Deal Desk Mastery: 5 Ways to Prepare for Success

February 29, 2024

Deal desks make sales teams stronger. Plain and simple.

On the surface, they generate sales proposals, negotiate complex deals with customers and partners, and work with company leaders on internal approvals.

But the reality is, your deal desk is much more than a liaison between sales and the rest of the organization. In fact, Sales isn’t the center of it at all — it’s a cross-functional team that comprises sales, legal, RevOps, finance, customer success, and product experts (all of whom collaborate constantly).

Executed effectively, deal desks cut sales cycle times by up to 40%, boost sales productivity by as much as 20%, and give your profit margins a 5% to 10% improvement.

The key word here: Effectively.

What makes a deal desk successful?

The obvious answer is “a great team,” but there are other factors at play. Broadly speaking, a successful deal desk excels in three critical areas:

  • People (the right mix of skills and expertise on the team to make the process work well)
  • Process (a standardized methodology to handle deals)
  • Technology (an integrated tech stack that makes the process efficient and effective)

Let’s delve deeper into the role of each of these elements in preparing for deal desk success.

People: Build a diverse, cross-functional team

Structuring and negotiating high-level deals requires a multidisciplinary approach. You wouldn’t send a soccer team onto the field with eleven goalkeepers, would you?

As the customer-facing role, sales reps are the most visible players on the team. They’re also the ones with the most skin in the game, so to speak.

But you need legal experts to assess compliance risk, finance team members to optimize the pricing structure, and ops/delivery teams to assess your capacity to fulfill the contract terms.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. Any department that has valuable insights into your customers, your business, or the market you’re selling into should have at least one seat at the deal desk.

Process: Define a standardized methodology

The customized nature of complex sales entails a certain level of chaos, no matter what. The point of a deal desk isn’t to eliminate that. It’s to navigate it.

Your deal desk should codify the best practices for handling every stage of the quote-to-cash process, from initial engagement through negotiation and contracting.

It’s also important to define which department leader’s expertise is required at which point of the process. That way, you can facilitate a smooth handoff between functions, and they only see the deal when necessary.

Technology: Integrate your tech stack

Technology handles all the heavy lifting. If you select the right tools, it also facilitates a more collaborative environment.

  • Quote templates
  • Approval workflows
  • Price waterfall analysis
  • Compliance and risk assessments
  • Contract redlines
  • Document management and version control

Plus, software gives you real-time visibility into deal progress. Any time a buyer or seller views/updates a quote or completes an action item, you’ll see an update or notification automatically.

5 ways to master your deal desk process

While having a deal desk function in place is undoubtedly beneficial for your organization, it takes more than just setting one up to guarantee success.

Depending on the nature of your organization (and how extensive your deal desk actually is), your actual path to achieving success across these three areas can vary significantly.

That said, there are a few universal rules that apply here, regardless of your business model.

Define your deal desk role and team responsibilities.

Every deal desk member has core responsibilities in their respective department (a sales leader obviously works alongside their team to implement sales strategies and motivate their reps). Those responsibilities don’t necessarily translate to their role within the deal desk, though.

Start by mapping out the tasks required to actually complete a deal.

  • Outlining the buyer’s journey is a job for sales and marketing.
  • Setting pricing and profitability guidance requires insights from RevOps and finance.
  • Contract terms and risk assessment require oversight from your legal teams.
  • Proposal preparation is left up to the Account Executive in charge of the account.
  • Deal reviews are meant for sales leaders or a deal desk analyst.
  • Managing the approval process is a collective effort, depending on whose input is necessary for sign-off.
  • Whether you can execute a particular deal requires feedback from your product, ops, and/or delivery teams.

Build a smooth deal desk approval workflow.

Once you know who’s responsible for each part of the deal desk process, it isn’t too hard to set up a process for approvals.

In configure, price, quote (CPQ), setting up approval workflows is easy.

  1. Define the logic for your approval workflows by setting up approval rules, conditions, and variables. For example, if a rep configures a custom product, it’s automatically sent to the product manager for review.
  2. Create specific roles with defined approval limitations and to customize workflows to your needs. Then, structure how approvals are reviewed by organizing approval chains. This will help you define the sequence in which approvals are sought and from whom​​.
  3. Set up a collaboration environment where stakeholders can view and resolve any issues in real-time (i.e., in-app commenting/editing, version control, and automated notifications).

