A key stakeholder in any successful business is the vendors it works with and it can take a lot of care and consideration to make sure that the company is maximizing the value it is getting out of the relationship with the vendor. Added value can take the form of general cost savings, efficiencies made possible by new technology or processes and delivery of certain products or services at an agreed rebate.
Enable Blog — Contract Management
In today’s deal economy, traditional methods of signing and validating B2B contracts mean that every day a potential B2B contract is sitting in somebody’s inbox waiting for approval, preventing either trading partner involved from making money or even worse, killing the deal altogether. As you know, a contract isn’t a done deal until all trading partners have signed.
Topics: Contract Management
The COVID-19 pandemic has left many organizations renegotiating contracts sooner than they envisioned due to the uncertainty in the marketplace and the changing conditions of business which, when combined, result in their trading partners being unable to meet the current deal terms.
Contract negotiation is a difficult exercise at the best of times, because a great amount of time and effort is spent up-front in negotiating B2B contracts, but due to the pandemic expediting contact renegotiations, these challenges have been magnified. For example, contract renegotiation will open up the possibility of having to agree to less favourable terms than before. We have also found that companies tend to file their B2B contracts away and very little attention is spent in understanding and tracking their on-going performance. Businesses that fall short of monitoring their B2B contracts fail to maximise revenues, control costs and open their organisations up to a multitude of risks for their deals. They are also in a weaker position during renegotiations as the true benefit of their current deal is unknown.
By looking at the wider picture when approaching contract renegotiations this will not only serve your interests better, but also improve collaboration with your suppliers. If you neglect the glaring issues, contract renegotiations in the wake of COVID-19 will mean missing out on new revenue opportunities for your B2B deals which could actually be the foundation to increase profits in the long-term!
With 80% of B2B transactions governed by contractual agreements, contracts are the foundation of nearly every trading relationship and should seek to define and mitigate risk. Contracts also provide the basis by which companies ensure compliance with regulatory and financial accountability requirements. More importantly, agreements should be documented.
However, the number and complexity of those contracts are growing. According to IACCM, the average Global 1000 corporation maintains over 40,000 active contracts; these high numbers of contracts are difficult for companies to track and maintain. This difficulty is magnified when contracts are managed manually with pen-and-paper, filed away into overflowing cabinets or saved as Microsoft Office documents, at best, in shared folders or at worst, on individual employee’s hard drives. Plus, with remote working on the rise in many workplaces, deal management can become even more complicated.
Like almost every other business process, making the move to a deal management solution, with a built-in centralized deal repository, is necessary for improving efficiency, speed, and cost.
To survive and succeed in today’s changing business landscape, companies need to evaluate their current processes and realise that digitalization is transforming how organizations in every industry carry out their operations.
Forbes has reported that 90% of global businesses have kicked off a formal digital transformation initiative of some form. The concern for many companies is that they’ve already fallen behind, or they are too late to get started. But that is certainly not the case.
One of these forms of digitalization that you may not have considered is deal management, which might ordinarily have been completed by different teams including finance and procurement. This benefits your business by freeing up more time and ultimately eliminating the risk of human error.
This blog will help you identify the reasons you need to digitalize your deal management processes and how companies that adapt will stay competitive and relevant.
What is digitalization?
According to Gartner, “Digitalization is the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities”. By leveraging digital technology, a business can improve or enhance existing business processes. For example, digitalization can convert all your deal management into a digital format. Once converted, a business can upgrade its manual processes to automated processes, eliminating the need for basic spreadsheets. Companies that don’t keep up with these digital processes will get left behind.
How important is digitalization?
Research shows that digitalization of the contracting process is lagging in most companies. According to International Association for Contract & Commercial Management (IACCM), 85% are using manual deal management processes. As a result, estimates suggest that an average organization with one thousand employees spends an unnecessary $2.5 million to $3.5 million every year searching for documents or re-creating lost documents. This only further shines a spotlight on the need for digitalization.
Plus, those involved in the deal management process, including finance, believe better technology would make finance processes more effective according to PWC Finance Effectiveness Benchmark Study. Furthermore, 70% of CFOs expect digital developments will change the way their finance organization operates.
Research also suggests that by digitising the most information-intensive processes, businesses can cut costs by up to 90% and significantly speed up turnaround times.
Reasons to adopt digitalization of deal management sooner rather than later
Negotiating B2B contracts is a regular activity, both sides want to get the best deal possible. By negotiating you can achieve a contract that is fair, reasonable and beneficial to both parties - even helping to boost company profitability and improve goodwill and collaboration between trading partners.
If you’ve ever been confused about terminology relating to rebate management, you’re not alone! The world of rebates is a complicated place at the best of times, especially when there can be multiple different names for the same thing.
Sometimes both parties come out of a negotiating a contract feeling like they have won but if you think you won and the other party (your supplier or your customer) feels they lost, then it’s not really a good situation to be in.
If the customer feels they lost, then maybe they might have stuck with you because they need to in the short term, but in most situations, they could well be looking to take their business elsewhere in the future. On the other side if the supplier feels they were the loser in the contract negotiation, then it’s highly likely the customer will suffer. Suppliers will naturally share innovations, opportunities and ideas with those customers they enjoy working with the most. And, of course, they will be better prepared to win the next round of negotiating a contract.
Both sales and procurement who are involved in negotiating a contract have to be strong characters, but in a globally competitive market it should be “collaboration” rather than “competition” on their minds. We discuss in more detail the 7 key elements you should follow to successfully negotiate a contract.
