You’ve probably heard a lot about digital signatures: how they can ‘transform’ your sales cycle and ‘supercharge’ your conversions. But if you’re at all sceptical, you might be tempted to think this is all just standard internet hype.
So to set the record straight, we’re going to take an honest look at digital signatures – determining whether they really can help improve your sales performance, and what drawbacks they might involve.
But first, let’s get clear on exactly what a digital signature is…
What Is a Digital Signature?
Digital signatures are essentially a digital fingerprint; they allow you to sign and authenticate documents – like a contract. Technically speaking, they are a subcategory of electronic signatures. But because digital signatures are exceptionally secure, using complex encryption, they have become widely accepted and trusted across many countries.
A Brief History of Digital Signatures
The concept of the ‘digital signature’ was born in 1976. But given the technical challenges involved in making them both secure and legal, the concept went through a series of permutations in the following years.
1999 is when things got real: it finally became possible to embed digital signatures into PDF documents, making it super simple to share digital signage. Then, in the early 2000s, a wave of legislation across the world made digital signatures legally binding. But as with most technology though, it’s taken some time for digital signatures to reach a tipping point and enter the mainstream consciousness.
That tipping point has now been reached. Between 2012 and 2017, Global eSignatures transactions have increased from 89 million to 745 million. Today, businesses are stampeding to embrace the efficiencies digital signatures promise.
And that makes sense – because there are a bunch of ways digital signatures can improve your business. Let’s look at them now:
Four Benefits of Digital Signatures
1. They help you go paperless
Between environmental pressures and the need for greater operational efficiency, ‘going paperless’ has become a big deal for many companies. And digital signatures can help radically reduce the use of paper.
This isn’t just an ethical thing: US businesses currently $1 billion on paper, and businesses that switch to digital signatures can save up to 78.62% on various costs associated with administration, printing and the rest.
2. They reduce lag time
When you present a prospect with a traditional contract, there is a natural ‘lag’: the contract has to be received, printed, signed and sent back to you. And this matters for two reasons: first, it takes up time and makes your sales cycle longer. And second, it increases the chance that your prospect will change their mind.
Digital signatures get rid of this lag, ensuring that a contract can be signed within moments of the deal being made. Research shows that you can get signatures signed up to 80% faster. And that leads teams that use digital signatures to ship on average 117% more contracts.
3. They improve customer experience
Your sales team is frustrated by the traditional signing process – and so are your customers. Rather than sitting around Googling ‘How to insert their signature into a Word document’, digital signatures present a simple, streamlined process that is ultimately far more satisfying.
On average, digital signatures increase customer retention by 6.4%. And that doesn’t take into account the intangible benefits that comes from improved B2B customer experience.
4. They improve accuracy and security
When you’re inking a deal, accuracy and security are vital. If there is any risk of compromising your customers’ data or producing faulty documents, it can cause havoc.
Fortunately, digital signatures are designed with these issues in mind. They have been found to produce a 80% reduction in signing errors, and because they are generally based on the most up-to-date cryptographic best-practises, most providers are extremely secure.
Of course, that doesn’t mean integrating them into your workflow is a no brainer – there are some important drawbacks to consider, too:
Cons of Digital Signatures
1. Different countries have different laws
The legality of digital signatures is largely very solid. In most developed countries, the legislation looks very similar. But in certain countries and states, there are important differences – and some simply don’t have very strong rules surrounding digital signage.
This makes trading in certain regions more tricky, if you are solely using digital signatures. And any sales team should be highly attuned to these regional differences.
2. Your digital infrastructure needs to be strong
To make the most from any technology, you need to have the right infrastructure in place. When your contracts are being signed digitally, they need to be stored and shared securely – and plenty of businesses don’t have the online file sharing or organization they need.
This may explain why less than one in five sales contracts are signed digital today: many companies simply aren’t ready. And for sales teams, your customers too need to be prepared to deal primarily in digital documentation.
3. You have to go through a third-party provider
Digital signatures are enormously complex, requiring expensive digital architecture and complicated algorithms to remain safe and functional. That’s why virtually all businesses use third-party providers for their digital signage.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it does mean there may be costs attached to the practise; it also means you need to familiarise yourself with the options and make an informed choice, which may take more time and expertise than many sales teams have to spare.