Selling with efficiency is an imperative for traders of goods and services. Today selling involves social media, videoconferencing, online business processes, ecommerce and cloud computing. These vehicles carry the old wine of marketing collateral, pitches, and proposals. Each hour, millions accept the offers with no wet ink signature, no paper, and no negotiation.
For these traders their one contract solution is their foundational business trading or transactions agreement. How does this increases productivity? What document design prompts quick customer acceptance? How does the agreement speed the journey to revenue? If this article fails to answer those questions well, state your case in a convincing comment. My offer is to buy you dinner if you live locally (Sydney). For others, suggest something else.
Businesses seek friction-less foundational trading agreements. Their generic titles include “terms of trade”, “terms of service”, “terms and conditions” and “purchase order”.
Whether online or in print, long or short, they provide commercial and legal definition of a transaction for products, services or both. What is invaluable is they set the rights, obligations and prohibitions on parties legally bound under contract law.
If you need one or to update one your first step is to define, refine or reinvent your business model.
The foundational trading agreement is the cart, the business model is its horse. A business model that gallops may need time to mature or with luck it may arrive unexpectedly.
As it evolves ideally it will grow intellectual property and other exclusive assets. Labeling with solid branding gives your package punch. Your objective is some degree of monopoly, at the very least elements that distinguish your new or refreshed business from alternatives and competition.
Since most sales processes begin with a proposal, you’ll need proposal-making paperwork or communications and a standardized workflow.
I come in praise of tables and trainers
Then for the foundational agreement, whether in print or online, the recommended document design is to use a first page or linked schedule populated with the transaction variables set out in a table layout. Think of it as an easy to scan list. The business model and commercial deal points are captured legally when the populated table/list is combined with customized agreement clauses, referred to unconventionally as “Ts & Cs”.
The table (lawyer language: schedule) telegraphs to customers that there is mastery and certainty in the business model and what is commercially on offer. Here’s the brilliant bit. Put the signature block at the base of the first page table. It begs for countersignature or an “I agree” click.
One more chorus round of praise is due for first page tables. When they are populated with job-specific content they communicate practical information improving understanding and even trust. From there readers can be eased into the legal nitty gritty that follows, the “fine print”.
What should the schedule contain? As a practical case study, image you are a training services provider seeking a foundational agreement.
You are in the business of providing professional development courses or programs. You are a respected and experienced senior practitioner. You seek a second revenue stream training practitioners in other practices. They’ve read your promotion of your special skill, methodology or approach and are aware of your track record in your field.
In your first page table schedule you’ll cover the following deal points for students reviewing your foundational agreement as a training provider:
- Agreement date
- Client or customer’s identity and contact details
- Fee payable, on what basis, when, in what instalments and how
- Cancellation fee or credit
- Program name, short form description and dates
Ownership and control of intellectual property
Following the table schedule will be the nitty gritty. Let’s focus on one provision. As a training provider with well-developed content ownership and control of intellectual property is a special concern of yours. You’ll have clauses for that.
You should do more. You should lace content materials and online marketing with copyright and trade mark notices, express confidential information assertions, references to privacy policies and rules for the making or sharing by your clients of any type of recording of your content.
With an operational business model, proposal documentation and processes in place, and a foundational agreement you’ve protected your training revenue stream. Happy trading!
OK, I lied, it is never that easy. For sustained growth more is needed over time for a training provider. The four items below can be built on top of the foundational agreement. Together they are a set for a training provider. Variations of them apply for different types of businesses.
Personnel agreements – employees and independent contractors
If a training provider engages third party individuals to provide training or related services an agreement should be put in place for those individuals.
Personnel agreements vary in many ways, including scope, length, format and layout. Ideally each provider of teaching, training or consultancy services should have its in-house standard templates for easy re-use to contract teachers, students, researchers, collaborators, support staff, volunteers or other personnel.
Content or program co-authorship agreement
This agreement sets protocols for use of jointly created content and sharing of revenues. It is used when an assignment agreement (ie intellectual property sale agreement) with a co-author would not be commercially fair or acceptable.
Course Registration Terms and Conditions
This can cover topics such a training or educational program’s module changes, fees, booking cancellation rules and currency and exchange rate changes. When an event is face to face such as at a conference or symposium it an also cover itinerary changes, travel insurance, passport and visa requirements, personal fitness considerations, and hotel and booking times.
Program Participant Release Form
Some training events, such for training in fire prevention, medicine and allied health, involve recordings being made of student interaction with the teacher, a patient or a victim in need. The recordings are made for students to view them again, for distance learning students, or for resale or adaptation into other products.
By signing this form, program attendees acknowledge they have no objection to photographic or audiovisual recordings of them being made during program attendance and those recordings being subsequently distributed with no further approval required. These releases reduce potential privacy or defamation claims and can be prerequisite requirements by major content distributors.
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