Sales collaboration with legal

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Legal and sales collaboration is tough to get right, but crucial for revenue growth. How can legal set sales up for success?
sales collaboration
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Sales collaboration: how can legal teams get it right?

Sales and legal working together is non-negotiable if deals are going to be signed, enabling revenue to grow. So how can legal teams get sales collaboration right, accelerating deals and supporting their commercial colleagues? We asked a panel of experts to share their insights.

Our panel included:

  • Stephanie Ng-Fragner, GC at Oper Credits
  • Rob Massa, CRO at Juro
  • Michael Haynes, GC at Juro

They discuss the motivators on each side, the importance of communication and collaboration, and the use of technology to improve efficiency. They also provide tips for repairing a cracked relationship between legal and sales and demonstrate the value of collaboration through metrics and improved processes.

Sales collaboration takeaways

  • The relationship between sales and legal in high-growth businesses can be challenging due to different incentives, but it is important to find ways to build bridges and work together effectively.
  • Open communication and collaboration are key to a successful relationship between sales and legal teams.
  • Technology can be used to improve efficiency and enable self-service for sales teams, allowing them to move faster with confidence.
  • Repairing a cracked relationship between legal and sales requires open and honest communication, as well as a willingness to work together and find common ground.
  • Demonstrating the value of collaboration can be done through metrics such as reduced contracting time and improved processes.
  • Regular communication and feedback loops are essential for continuous improvement and maintaining a strong relationship between sales and legal.

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Rob Massa: Hello, hello. My name is Rob Massa. I'm CRO at Juro and will be your host today. Historically, there's always been somewhat of a negative connotation between the relationship of sales and legal in high-growth businesses. And it's really interesting because one is incentivized to speed things up and the other is incentivized to slow things down. And naturally, there lies the tension.

I'm really excited to get the perspectives of two seasoned GCs in the industry and hear the best-in-class tactics to build some bridges. But before we get started on the session, just some housekeeping items to share with everybody. So during the webinar, we will ask a few poll questions. So please interact. Feel free to give your opinion. Let us know exactly where your team is at if it relates to your team.

Please also feel free to ask questions in the chat. We're going to try to save time at the end. I believe we have about 10 to 15 minutes where we're going to save for Q&A. We'll collate those questions throughout and try to get through as many as possible as we can at the end. And lastly, we will share the recording after this webinar. So if you do have to drop off early, we won't take offense. And we will also share the recording with you afterward.

Now for the speakers. I've already introduced myself and am by far the least interesting person on this webinar. So I'm going to turn it over to Stephanie.

Stephanie Ng-Fragner: Thanks very much, Rob. Hi, everyone. I am Stephanie Ng-Fragner. I am the GC at Oper Credits, which is a B2B SaaS fintech that digitizes the mortgage process for customers. I spent the first half of my career in big law and corporate banks in London before I switched direction and have spent the last six years working exclusively with startups. I love the challenges of being the first legal hire at a startup. Over to you, Michael.

Michael: Thanks, Stephanie. So nice to see you everyone. I'm Michael, I'm general counsel at Juro. So I work very closely on sales stuff with Rob. The relationship laid there in front of you today. I trained and practiced and qualified at a firm called Freshfields doing kind of technology transactions. And I then spent the last seven, eight years in-house in kind of disruptive digital businesses. I've been really lucky to kind of do a couple of scaling journeys through to unicorn exits. So I've seen the pain that comes up through trying to do sales efficiently as you grow. Rob, back to you.

Rob Massa: Thank you, Michael. And just a quick one for me. So as I mentioned, I'm the CRO at Juro. I spent the last 17 plus years in high-growth venture-backed startups and scale-ups, both in New York and London. Companies like Wunderkind, Forecast, and Peppy. And yeah, same as Michael, I've just been at several different stages and seen different evolution of how this whole relationship has changed. But one of the reasons that we really decided to nail down this topic today is that startup companies are failing or falling into insolvency at the fastest rate in a decade.

The importance of sales collaboration

Now, this is a bold statement that just came out in an article through PWC and UK Business Angels Association. What does that mean exactly? It means that an efficient revenue engine has never been more important for scale-ups as venture capital drives up. And any sort of delay in a deal, I know from my experience, gives people on the sales team like myself quite anxiety. And generally, you generally see a little bit of a push and pull between sales and legal, because there's one side that's trying to get things done as quickly as possible, and the other side that is as well, but also has to manage the risk of the company. So having to balance those things is really tough.