Align buyer and organizational needs.

Your buyer wants (a) personalization and (b) a frictionless experience. More than three-quarters of B2B buyers say their latest purchase was “very complex or difficult,” and the same proportion expect more personalization now than they did in previous years.

Think about areas where it’s unnecessarily complicated, either for your team or the buyer.

  • Passing buyers from department to department
  • Manual data entry processes for reps and admin workloads
  • Disparate systems, especially those siloed within individual departments
  • Long-winded debates over pricing, discounts, and promotions
  • Unneeded approvals for basic changes/conditions

You can alleviate a lot of this with smart pricing models and accurate quotes, but you can also streamline the negotiation/contracting experience by eliminating unnecessary back-and-forth.

This partially comes down to how clearly defined the roles within your deal desk are. If every person knows their responsibilities and follows the process, then your quote-to-cash workflow will be highly collaborative and efficient.

Establish deal desk KPIs

Any business strategy needs measurable outcomes. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “more deals = better.”

However, that’s only true if those deals are profitable. You need to set KPIs that measure the efficacy of your deal desk.

At a minimum, here are some metrics you should track:

Win rate

This is the most basic metric: how many deals were won vs. how many were lost?

  • New business win rate — Out of all the total deals, how many were for new customers?
  • Existing business win rate — How many came from existing customers? This can also reveal any opportunities and possible weaknesses in your renewal strategies.

Your win rate tells you how effective your sales process, pricing, and negotiating strategies are at winning new business. A low win rate could mean a lot of things. But in the context of your deal desk, it means your processes and policies aren’t hitting the mark.

Average deal size

Simply put, how much are your deals worth?

This is a simple metric: add up all the deals from a unit of time (quarterly, annually) and divide it by your total number of deals. You can also look at this in terms of average contract value.

If the size of your typical deal is lower than you’d like, your deal desk team may struggle to negotiate high-value deals.

This can also be a retrospective metric, though. A rise or fall in average deal size over time can also tell you if your deals are becoming more or less profitable. In general, upward trends are a good sign with this metric.

Time to close

When a lead enters your pipeline, how long does it take for that deal to be closed?

  • Sales cycle — The time between a rep’s initial outreach and the deal closing.
  • Contract cycle — After winning the deal, how long does it take to get that signature?
  • Time to quote — A critical component of deal velocity (and conversions, since plenty of buyers wind up going with the vendor that responds first), optimizing quote delivery speed can be a major competitive advantage.

Knowing your company’s sales and contract cycles will give you a better understanding of how deals are progressing through your pipeline. What stage do most deals fall off? Which departments need more support in order to speed up the overall process?

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Your NPS measures customer satisfaction and loyalty.

  • How likely are customers to recommend your product/service to a friend or colleague?

It speaks retrospectively to your deal desk’s effort to create a deal structure that aligns with the value your buyers expect.

If you have a high NPS, it’s an indicator that your product and customer experience are well aligned with buyer needs. If it’s low, there could be customer experience issues that need to be addressed.

Leverage tech to accelerate deals

To streamline the deal process from start to finish, you 100% need software in this day and age. Following all the deal desk best practices in the book won’t save you if you’re stuck using manual processes and spreadsheets, or even the wrong tech stack.

Configure, price, quote (CPQ)

CPQ software handles the clerical work your deal desk team would otherwise handle on their own. It’s an automated sales quoting platform that can help you configure complex product/service offerings, calculate pricing and discounts, send out accurate quotes within minutes (not hours), and track every change made to the quote throughout the negotiation.

It also allows for easy collaboration between teams and departments and reduces errors and miscommunications. Most importantly, it drastically speeds up turnaround time on quotes, so your reps can spend more time closing deals.

Contract management software

Contract management is sometimes a part of CPQ, but it’s also available as a standalone solution. It provides a cloud-based application for:

  • Quote templates
  • Customized quote building
  • Collaboration
  • Redlining and versioning
  • E-signature
  • Document storage
  • Searchability

With contract management software, you can ensure contracts are created and managed efficiently and accurately. This reduces the back-and-forth in negotiations and speeds up the overall deal process.

Deal desk tracking software

There are a few different places you can track your deal desk metrics over time: CPQ, CRM (through integration), or specialized revenue or buyer engagement tracking software.

Between those, you can track your progress toward all your business goals and make the adjustments required to get one step closer to hitting them.

CPQ Integrations