When you look at the listings of the most popular Salesforce apps, those that have to do with document creation in one way or another are firmly featured. Often, DocuSign seems to take the top spot, promising smooth preparing, signing, acting on and managing contracts seamlessly within Salesforce.
While the results in different listings depend on who is speaking, the top 15 usually include also document automation (Conga) and workflow creation (Nintex) tools, document collaboration (Quip) and email automation (Mailchimp) apps – possibly along with other electronic signature apps (AdobeSign).
Salesforce is nothing less than the world’s leading customer relationship management (CRM) platform. Mind you, these days it is not just about sales but offers services also to marketing, customer success and service teams. Anybody working directly with customers seems to be well served in industries that range from health and life science and HR to financial services and manufacturing. AppExchange, the Salesforce app store, boasts seemingly an app for any purpose you might imagine. Most of them work across many of its various ‘clouds’ for different professionals.
The popularity of document-related apps with Salesforce users certainly says something about their usefulness. But what makes them so popular?
The answer is, there is not one but a few reasons. Let me walk you through the most important ones.
Let us suppose you are making an offer to a customer. You copy-paste sections from an old document to a new one. You copy customer and product data from your CRM or spreadsheets. Then you correct the layout where it has got broken…
With many document types, many tasks are repeated in a quite identical way for each new document. The content stays the same while often just the transaction-specific details change. Creating each new document is time-consuming and boring, so could this be helped?
A document automation app allows you to create a new document with accurate data with a click of a button. It speeds up the creation of these documents fundamentally. As an extra bonus, it eliminates human errors. The biggest relief for you as the author, however, is that much repetitive work is eliminated. You can use the time saved for more strategic, creative and fulfilling things, like planning out-of-the-box sales tactics, while refreshing yourself with an extra cup of coffee. As a salesperson, what are you getting paid for – writing a document or getting it signed and closing a deal?
As a rule, document automation is based on standardized templates. Now, is this a little limiting, you may ask, since there are now and then exceptional requests from exceptional prospects, which require exceptional responses – and documents?
Worry not. The templates of any good document automation app allow leaving sections free for editing. Also, libraries of prewritten clauses – alternative text sections to choose from - are usually supported.
All in all, document automation makes things much smoother, since it:
Creating those quotations, statements of work and contracts is a matter of pulling different types of content into a single document. Usually, there are many contributions: a number of authors, reviewers and approvers.
When collaborating, they often have different interests that may conflict. Take the creation of a sales contract: the salesperson wants it to pass on to the signing quickly and get one deal closer to fulfilling their quota. Meanwhile, the lawyer wants to ensure the terms and conditions are water-tight to minimize risks. And the CEO wants to secure maximal returns from the deal and customer relationship.
In the midst of it all, somebody has to see through that the contract passes all the necessary steps to fulfill everybody’s needs – definitely also the customers’. Contributions need to be collected from everyone involved. Differences in opinion need to be mediated. And finally, the all-important signatures must be collected from the approvers – who tend to be busy and hard to reach.
To run all these nitty-gritty tasks – chasing the people, alerting them to their tasks and making the contract available for them to work on – many document automation apps offer automated workflows. So the app will do the heavy lifting when you, as the project manager, can focus on the content and people issues to ensure the best result for everybody.
According to Gartner, no less than 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels by 2025. Imagine doing such work of hearding cats online, just manually… Sounds like a really, really tall order!
Again, a lot of valuable time and effort can be saved with this technology. There is the saying “time kills all deals”. With well-planned workflows, chances are much better for you to keep your deals alive – and secure some more business and revenue.
So let me recap the key benefits of implementing automated workflows. They:
reduce time spent on human process management radically
accelerate document turnaround and make the processes repeatable and uniform
give the contributors a clear idea of their responsibilities
improve process management by giving a better overview of it.
But what if a one-size-fits-all approach to automation does not suit you at all? After all, this is how it is for many companies with their business contracts. They must be individually tailored – even when a content template can be used as a starting point.
Stringent negotiations are often needed on the terms of the contracts between many contributors on either side of the negotiation table. A recent Gartner study found that on average, there are close to eight people on a seller's and close to six on a buyer’s side.
They usually come from different teams – sales, customer success & support, legal, management, even from several companies, to perform a series of tasks: defining the terms of the deal, filling in data points, checking legal wordings, revising the deal content and so forth.
Document collaboration apps allow people to work together seamlessly online in the cloud – never leaving their Salesforce, regardless of their physical location.
