We’ve all heard the expression “Mind your Ps and Qs.” It means “pay attention to the details.” The origin of this expression comes from the days of old-fashioned printing presses, when each letter was manually put into place. From the pressman’s perspective, those letters appeared backwards – a mirror image – so that the printed characters would read correctly. This made “p’s” look like “q’s” and “q’s” look like “p’s.” If he wasn’t careful in setting up his press, the spelling in his final document could be puite qroblematic.
While the literal meaning of this adage is no longer relevant, its underlying directive – to avoid careless errors – still is, particularly when it comes to two other letters we’re all familiar with, “Ts and Cs.” Terms and Conditions.
Your T&Cs protect your business by making sure that there’s no room for misinterpretation of what you’ve agreed to. That’s why your company needs systems in place to ensure salespeople consistently include the correct company contract language, as approved by your legal advisors, within each and every proposal. Readily available boilerplate documents are the place to start, and those documents should be password protected in such a way that they cannot be modified except by individuals with express permission. Make sure everyone on your team understands this policy and the need to respect it, because quite frankly, it’s just not that hard to make a copy of a password protected document and use the copy for editing purposes.
Many organizations have a need for customization of T&Cs on a project by project basis. For example, certain contract language may apply to some quoted parts and services, but not to others. Finding a way to balance the need for customization within a boilerplate document is tricky but can be done. For example, you can employ a “modular” approach that breaks up you T&Cs in to smaller boilerplate sections. This gives your sales team “approved” elements that can be “mixed and matched” as needed. This keeps legal jargon consistent, but gives salespeople the flexibility to include T&Cs that are relevant to a specific project. If you go this route, make sure you have checklists and an approval process in place to double and triple-check that all the correct sections are included, and nothing is missing!
Another approach is to take responsibility for any customization of T&Cs away from sales people and put in the hands of a few, hand-picked individuals who are sticklers for detail. These employees should still start with a boilerplate T&C document, but then have the authority to make changes, or complete custom fields, to match the specifics of each project. Again, an approvals process should still exist, as a second set of eyes never hurts; especially for something as important as T&Cs. Also, make sure that your document management system does not allow for edits to be made directly to the original boilerplate that is repeatedly accessed.
A third option is to employ software to assist with the process. Sales management tools designed for proposal generation and workflow management can help to automate generation of T&Cs, providing built-in permissions and approvals to deal with customization requirements, and can package and format the final documents in a professional, stylized manner. The end result is an efficient process that delivers peace-of-mind, knowing that your T&Cs are correctly represented in every proposal that leavers your office.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that a change in one word – or even one letter – can completely change the meaning of your T&Cs. Make sure that whatever approach you choose, you mind your Ps and Qs!