A high-growth software-as-a-service (SaaS) company is likely to see its contract volume increase dramatically. Can self-serve contracts help to drive growth?
This deep dive explores who is affected by SaaS agreements, why they might need to create a self-serve workflow, how they do it and what the benefits are. Use the navigation below to find out more, or explore our deep dives on more specific contracts, like NDAs and MSAs.
What’s a SaaS agreement? | Who do SaaS agreements affect? | What’s the non-self-serve SaaS agreement process? | Why use a self-serve workflow? | How to achieve self-serve for SaaS agreements | Useful features | Learn more
What’s a SaaS agreement?
SaaS – software-as-a-service – is the business model behind B2B tech titans like Salesforce, HubSpot and Zoom, who provide their platforms through a subscription model. They deliver access to their product in-browser, and the subscription model guarantees recurring revenue, unlike on-premise solutions that are paid for once and installed.
A SaaS agreement is the commercial contract that sets out the formal relationship between the SaaS company and its customer. It may take the form of a contract covering a pilot or trial period, or it might be an order form for an auto-renewing annual subscription supported by an MSA (which could be viewed as a subset of SaaS agreements). What all these types of contract have in common is that they facilitate the exchange of services to the customer for recurring revenue to the business.
Who do SaaS agreements affect?
SaaS agreements involve various stakeholders across different business teams, including:
Legal counsel, who will own the template and guard the business against risk, making sure versions are controlled and terms are favourable to the company.
Salespeople – account executives and sales managers – are responsible for securing signatures on SaaS agreements, and will be looking to achieve that goal as quickly as possible. Their focus in negotiations will be on commercial terms like price, billing manner and frequency, number of users, and so on.
Sales operations managers typically own the process through which SaaS agreements flow, particularly if it’s integrated with a CRM like Salesforce.
Approvers could include customer success leads, product teams (if there were feature commitments, for example) and finance leadership (if there are bespoke billing/invoicing arrangements that might affect forecasting), depending on the company’s stage and size.
Authorized signatories will vary from company to company.
Customers, who are the end-users buying the software, are obviously a key stakeholder in the contract.
What’s the non-self-serve SaaS agreement process?
Even though SaaS businesses are outwardly some of the most innovative companies in the world, most still manage their contracts through a heavily manual process spread across several systems. This is usually some combination of Word, email, shared drives and perhaps an eSignature provider.
Typically the contract creation process for a non-self-serve workflow involves a salesperson asking legal for a contract, or finding an old contract or Word template, making changes, and then pushing it back to legal to review. It will likely be queried and negotiated by the customer, setting off a chain of back-and-forth negotiation.
Jumping between multiple tools creates friction and causes problems for version control. This slows down the process and makes it harder to secure a quick signature
Why use a self-serve workflow?
The manual, labour-intensive process described presents three main problems for SaaS agreements. It’s a combination of these problems that usually drives the business to create a self-serve workflow for SaaS agreements.
First, jumping between multiple tools creates friction and causes serious problems for version control, slowing down the contract process and making it harder to secure a quick signature. This threatens the aggressive growth targets that SaaS companies often have. But it also creates bad feeling and frustration, with sales feeling that legal simply get in the way of closing deals. Self-serve can reduce friction between teams by giving salespeople more control and oversight in the SaaS agreement process.
Second, having lawyers hunt around for, and amend, contracts reactively is a waste of time. Signing off repeatedly on the same commercial terms, because salespeople are digging them out of old templates, diverts in-house counsel from work that adds value to the business. If they can empower their commercial colleagues to self-serve, legal can spend more time on high-value work.
Finally, in a manual process without self-serve data is lost as the document moves from system to system, and as new versions get created. This makes it hard to work out what changes were made when, by whom and why, hard to spot bottlenecks and hard to manage the contract post-signature. A self-serve workflow gives everyone who needs it visibility across the contract lifecycle and creates an audit trail of contract activity.
How to achieve self-serve for SaaS agreements
The exact content of your SaaS agreements (for example, is it one document or several?) will dictate the optimal process for self-serve, but it’s likely to include the following elements.
An intuitive, user-friendly interface
If self-serve is really going to work, then all contract creators need to be able to easily use and navigate through their contract solution – otherwise they’ll be asking legal for help all the time, re-introducing the friction that this process was supposed to remove.
The perfect template
Created by the legal team using their contract collaboration platform’s template editor, the master SaaS agreement template should codify the most up-to-date thinking around terms, clause language, commercial positions, and so on. It should also be well designed and easy to sign – like this one.
Although commercial colleagues will be empowered to serve their own contracts, you’ll still want legal to have sign-off
A Q&A flow
A Q&A flow captures the key data that might vary between contracts. This is best handled with a natural language Q&A, with questions like “What’s the counterparty name?” and “What’s the effective date?” Contract creators (i.e. salespeople) will use this questionnaire to enter all the data they want to appear in their self-serve contract.
If counterparties want to make changes to the SaaS agreement, it defeats the purpose of self-serve if this has to happen in Word, over email and by telephone. Find a solution that offers negotiation and commenting in-browser. That way audit trails and version histories are all in one place.
Although commercial colleagues will be empowered to serve their own contracts, you’ll still want legal to have sign-off. Using an approval workflow means that you can give the legal team approval rights before contracts are shared with counterparties – just to be safe.
It’s common for legal teams to create playbooks that set out their negotiation positions, empowering sales teams to negotiate within acceptable parameters.
Provision licences and train colleagues
No matter how intuitive a process, it can be tough to get colleagues to adopt a new workflow. Make sure that you’ve made the simple things easy, such as logging in, and provide plenty of training so that teams can self-serve effectively and with confidence.
Check out the ‘Modern contract handbook’, in which experts explore every stage of the contract lifecycle.
Useful features for self-serving SaaS agreements
If you’re looking to create a self-serve workflow to take the friction out of SaaS agreements, you will find the following features useful:
CRM integration. It’s important that your documents and data are live-synced between your system for contracts and your system for sales (typically Salesforce). This helps with forecasting and minimizes risk.
Companies House integration. Specific to the UK, a contract collaboration platform that integrates the Companies House API will pull the correct names of legal entities into contracts every time, reducing the risk of error.
Visual timeline and audit trail. If your contract collaboration platform has this feature, you can scroll back through previous versions in just a few clicks to see how the original template was changed.
Export to Word. A self-serve flow should be handled entirely in your contract collaboration platform. But on those rare occasions that partners insist on negotiation offline, in a room or on the phone, the ability to export to Word will give you that option. This is handy for high-value deals, where counterparties want to negotiate in person.
Is the back and forth between legal and sales teams a pain point for SaaS agreements in your business? Is your SaaS company or marketplace growing so fast that the contract process is out of control, with friction pre-signature and a lack of visibility post-signature?
If so, self-serve with Juro and see if you could benefit from a contract collaboration platform that enables businesses to agree and manage contracts all in one unified workspace.