A company’s external participants, including customers, of course, can be included as easily as internal people. This comes as a great help since online is poised to be the future of customer relationships. A Salesforce study found that customers anticipate engaging online with companies after the COVID pandemic as they have done during it.
A collaboration app can be quite simple to operate. You just need to upload an initial contract draft to Salesforce. Then you can create a no-code workflow using a visual workflow designer tool - or even choose a ready-made one - which will bring in all participants to work on the project.
At the heart of such a solution is a collaboration space where everybody can add their contributions. A good collaboration solution allows version control, redlining, and commenting (even with selected visibility to just certain participants), all working in real-time on the display in front of your eyes, just like in the best document editing tools.
In the course of the project, the contract draft will pass automatically from one contributor to another in a set order – like it does in a document automation workflow. Each participant is automatically reminded of a task when it needs to be done. For example, one collaborator is alerted to add the pricing information, then another one to check the delivery conditions, and yet another to look at, say, any additional services that may come in vital.
All the while, as this happens on your side as the seller, the representatives on the customer side can make their additions, changes and comments – managed by the same workflow.
And when all is ready and accepted, the workflow forwards the contract to the approvers and collects their e-signatures. Your document is ready.
In essence, the collaboration app:
The last point above is a surprisingly vital one. Harvard Business Review, for example, found recently that 40% of managers struggle managing workers remotely – that is, online. A good document collaboration app can ease this pain when it comes to group work on documents.
Not long ago, a study by Gensler Research Institute found 55% of the respondents saying that collaborating with others is harder at home, than online. On the same note, according to a Lucidspark report, 75% of remote online employees said that team collaboration was the activity that suffered the most when work got remote. Microsoft, in turn, found that online remote work decreases cross-group collaboration by around 25% compared to on-premises.
What I have found is that much of the trouble remote workers experience comes down to how many tools they need to use. Those are so many, the most obvious ones being a word processor, email, messaging, spreadsheets, CRM, video conferencing app and so forth. On top of it all, everybody has their favorite brand. These apps do not work well with each other; integrations tend to be weak.
A good Salesforce app can combine advanced document collaboration, cutting-edge workflows, and flexible automation – in one solution tailored to customers’ needs. With each task they do, the collaborators are given those tools they need, embedded right in the familiar Salesforce user interface.
There is also the question of security. For example, the extended MS Office 365 environment has been increasingly targeted by cybercriminals in targeted phishing attacks. Cybercriminals can also target businesses’ digital systems by attacking the software vendors that deliver them, as aptly demonstrated by the past SolarWinds and Kaseya breaches. With each new tool you add, your risks increase; the fewer you use, the lower your risk of cyberattacks.
Moreover, the advanced Salesforce document apps ensure data processing in compliance with the EU’s GDPR legislation on the data privacy of individual people. Mind you, GDPR compliance is a prerequisite for any company that does business globally, no matter whether based in the EU or not – especially as other regions have similar legislation, too.
Putting effort into ensuring security pays: McKinsey has found, for instance, that 87% of customers would not do business with a company if they had concerns about its security practices.
Overall, by relying on fewer, better-integrated applications out of the Salesforce AppExchange, you can:
Electronic signature apps for Salesforce may come in stand-alone versions or ones readily integrated into the automation, collaboration, and/or workflow apps I discussed before. When connected to the document workflows, they automate most of the approval and signing of documents – in compliance with standards like eIDAS by the European Union.
They make approvals easy for the approvers, who tend to be busy people. Usually signing a document takes just a few clicks via actionable alerts. This reduces the document turnaround time radically – and saves a lot of work from those chasing the approvals.
Once ready, a copy of a signed document can be automatically delivered via email to anybody who needs it. For future use, all business documents can usually be stored in a single place, for example in Salesforce files. From then on, the latest version will always be easily available for those who need it.
By deploying an electronic signature app, you can achieve:
Apps created for document processing come in many types: electronic signature, collaboration, document automation, workflow automation, and email automation apps – sometimes even in an all-in-one solution, like with Documill Ltd. They are clearly the darlings of Salesforce users.
And why not? After all, whatever the activity is taking place between a supplier and a customer, it needs to be documented properly – be it offering a service or product, making a deal, aftersales or customer support.
Creating documents makes a big chunk of the work you need to do when cultivating your customer relationships. It certainly pays to invest time, money, and effort in making it as smooth, safe, and controlled as possible. And this is just what the Salesforce document apps were created for.