8 of the Most Common Electronic Signature Myths, Busted | Proposify
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8 of the Most Common Electronic Signature Myths, Busted

Spoiler alert: none of these misconceptions about signing proposals online are correct. But believing them could be hurting your sales team’s close rate. From mobile to multiple signees to free esignature tools, here’s the truth about how electronic signatures work to give your sales team more control and insight into your closing process.

how electronic signatures work

7 min. read

I think I cracked the case, folks. Yup, I have a theory about why there are so many myths and misconceptions surrounding electronic signatures.

Most people think that electronic signatures are only about speed and convenience. But I’ll let you in on a secret: The real benefits of signing documents online are actually control and visibility.

It’s this incorrect assumption that all other misconceptions are based upon. Like if electronic signatures are a quick way to get sign-off, that must mean they aren’t secure. Or since they’re convenient, there’s no way an electronic signature would hold up if there was an issue.

But not only are esignatures a secure, legally binding, and time-saving tool, they also give your entire team more control over and visibility into the signing process. So let’s talk about why and how, the myths and the full truth about electronic signatures, and how we do them here at Proposify.

8 popular (but misleading) myths about signing proposals online:

Myth #1: Electronic signatures are not legally binding.
Myth #2: You can’t track electronic signatures.
Myth #3: Electronic signatures are not secure.
Myth #4: You can’t have more than one signee per document per side.
Myth #5: Electronic signature tools don’t allow you to countersign.
Myth #6: You always need to know exactly who will be signing off to use electronic signatures.
Myth #7: You can’t use electronic signatures on mobile.
Myth #8: Pen-and-paper signatures are still the best way to get proposals signed.

Myth #1: Electronic signatures are not legally binding.

An electronic signature collects data to ensure the identity of the person signing, and it also captures the legal intent to sign a document. Signing itself can be as simple as checking a box, typing or drawing your signature, or even verbal authorization. The mark you make IS the data that secures your document and certifies it’s been signed.

So what makes an electronic signature legally binding? In most jurisdictions, an esignature needs three things:

  1. Unique identifiers that link a signer with their signature.
  2. The signer must have sole control over those identifiers.
  3. The electronic signature system must be able to identify if any accompanying data has changed after signing. If accompanying data has changed, the signatures must be voided.

When you send a proposal or contract for sign-off with Proposify, for example, here’s how it conforms to these rules:

  1. Signees access the document via a unique link.
  2. We record the IP address of the signing parties, along with the date and time it was signed.
  3. After signing, the document is locked and stored on our servers. If anything in the proposal is changed or edited, all parties involved are notified and any signatures are removed. The revised document would then need to be re-sent and re-signed by all signees.

Myth #2: You can’t track electronic signatures.

How do you know who signed what and when? And will that tracking hold up if it’s challenged?

In short, yes. Electronic signature tracking can go by a few different names, including they’re electronic signature certificate or a document audit trail, but the purpose of this tracking is to show the signature history of the document.

In Proposify, we show this through audit trails. An audit trail gives your team and your clients an overview of activity in the document, including any signatures. It will show all interaction with the document from the time the recipient views it, including:

  • Changes in proposal status.
  • Signatures received (including IP address, signature, date, and time).
  • Edits made to the document.
  • When the document was viewed.
  • Comments left in the document.

Because both you AND your client can view the audit trail, you have visibility into exactly how and when anyone interacted with the document.

Myth #3: Electronic signatures are not secure.

For the security features of electronic signature tools, see myths 1 and 2 above.

When people say that electronic signatures aren’t secure, what they are usually saying is, “When is an electronic signature valid?”

I get it. When you’re signing, initialling, and dating a printed proposal, it will be quite obvious if any edits or amendments are made after the fact. But what happens if a proposal is signed using esignatures and then someone on either side makes a change to the document?

I can’t speak for all electronic signature tools but here’s how Proposify makes sure that all signed proposals stay true to what was agreed upon. If edits are required in a proposal that’s already been signed, existing signatures are deleted and all signees would need to re-sign the amended proposal.

Myth #4: You can’t have more than one signee per document per side.

A typical buying committee today consists of at least six or seven people. Now, which one of those half-dozen prospects is going to sign off on your proposal?

In many cases, more than one person on the client-side is going to need to sign. Luckily, many modern electronic signature tools have adapted to this current reality. With Proposify, for example, you can add as many signature boxes as you need, including initialling prompts and unassigned signatures.

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Myth #5: Electronic signature tools don’t allow you to countersign.

Many esignature tools are set up for the traditional proposal sign-off situation. A sales rep adds signature boxes to the proposal document and sends it to their client. The client signs and then the salesperson signs to complete the deal.

What if your sales rep wants to sign the document first and then send it to the client for approval? Countersigning like this is not only an efficient way to sign proposals—we found that when Proposify customers sign their proposals before sending it actually increases close rates by 12%.

Myth #6: You always need to know exactly who will be signing off to use electronic signatures.

Your sales rep has been working with a champion over on the prospect side. They are 110% sold on your solution and ready to get approval on the proposal your salesperson sent.

What’s not as clear is who will actually sign on the dotted line. Your champion needs to take it up the office org chart but exactly which desk it’ll finally “land” on is up in the air. Guess you can’t use an electronic signature in this case then…

Unless you use an electronic signature tool that supports unassigned signatures (like Proposify’s).

Unassigned signatures let you get the electronic signature you need without needing all the signer’s details upfront. This feature works in cases like the one above where the person you’re sending the proposal to doesn’t have signing authority. It’s also ideal for those times when you’re presenting the proposal to a buying committee but only need one of them (anyone!) to sign.

In the Proposify esignature tool, to include an unassigned signature you simply add a signature box that’s not linked to any specific contact person. Once the signee adds their signature, all those identifying details get filled in. You can read more about how we ensure unassigned signatures still maintain our high standards for traceability and legal compliance over in our Knowledge Base.

Myth #7: You can’t use electronic signatures on mobile.

Business today happens wherever business people happen to be. This flexibility is important since our data shows that one out of every four proposals are viewed on mobile or tablet.

If your clients can’t sign your proposal right when they view it, you could be slowing down or losing deals entirely. So using an electronic signature tool like Proposify means your prospects can sign using any device they choose—mobile, tablet, or desktop—while you and your team still have all the features and functionality.

Myth #8: Pen-and-paper signatures are still the best way to get proposals signed.

Nope, the data overwhelmingly disproves this one. When we dove into the Proposify database of more than two million proposals, we found that proposals with electronic signatures are 3.4 times more likely to close and close 32% faster.

Plus, there is a full slate of side benefits that electronic signatures bring, including:

  • Secure digital document back-up.
  • Reduced environmental impact from printing fewer documents.
  • Less time spent on document-related admin tasks, like finding and filing documents.

Conclusion

So what’s next? If you’re not using an electronic signature tool, now’s the time to implement one into your proposal process.

If you’re already using one, take some time to evaluate it and look for signs. How easy is it to use for both your sales team and your clients? Does it have all the features and capabilities I outlined above? Could it be working harder for your team and giving you more than just speed and convenience?

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