So we thought it would be a really interesting topic to discuss with all of you today and get some different perspectives on. We've also seen that there have been optimizations within legal and sales. And that's been really nice over the last few years. I've specifically seen this. Michael and I have a great relationship, although he might say differently. Whereas previously, in some other companies I've worked for, there's been a little bit of dysfunction there. So what we'd like to do is really just start off with a poll to understand exactly where you are at and really understand how your relationship is between legal and sales at your company.

Michael: Just be very careful how you answer this, Rob.

Rob Massa: I don't want you jumping through the computer screen.

Rob Massa: We're just going to wait for the results. Results are coming in.

Rob Massa: All right. Give people five more seconds. A lot of goods. A lot of goods. That's great. I would imagine if this poll question was asked a few years back, probably a little bit of a different scenario. But we're definitely making headway with things like technology and whatnot. So it looks like we're about 60% good, 31% OK, only 11% great, and no worst enemies. That's good. Good to get a lay of the land on where people are at.

So what I would love to delve into now with Stephanie and Michael is just really understanding the motivators on each side. So I mentioned previously that you have a very push and pull relationship here where sales, revenue is trying to get things done as quickly as possible. And legal is there to be a guardrail to somewhat slow them down. So just first over to you guys, and then I can give you my perspective after. I would love a legal perspective on that in terms of how you want to allow your colleagues to move fast with minimal involvement.

Michael: I think, so for me, I think I really don't want to be in the way most of the time, but I do want to control risk, right? And that's, so it's about having a level of control without being the bottleneck in a process. But I think fundamentally, we'll say one of the things that gets lost in the myths of relationships between legal and sales is actually legal also really wants the business to do well, right? And there's big topics around how you align incentives and that kind of stuff, but ultimately we're in-house to see the company that we chose to join and the product we chose to back do well. And so I think that's often missed. I don't know, Stephanie, what do you kind of think? What do you add to that list?

Stephanie Ng-Fragner: I agree. I think it's really, really important and like core when as a legal member of a high-growth startup that you're supporting the gross market team. Like that is a priority and it will remain a priority throughout your time with the business. And it will change as the business evolves, but that is the motivator for how legal can support sales. And definitely to Rob's point of we want to allow our colleagues to move fast and with confidence, right? It's very unnerving if they're unsure of the parameters of when they need to get legal involved or whether they can go ahead and sign that contract or whether they can sign or do they have the authority, what checks do they need to go ahead? So I think making sure that the parameters and the process is very clear, really, and spending time to set that out at the beginning is even though it may seem slow and maybe a lot of back and forth whilst you figure out what actually works for your teams, but it really pays off in the long run. So I think for me, that moving fast with confidence is key.

Rob Massa: Yeah, and I think it must be an interesting shift, especially if you're going from like being an outside, you know, counsel working at a firm where, you know, you're just doing time, doing time, doing time, and then you go internal and you almost feel like you're in a way kind of like working for your internal sales team as a support center. That must be a very interesting shift. And I know Stephanie, you've had that journey.

Stephanie Ng-Fragner: Absolutely. So this is my second time being in-house as a first-level hire. And my last role where I spent four years, it was a huge shift to suddenly go from being a fee owner and suddenly realizing, actually, I really, like my role is really to support my colleagues and all of the teams. And particularly when you look at some, you know, how they're being motivated to hit their metrics, it's very unnerving. And I think that shift is, it's stark, but you have to get over it and realize, you know, ultimately that we're all on the same team and we're all working towards the same goal.

Rob Massa: Absolutely. And, you know, Michael, I know you, you know, we work together pretty much every day. And that kind of just is like a testament of how close the legal org is to the sales org. We'd love to get your perspective just in general, like the overall, like how you try to build that culture within the two orgs from a legal side.

Tension between sales and legal

Michael: Yeah, I think it's super tough, right? And actually, I think the first comes with that acceptance that Stephanie's talking about. You're no longer the product. You're no longer the thing that you're selling, right? And so actually, your revenue functions are then critical, right? They're the most important thing in your business. And frankly, against that backdrop that you kind of painted at the start of the session, like more important than ever, right? And so you have to kind of get used to this kind of position where you're, you are important, right? You're playing an important role, but ultimately your revenue risk is one of the largest risks in your business, right? And so you don't get those deals closed, then you may actually be creating more risk for your business than you're preventing. But I do think I've always said it worked best where there's a little bit of recognition about the other way, right? And I think that it's one of the hardest jobs of like a risk leader in a growing company is to kind of create a culture of doing the right thing. Even as you chase seemingly impossible sales targets month after month, quarter after quarter.

