Document Collaboration in Business Development

A crucial step in any successful marketing plan is implementing an effective business development program. For many small businesses, business development includes the tracking and hunting for business opportunities. These opportunities can come from existing customers, lead sources, prospects, scouring the Interest, Google searches, tweets and retweets, and social media postings. The successful business developer (BD) must quickly engage her audiences and, in a short period of time, qualify the prospects to determine if the prospects are worth pursuing.

In the business-to-business (B2B) market, BDs usually need to exchange confidentiality disclosure agreements (CDAs) with their prospects to get any meaning data on the prospects’ businesses. During these business exchanges, the parties share product ideas, marketing strategies, pricing information, staffing models, and other nonpublic, sensitive information. Getting these CDAs timely executed can be challenging. In many case, it takes several redline edit iterations before the parties can agree on language that fits a particular disclosure situation. BDs also share product or service quotes in a spreadsheet or table format. As the B2B prospect qualification process continues, the parties may exchange several spreadsheet quotes or update tables before settling on quotes that suit both parties. BDs can reduce the lag time for completing CDAs and finalizing price spreadsheets and quote tables by using document collaboration.

Document collaboration is a process in which several people edit the same document. Instead of sending copies of a document to multiple editors, with document collaboration, links are shared. Editors modify a single document. The document collaboration platform manages who is writing want in the document. Each editor is given an identification. The host of the document (i.e., the person creating the original document) can select who can edit the document, if anyone. The host can invite whomever she wants to read or edit the original document. The editing process can take place in real-time (group editing) or offline (individual editing and later reconciliation). Once the parties agree on the final document, the host can covert the Word or text document into PDF and send it out for electronic signatures.

Sharing CDAs, Spreadsheets, and Tables

In our example where the BD is negotiating a CDA, the BD would upload her CDA template, enable editing, and send a password-protected link invitation to the prospect (or whomever is editing the CDA on behalf of the prospect). If the BD requires her manager or attorney to edit the document, she can send link invitations to these people as well. The BD would then inform all parties that the draft CDA is available for edits and comments. It is a good practice to set edit deadlines on collaborated document so to keep the editing process moving. After all parties have had ample time to review, edit, and comment on the CDA, the BD can arrange for a single conference call to reconcile any differences. Some document collaboration platforms allow video conferencing while making final edits. Once the document is reconciled by all parties, the BD can convert the document to a PDF for e-signature processing.

If the BD is negotiating a product or service solution, using a document collaboration platform she can host the solution (e.g., a Word table, or Excel spreadsheet) and update the solution in real-time with the prospect. For example, if the BD needs to increase the number of licenses, she can update the spreadsheet in real-time and generate an instant quote. She can also do real-time sales scenarios: What if we increase the order size by 50%? What is the cost of 18-month licenses verses 12-month licenses? Did you add maintenance or additional warranty? What discounts can apply? What are the different financing options? Once the BD has a good description of what the offer can be, she can convert it into a PDF for later reference.

Document collaboration in the business development context reduces the amount of time BDs spend in getting information in front of prospects. By working with prospect in real-time, BDs improve their chances of closing quality deals with qualified buyers.

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About the Author

Nat James is a practicing North Carolina attorney in the Research Triangle Park area. Mr. James has drafted, negotiated, and closed business contracts for clients since 1992. This material represent his observations from past experiences. It is not intended to provide you legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship between you and Mr. James. If you need legal assistance, seek independent legal counsel by contacting your State Bar or State Bar Association.