1. Understand the key objectives of each trading partner
Understanding each other’s business plans at the highest levels is obvious, but nonetheless sometimes overlooked when the focus of negotiating a contract is polarised on reducing the price of a particular category or range. Suppose the customer (a large building materials distributor, as an example) wants to expand into new geographical territories. Negotiating a contract on price, taking account of delivering into those new territories might force the supplier to increase their prices, when the customer is looking for a decrease.
We learned of an instance where the procurement consultant examined the expected product requirements at the furthest locations and determined that the supplier could actually simply deliver into their main depots and the customer themselves would take care of onward shipment to outlying regions. The end result was a reduced price for the customer, lower transport costs for the supplier and better use of the vehicles that had been carrying partial loads between depots and outlying regions. A true win-win. The key to negotiating a contract is to be transparent about business objectives and share data that can help create those win-win decisions.
2. Capture objectives and incentives in a joint business plan
We aren’t just talking about the mechanics (the pricing and incentives) of a B2B deal, but the wider agreed goals for both parties. After all, the incentives are only there to help manoeuvre trading in a direction that meets the business goals. And only by monitoring the success at that high level, can both parties really determine the best course of action in the future.
Keeping an eye on the bigger picture is essential to the success of both parties, but all too often the only elements that are systemised are the details of the contractual agreement. Having all information about a deal in one place helps to maintain focus for future contract negotiations.
3. Share the business plan to every department that can impact performance
All too often we have seen examples where procurement negotiates a contract, but because the commercial team isn’t fully aware of the contractual agreement, they create their own deals for the very same products. Suppose a sales person at a timber merchant is approached by a house builder for a large volume of timber. If they don’t have visibility of the procurement team’s contract negotiations, they may circumvent that and go straight to the timber supplier to get a “one off” agreement to suit their immediate opportunity. What happens next is that the volume of timber purchased by the sales person is not counted towards the target for the deal that was struck by procurement, and the rebate margin is in jeopardy.
Similarly, if those chasing up rebate debt don’t have complete visibility of the contract they have negotiated, they may not be claiming all the rebate that is due. We see this a lot at Enable, and the root cause is often the systems that are being used. If the pricing mechanisms and marketing funds in the contract cannot be 100% replicated in the financial control systems, claims are very likely to be missed. The negotiated contract is stored, but essentially forgotten as the team works on the (partial) information that is available to them via their system.
We have found this to be the case when implementing deal management software. Those who take the time to set up all the previous year’s contractual agreements and review what should have been claimed are — in all cases — very surprised by the amount that has been missed.
4. Get on the same page as your trading partner by using a common format
Working towards mutual goals is not easy when you have separate copies of the contractual agreement, different systems for recording deliveries, and other systems for calculating rebate claims.
Instead, what is needed is a single deal management system that:
• Holds the contractual agreement (in a systemised format as well as the actual electronically signed document);
• Provides a common language and data set for all parties;
• Provides an audit trail for the sign off of the document and all activity beyond;
• Holds transactional data at a granular level;
• Provides easy roll-up summary information by branch / category or other;
• Displays appropriate information for each user (finance, commercial, procurement, suppliers).
By sharing transactional detail and summaries, having a single version of the truth with regards to all contractual agreements, and having access to powerful analysis tools, both parties can avoid disputes over rebate claims and instead invest time in negotiating a contract that benefit them both.
5. Track performance frequently: at least monthly, ideally daily
With so much complexity around managing rebate deals, it is no wonder that performance is reported on only at the point where a new contract negotiation is about to take place. But by then it is too late to do anything ab-out the past. Of course, regular reporting is not easy when the information needed is in disparate systems.
It takes time to collate the information and perhaps not all of it is available at the same time.
Yet most would agree that tracking performance only at the end of negotiating a contract is to be avoided. Making sure that goods received, invoices, rebate claims and other information is fed into a single system in a timely accurate fashion (preferably automatic, rather than manually) is the only way to enable more regular reporting.
6. Communicate with trading partners and continuously adjust course
Rather like plotting a course in a yacht, tracking progress and taking action in accordance with your findings means you are much more likely to reach the end goal. Measure only once, at the end of the contract term or annually is simply reporting actual versus target. Monitoring and continual adjustment is what helps to manage progress against targets.
Those who regularly forecast demand, report progress against actuals and jointly determine what action is needed in order to achieve the targets set out in the contractual agreement are generally the ones who take full advantage of rebate opportunities. Suppliers gain too, because they will have reached their sales and revenue targets.
7. Meet up and re-negotiate contracts regularly to achieve joint goals
Rather than negotiating a contract once a year, being agile enough to renegotiate should conditions change is an advantage. Exchange rate changes, raw material availability, other trading conditions and outside factors can turn a good deal into a not so good one.
Of course, thinking about re-negotiating a contract part way through an agreement can be a timely, costly affair and therefore to be avoided. If, however, all the necessary information is available at your fingertips and both parties can easily see the advantage, that willingness and ability to negotiate a contract more frequently could become a competitive advantage.
In conclusion, it’s fair to say that to achieve these 7 points, a single deal management system capturing all elements from deals, goals, transactions, rebate claims and rebates received is needed. Enable, integrates with your core systems and provides a complete solution from negotiating a contract to claiming for your complex trading agreements.
Contracting is at the core of many B2B relationships and the ability to negotiate and execute contractual agreements is crucial to the success of any business, no matter the size or industry. Contracts don't simply allow companies to complete tasks on time and on budget; a successful contract is integral to business relationship building, accurate planning and problem-solving, and the long-term growth of a company. The importance of good contract management can never be overstated and today there is an increasing global competition, ever-more complex contractual agreements for rebates are being created.
Contracts are core to any business activities, regardless of size, industry, and region. They set out the prices, service levels, terms and supplier relationship and ensure that your company is regularly supplied with their direct and indirect supplies.