Any good tech vendor comes with a contract; a written document that outlines the relationship between two parties is vital for specifying exactly what the other is benefitting, and making sure expectations are set in a tangible manner. Remember that shiny new integration your vendor promised you before you signed, but now that you've been a customer for a couple months, it seems to have slipped their minds? Your contract can and should include these things to keep everybody on the same page for the entirety of your relationship.
If your vendor offers no contract, it may mean you can get out at any time (good for you), but it also means they can change terms on you at any time (bad for you). Such changes could be price increases, reduced service levels, removal of features, and more. Having a written agreement eliminates the "but you said on a sales call that...." discussions.
First and foremost, the contracts you sign with any tech vendor should be kept organized and accessible. Nobody wants to be scrolling through months of backlogged emails just to find the correct documentation - organization is key.
Next, figure out exactly what you want. In order to end up with a contract that'll get you want you want, you need to know what you want! Take into consideration what features and capabilities matter the most to you. It can help to write out exactly what is most important for your needs - our Real Estate Digital Marketing Vendor Checklist is an example of specific capabilities that you should remember to ask about in your next product demo.
When it comes to the creation of the contract, this is where you get to state your terms and make sure the software is going to work for you; it takes two parties to finalize and sign a contract! Your contract is the only place you have legally binding terms with the vendor that you've both agreed to, so take advantage of that opportunity to make sure your needs are going to be met. This can include things like:
- Onboarding process: How much training does my team get? Do we have a dedicated account manager? How long is the onboarding process until we're on our own?
- Account support: What does post-onboarding account support look like? Do the account owners and agents get the same support?
- Integrations: We use a separate CRM - is the platform willing to integrate? How long will the integration take? What is the exact date that we can expect to start implementing use of the integration?
- Sunsetting practices: So you've agreed to implement our integration - what happens if the integration is changed so it no longer works with us? What happens if the integration is to end? Who is in charge of managing the integration moving forward?
- Pricing: What are we paying? How often? Does this change after 1 year? 3 years? What additional costs might we encounter? What additional services are available that would make the most sense to include in the contract as opposed to on-off orders?
- Account close procedure: Should something happen and we want to pursue a different vendor, what are the processes for transferring assets or data? What extra fees may apply? Do we need to give notice before closing our account?
- Product updates: In a sales call, a fancy new feature was promised to be implemented soon and is a large reason we're signing - when will this feature be implemented? Will we be included in any beta testing, if applicable?
- Contract length: How long are the terms of the contract? When is it up for renewal? Will it auto-renew?
Additional best practices include making sure you have a set contact for each tech vendor that you can come to with any questions or concerns - this can go hand-in-hand with your account management details in your contract. It can also be helpful to get up to date on your technical terms so you know exactly what you're agreeing to.
Holding your tech vendor accountable and getting the most out of their software can feel like a fight, but having a contract in place can greatly alleviate these potential road-bumps. You didn't find a new vendor just to be stuck with a whole new set of issues, after all. Making sure to include things like integrations, product updates and onboarding processes in your contract will set you up for smooth sailing as you take on the already challenging task of learning a new software. Want to really up your contract game? edX offers a Contract Law course, taught by a Harvard Law Professor. Time to get what you want out of your technology.