Gone are the days when proposals took days or weeks to evolve into signed contracts. Most companies no longer rely on couriers or overnight shipping to move documents back and forth to revise contracts and gather signatures. Some still prefer paper, however. One reason for holding back is uncertainty about the best way to manage electronic contracts. Another concern is security. Many software programs now on the market seek to offer secure, simplified options.
You may hear names like PandaDoc, Proposify, and Agiloft. In fact, there are so many options on the market it can be hard to choose. Your company will need to conduct a little research to choose the best option for you.
How Legit are Electronic Contracts?
According to the legal website Nolo, “e-contracts and e-signatures are, for the most part, safe and reliable methods for doing business.” Electronic signatures are legal and enforceable at the federal level as of 2000. That’s when the U.S. government enacted the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN). Each state has its own similar law. These laws require that the signer give informed consent to electronically sign a document. Many of the laws also let signers opt out and sign a hard copy instead.
Some kinds of documents still require hard copies. These include things like wills, divorce papers, certain court documents, and product recall notices. But for business proposals, you can rest assured that handling them online will protect you.
Software for Proposals and Contracts
There are many different software programs available to help you create and send proposals and execute contracts. They give you some distinct advantages over the old way of handling things.
For starters, many of the programs offer templates, or let you create them. That means you save time each time you generate a new proposal. The program can help you compile assets and organize information. Everyone on your team can share access to everything, improving communication. Some programs keep track of version changes, too, keeping things orderly.
Many solutions also let you track what happens after you hit “send.” Most offer features like letting you see when the recipient opens your proposal or whether they forwarded it to someone else.
PC Magazine rated 10 different platforms for a range of factors. They looked at features like customization and granular control, notifications, integration with other software (like DocuSign), and even whether they offer a free trial. Hubspot offers a similar list, complete with pricing as of early 2019. If you work with an IT partner like Emerge, ask for input. You will want to make sure that whichever option you choose, it integrates well with other systems you use.
Consider how your team will use the system. For example, if they often interact with proposals on the go, make sure you test the software’s mobile capabilities. Think about the number of proposals you send each month, too. Some solutions charge a flat monthly rate and others according to how often you use them.
With a bit of research and a few trials, you should find something that makes your workflow a little easier.
Safety and Security
When you shop for contract or electronic signing software, ask questions about safety and security. Like any cloud-based asset, they can and will occasionally fall prey to hackers. DocuSign got hacked in 2017, and the attackers used the data in phishing scams. (Inc. magazine breaks down what happened here.)
One thing to remember is, an electronic proposal program tracks everything that happens to a proposal throughout its life. This digital trail reduces the likelihood of tampering, even after a document is signed. When researching software, learn what measures the software maker has taken to address past or potential future threats. And, of course, use secure practices on your end like two-factor authentication and physical security of company computers.