And that cultural kind of balance is way, way more important than just having a big book of rules that you can throw at people every now and then in the sales process, right? If the sales team's reflex is to do something in a way that is measured, takes account of risk and protects the company's reputation in the right way, then actually you can create a lot more freedom for them to operate. And that's way, way better than just having a lawyer background on every deal, wagging their finger, telling them what to do, right? That's much more collaborative.

Rob Massa: Absolutely. Yeah. And I think like from a sales perspective, I think it's really important. And I think, Michael, you do a great job of this, just like understanding the pressure that, you know, each sales leader, each AE, each even, you know, BDR is down to, because we are so metric driven, target driven. That is life, you know, one month ends, the next month starts and it all starts over again. And I think the, you know, Michael, you do a really good job. This is just really empathizing with that because I think that actually can help then sales really understand how empathetic, you know, on the legal side is and how much you really are there to support and not push away.

A couple of things I want to just touch on, just outside of deals, like how we kind of collaborate better and like relationship building. Stephanie, let's start with you. Like, what do you feel like is the best thing you've done to kind of build that relationship and build that bridge there with your team?

Building relationships to enable sales collaboration

Stephanie Ng-Fragner: So I have to caveat that I'm six weeks into my new role. So I'm very much in the early stages, but I think for me, and this is what I'm very much doing now, is really observing and really understanding how the sales team works. So that's really getting to know the individual personalities with the team, how they work as a team. And you want to encourage the culture of there being like, hey, it's a friendly collaborative relationship between the two. Like you're not sort of at loggerheads.

It's really hard because I have a tendency and I think a lot of us probably do to sort of jump in and start immediately by problem solving saying, hey, you can do, immediately start doing this or why are you doing it that way? But I think it's really important to make, to really put time into that relationship. So what that means is, you know, making time for the team, whether that's having like open hours or just like saying, hey, come and I'm always available in the afternoons if you just want to pick up the phone and talk to me. And then, you know, making, when you say that you're making time for the team, like back it up. Go make sure you understand how the sales cycle works. Make sure that you understand what metrics they're chasing this quarter. Go to the sales pipeline calls, ask questions, make sure that you understand, okay, what's the focus this month, right? In terms of your team, like, hey, how did you all get together? How did that go? What did you guys find out from it? So I think it's making, genuinely putting that time in to building that relationship, which can be really hard.

when particularly for just starting off where you're trying to build that relationship, when you've got so many things as in-house lawyers, we're juggling between putting fires out, trying to look ahead. But I think the most important thing I've ever done is really put that time into building the relationship.

Rob Massa: Yeah, and I think just to your point on putting fires out versus everything else I had from a sales deal perspective, I would imagine. It's just very difficult to juggle that. Like, so Michael, I know you, for example, end of quarter, you potentially have something pop up that's nothing related to sales yet you have account executives probably hounding you to go back to, you know, client X on, on red lines. Like, just curious, like, I think how you prioritize that. Cause that's, that must be really difficult in context switching.

Michael: So, so it is, I think there's lots of people on the school that would probably sympathize with that. I think that for me, it's about getting the balance right in the rest of the quarter or the rest of the month in the balancing the strategic and the tactical things that you need to do. So creating time when sales cycles aren't peaking to do the things you need to do to make life easier when they are. Right? So like whether that's like building playbooks or training materials or like doing the other projects that are going to get ignored when you get around to the last week of the month. Like if you do those things, you put yourself in a better place if you're creating room to do stuff. I'm not sure there's a silver bullet for the answer about what you do when, I don't know, your preferred bank of choice is suddenly looking like it might not be there anymore unless you enter the end of the month. Like there's some things that just happen, right? And you have to lean on your community and your external advisors and your other executives to help you get through those times.

But I do think that a bit of pre-planning and dedicating time to the strategic helps to avoid problems when you get that crunch at the end of the month.

Rob Massa: Yeah. And I think a lot of what both of you just said really revolves around communication between the two sides and how that's ongoing. Because I think you're right. The more you guys are both prepped about what's coming through the pipeline, the more you can plan ahead and not necessarily just be inundated with a bunch of other things while all of a sudden, you know, 10, 20 sales contracts come through. Given that, there's many different channels of communications that I think different people in our situation to use. We'd love to hear from your perspectives, Mike, I don't know if you want to start. What do you feel like the best channel of communication is between sales and legal?

This is an excerpt from the full transcript. To watch the webinar in full, click the preview at the top of this page.

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