teams’ diaries and delay the smaller, higher-volume deals. There is also a danger of making the smaller deals more complicated than they need to be by trying to address issues that are only relevant in the most complex deals.

The solution? Run two parallel contracting processes.

  • Keep your most complex deals in-house, where your own experienced lawyers can operate “at the top of their licence” and develop new skills, while reducing the need for expensive external law firms.
  • Outsource your simpler contracts to an alternative legal services provider (ALSP), like Radiant Law, who bring the process, technology, and data needed to speed up your simpler contracts.

5 - Not setting your deals up to grow

Of course your organisation wants to grow its relationships with customers and it is tempting to try to cover every possible additional product or service in your terms. In practice, though, negotiating hypotheticals can lead to abstract debates and slow down progress.

Instead, use modular frameworks that allow you to add additional product lines easily. Keep a ‘library’ of additional terms that you only need to introduce when the relevant product type is actually being bought and include them only when they are relevant. That way, you can keep your standardised terms short and relevant, while making it easy to grow the relationship.

6 - Agreeing to too much customisation

Your sales team may be tempted to give your customer what they want, just to seal the deal, but it’s not so easy for your operations team if they have to change the way they deliver for each customer or for the finance team if they have to change how they bill.

Growing your business is only valuable if the additional business is profitable to deliver! Don’t risk seemingly minor contract changes that can lead to ramp-ups in cost. Instead, make sure there is close communication between sales, contracting, operations and finance, so everyone understands where you can be flexible with contracting and where you can’t.

7 - Treating governance as a cost to be avoided

Governance meetings proposed by the customer may look like just another customisation, but we see them as an exception to the rule above - more meetings are often a good thing. The profitability of the relationship will be a function of how much value you can create for the customer (as well as your costs to deliver). The more opportunities your organisation has to build the relationship and understand what would be most valuable to the customer, the more likely that you will be able to add value for the customer. Business relationships are fundamentally between humans - being flexible on governance gives your team the chance to meet humans and figure out what they need.

Bonus: use your sales team to frame the contract negotiation

There’s a traditional tension between sales and legal, with the sales team negotiating the headline commercials, and lawyers sometimes being referred to as ‘deal killers’ or the ‘department of no’ when they have to raise points that surprise the customer.

This approach isn’t just terrible for your legal team's reputation; it’s also a missed opportunity for better communication and a more collaborative way of working.

Instead, give your sales team the tools and background they need to frame the upcoming negotiations. Arm them with FAQs, standard explanations, and coaching on questions so they can position the key issues that matter to your organisation before the contract is sent. This frames the discussion for upcoming negotiations and allows for key points to be agreed in advance, meaning contract negotiations that are far quicker, easier and with fewer surprises.

For the best results, this should be accompanied by short, clear, reasonable, and relevant terms. If your customer has understood the must-have points in advance and your terms are palatable, you’re setting yourself up for quick deals.


If you want to speed up your contracting process, drive efficiencies and increase growth, it’s important to keep up with the times: instead of doing things because ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’, consider alternative approaches.

One alternative approach is to outsource your simpler, lower-value contracts to an alternative legal service provider such as Radiant Law. Radiant Law’s ‘RADICAL’ contracting method helps companies streamline and automate their processes, reduce their costs and develop efficiencies.

To find out how Radiant Law could help you accelerate your sales contracts, please get in touch.

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