Businesses that plan together, succeed together. But whenever a business makes a deal with another business, it needs to be approved on both sides. And getting that approval can be a slow, inefficient process.
With multiple teams and individuals involved, it’s all too easy for delays and errors to creep in. A deal gets sent to the wrong person, or it sits for days in someone’s inbox. Steps aren’t recorded, and soon there’s no clear audit trail.
Productivity, cashflow, compliance, business relationships—all are put at risk.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In this blog we’ll look at the steps you can take to streamline your deal approval workflow.
Become (or appoint) an approvals champion
As with any change to established business processes, someone needs to own this project.
If you’re primarily employed in the everyday administration of deals, this could be a great opportunity to raise your profile within your company. After all, you’ll be delivering measurable business outcomes, while making lives easier for every stakeholder in the approval process.
If you already hold a more strategic position, and you simply don’t have time to take the glory, feel free to delegate—the important thing is that someone is sitting firmly in the driving seat, with a clear responsibility for getting you to your destination.
Map your approval workflow
Legal teams. Commercial managers and directors. Rebate accountants. Maybe even your CEO. Depending on the size and shape of your business—and the size and importance of the deal—any number of roles may be involved in sign off.
Before you can streamline your approval process, you need to be clear about how approvals are working today.
Mapping this approval workflow should be relatively straightforward. The chances are your first stakeholder will be whoever most frequently negotiates and records new deals (e.g. a commercial manager). After this, it may go to a rebate specialist, your legal team and, if necessary, any senior roles, before returning to the manager of the person who originated the deal (e.g. a commercial director).
Once you’ve mapped your current approval process, you’ll be able to instantly identify any unnecessary stages. You may find:
- One role’s approval is always being superseded by another’s, higher up in your approval hierarchy.
- You have multiple people with the same role signing off on a single deal. (A common inefficiency within legal teams.)
- Every deal is going to every person in your approval workflow, even when that level of scrutiny isn’t actually required.
Simply by eliminating these extra approval stages, you’ll have improved the efficiency of your approval workflow. But with the right technology to help you, it’s possible to go much further.
Get visibility of your workflow approval progress
If you don’t already use a dedicated deal management system, it’s worth exploring your options. Once you’ve configured your system to reflect your own approval workflows, it’ll provide a single, centralized location for authoring and approving your deals—and as such, a full audit trail.
Even better, it’ll offer complete visibility into the progress of each deal through your approval process. So it’s easy to see:
- Who each deal is currently with
- When each sign-off happens
- Where you’ve recurring bottlenecks
Another benefit is that your deals will be locked as soon as they’re entered into the system. If someone changes a detail within an agreement, the deal will be routed back to the first approval stage, so the process can immediately start again.
Use automation to minimize delays
You’ve banished unnecessary steps, and gained a real-time view of your new, streamlined approval process. Now it’s time for the fine-tuning.
Any good deal management system will be able to automatically alert the next person in your approval workflow as soon as a deal is ready for them to sign-off. Make use of these notifications.
You may also be able to configure the deal information each person sees, to let them take the right action as quickly as possible. For example, your legal team won’t need to know about a deal’s expected financial impact, and your senior leadership will be less concerned about the legal details.
Share your approval workflow with your trading partners
Ideally, you want your approval process to be as quick and simple for your external stakeholders as your internal ones.
The simplest solution? Invite the company you’re trading with to review and sign-off deals within your own deal management system. That way, everyone sees the same information, and you can quickly track approval progress even outside your own business.
If you’re still relying on lengthy, hard-to-audit email exchanges to gain approval from your trading partners, you’ll also see a huge leap in the ease and quality of your record keeping.
That’s it—you’ve streamlined your approval process!
Streamlining your approval process is a simple way to help your company move faster, while becoming a better business to do business with.
As we’ve seen, there are some basic steps you can start taking today—from crowning your approvals champion, to mapping your workflow and banishing superfluous sign-offs. But to take streamlining to the next level, you’ll also need a great deal management system.
Businesses worldwide trust our rebate management solution, to help them better manage every aspect of their rebate agreements.