How Deal Desks Are Making Sales Teams Stronger

Author: 
Michelle Seger

“We are difficult to do business with,” a sales executive at a large technology company said recently. “Between information security, pricing, and the contract we would collapse if we did not have a deal desk. Someone has to take the deal through the system to ensure we can do what the customer wants and execute the deal.” 

Deal desks are gaining traction among sales organizations who want to bring order and speed to their sales process. The deal desk is designed to assist with complex deal creation beginning with the proposal; and, in fact, to help manage complex deals through the entire deal process, specifically during pricing and contract negotiations, where deals can become bottlenecked. In some organizations, deal desks review and approve all deals that pass through the organization. 

Only a few years ago, deal desks were relatively unknown. But in a study conducted by SalesGlobe in October 2015, almost 70 percent of sales organizations have a deal desk. While deal desks have gained popularity quickly, their effectiveness seems to ensure they’re here to stay.

Defining Roles
Organizational structures of the deal desk function vary depending on the roles and responsibilities assigned to that function. The size and staffing of a deal desk is highly dependent on the expectation of the roles. There is no right or wrong model, as long as it meets the needs of the organization. But a deal desk is much more than an administrative function. One of the most critical factors for success is a team empowered with the authority to make decisions, rather than wait for permission from executives higher up in the organization. Specifically, the deal desk should have the authority and accountability to make decisions on non-standard price and contract terms, using clearly articulated guidelines and parameters. 

Typically, deal desks sit within sales operations and are led by a director-level executive with several managers and analysts working in various functions. It is most effective when cross-functional roles are responsible for pricing and contract management of the deal. Regular cross-functional accountability and feedback sessions also help to keep communication fluid and avoid time-consuming redundancies.

The addition of analytics can help with deal decisions, trend analysis, and deal integrity (compliance). Although analytics may not report into the deal desk, it should maintain a close tie and report into sales operations for the most integrated approach.

Deal desks can have the following responsibilities:

Deal compliance structuring: Defining the deal process, and managing the deal throughout the process to ensure the deal is executed and it makes sense (capabilities, pricing, risk analyst). Leveraging a deal desk to manage the deal cycle process allows the sales rep to focus on customer facing activities and develop new business opportunities. The deal desk is also often in charge of non-standard deal approvals.

Contract management: Outlining contract terms and reviewing the contract throughout the process. They will also work with the legal department if necessary.

Business analytics CRM: Tools management and sales support, including reporting tools, the sales pipeline, and any deal desk metrics. Almost all sales organizations implement metrics to determine the success of their deal desk. The most important measures, not surprisingly, look at the quality of the deal financials. Among the most common financial measures are margin, profitability, and cost of terms. Some sales organizations also track cycle time, with the goal that a deal desk will move the deal through more quickly. Use automated workflows, triggers, and rules that are embedded into your CRM system to determine which deals the deal desk should look at.

Business analytics pricing: Pricing, including standard pricing management, trend analysis, and deal pricing metrics for non-standard deals. In our study, 90 percent of respondents indicated that non-standard pricing and deal exceptions are managed by the deal desk, and 20 percent of respondents indicated that the deal desk also manages and reviews standard price deals.

Account management: Ongoing issue resolution and serving as the central point of contact for the customer. A primary function of the deal desk is to build the customer relationship and positively impact the customer experience. 

As important as a deal desk can be to a sales organization, they don’t appear overnight. To establish a deal desk, it’s critical to have buy-in from key stakeholders and empower the team with executive support. The right people – and the right leader – are also important. You need people who have excellent internal relationship building skills, andstrong communications and analytical capabilities.

And finally, don’t expect miracles in the first week. If your sales process is long and complicated, a deal desk can organize and streamline many of the bottlenecks; but it takes time to untangle knots built up over time. Setclear objectives for the function and the people involved, and set expectations up-front with accountability. Take a long term-view on the deal desk impact on customers and the deal quality, rather than expecting results too soon.The best deal desk results are those that have clearly articulated boundaries and rules. The more clearly articulated they are, the more empowerment the organization is able to provide the deal desk.

Michelle Seger is director of consulting services for SalesGlobe, which helps companies connect their sales strategies to the bottom line by providing sales effectiveness services that concentrate on sales transformation, sales process and sales coverage design, sales compensation and sales operations management.