July 9th, 2015
How do I Present my Contracts to Clients in a Way That Feels Natural?
Many entrepreneurs at some point in their journey, especially when stepping things up a notch and putting proper business protections in place (like legal contracts), often feel some amount of trepidation in how to present contracts to clients.
In the beginning (when first implementing contracts), this is totally normal. Doing business and using contracts to help govern the relationship just feels different than doing business on a handshake. It often feels to some people like they are saying to the other party, “I don’t trust you. Please sign this contract.”
A Change in Perspective
But I’d invite you to consider an alternate perspective: contracts help both parties.
Contracts memorialize the terms and obligations from which both parties receive benefit. Contracts also serve to memorialize things that, over almost any amount of time, our brains often forget. It’s like marking a property line. Without survey markers or fence lines, you may be able to walk a fairly straight line and approximate where you think the line exists, but with properly placed markers (like survey stakes), you are much less likely to confuse the line as running beneath this rock right here, instead of that rock over there. It is amazing to study how the brain, and memory, works. Suffice it to say: we all forget things. Even important things like prices, and dates, and terms that seemingly were key at one time. I’ve seen it time and again, and from well-intentioned people.
So although contracts often do protect one or one’s business from an untrustworthy party on the other side of the deal, way more often they protect both parties from the natural fallacies of being human.
Contracts also say to your clients: I take my business seriously. And I’m asking you to take it seriously as well.
There is a lot of power in this truth.
This does not mean that your business has to be all serious-pants. But there is a phrase that I tell my clients consistently: if you don’t treat your business like a business, your clients won’t treat it like a business, either.
No matter your business, contracts elevate your professionalism, or at the very least, your perceived professionalism. And this can make a big difference in how smoothly things go for you.
Finally, consider your contracts to be a phenomenal resource (when done properly). They serve as a guide for both parties in the event that any issues do arise. We cannot anticipate or protect ourselves against every possible scenario, but we can build in a lot of guidance and protection into our contracts which will serve both parties well for the duration of the relationship governed by the contract.
How Exactly Do You First Present Contracts?
As I mentioned above, there are many people that do business on a handshake, whether for a short time (until things go wrong), or for a very long time (lucky ducks!) I was personally raised by someone, a phenomenal entrepreneur, who has done millions of dollars of business virtually on handshakes or with a “handshake attitude.” So I very much understand and appreciate the handshake approach to both business and interacting with people. It can work for a time, and in certain kinds of business it works better than others.
People who have a strong preference for handshake-type deals can often be deal-makers, visionaries, and big idea people. They are connectors, relationship-builders, and keep a 20,000 foot perspective.
They often don’t like to dig into details.
They for sure don’t like to whip out a contract and ask someone to read through the fine print right after they’ve had a great conversation, carved out some deal points and traded big-grinned approvals with the other party.
So here is what I recommend to anyone that experiences any trepidation in presenting a contract to a client:
Act natural. Be low key about it. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, and it certainly isn’t worth getting nervous over – nervousness will just make both parties feel weird.
Know that using contracts in business is standard practice. It is expected. It is helpful. And then say something like:
“Great! I’m excited to get started. I think this working relationship will be excellent for both of us. I’ll send over a contract later today for your signature.”
“Excellent. So happy to be working with you. I’ll have my team/admin/secretary follow up right away to get you my standard contract for your signature. Let me know if you have any questions. As soon as I get the contract back, we’ll get started.”
And then have one of your team members follow up and deal with the contract details. This keeps you as the “deal-maker” and working in your business in the way that you enjoy most, establishing relationships and creating deals.
[Pssst: even if your “admin” is simply an email account labeled “email@example.com” from which you send all of your contracts, this one step of removal can often help deal-makers feel less weird about also being the detail person if it does not suit them naturally. Or hire a virtual admin who does all of your contract work for you – sending contracts and collecting signatures.]
Has this helped you? If you are someone who has any amount of trepidation over using contracts, I hope you will try this approach and let me know how it goes. After a handful of times, I promise it will be smooth sailing.
For more information on contracts, see the following blog posts……
DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS POST MAY CONTAIN LEGAL INFORMATION, BUT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE. NO RELATIONSHIP, INCLUDING ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP, HAS BEEN FORMED AS A RESULT OF THIS POST. YOU ARE ADVISED TO SEEK THE ADVICE OF AN ATTORNEY LICENSED IN YOUR STATE IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS.