What is a Deal Desk?
A deal desk is a centralized, cross-functional team within an organization that is responsible for managing and optimizing the sales process, particularly for complex or high-value deals. Its main objective is to ensure that deals are structured effectively, meet the company’s requirements, and provide maximum value to both the customer and the organization.
The structure of a deal desk team may vary from organization to organization, but it typically comprises leaders from the following departments:
- Sales operations
- Customer success
The deal desk function is increasingly commonplace as companies expand their sales efforts. Having a dedicated team of experts across different departments takes a considerable amount of weight off the deal cycle by helping businesses navigate complex deals in a way that maximizes benefits for the company, the sales team, and the customer.
- Sales contract management
- Sales deal management
- Sales deal approvals
Deal Desk Responsibilities
Most people have a narrow view of what the deal desk function actually entails — they’d likely name activities like sales proposal management, contract negotiation, and working with internal stakeholders to get fast approvals.
In reality, the multi-faceted role of a deal desk powers complex and non-standard deals throughout the entire sales cycle.
Outlining the Buyer’s Journey
Before anything, deal desk team members need to understand the customer journey and the key decision-makers in that journey. A deal desk analyst might use a checklist, survey, or form to gain insights for needs analysis, which the team can apply to its customer journey map.
As far as the deal desk is concerned, the buyer’s journey — which follows each prospect from awareness to closing — includes the following steps:
- Lead discovery and initial qualification
- Proposal and negotiation
- Agreement and e-signature
- Implementation and post-signature support
- Contract renewal management
Outlining these elements helps sellers develop a comprehensive view of each deal, anticipate roadblocks, and meet buyers’ preferences when interacting and negotiating with them. This is especially important when it comes to non-standard deals involving complex products, multiple stakeholders, or intricate legal frameworks.
Pricing and Discounting
Pricing complex deals requires analyzing customer segments, competitive intelligence, and market trends, just as it does for regular ones. But highly configurable products and intricate pricing models require the deal desk team to amass a vast array of data points, such as segmentation, usage forecasts, and buyer preferences.
A few critical considerations for RevOps and sales members when setting pricing rules include:
- Competitors’ pricing
- Product differentiation
- Price elasticity
- Operating costs
- Product availability
- Target market size
- Customer segments
- Cross-sell and upsell opportunities
- Commonly bundled products
- Price tiers based on usage, needs, or company size
- Recurring revenue (e.g., subscriptions, retainers, licenses)
After determining pricing for each parent product and product bundle the deal desk takes this information to develop discounting strategies that ensure competitive pricing while retaining a healthy margin.
The most common discounting strategies include price breaks, loyalty programs, and partner discounts.
Setting Policies and Pricing Guidance in CPQ
The deal desk is in charge of scoping the company’s ideal customer’s needs (based on the buyer journey) against its product’s capabilities to ensure accurate and profitable policy enactment.
Once they determine optimal pricing terms, product configurations, and contractual limitations, they enter this data in CPQ, which uses these rules as the backend of the quoting and contract creation processes.
Deal Structuring and Contract Terms
Although deal structuring is primarily a function of the sales team (more specifically, the seller working with the new prospect), the deal desk can help them structure it by standardizing certain elements — such as a common product configuration for a specific customer segment — and inputting them in the sales playbook for easy reference.
The deal desk is also responsible for creating basic terms for customer contracts, no matter the complexity. For example:
- What happens in the event of a service outage? (SLA uptime assurance)
- What happens if a customer ends their contract early? (Early termination fees)
- How will billing be structured and handled? (Per-unit pricing, subscription payments, seat-based pricing for expanding companies)
- What if a customer lags on payment? (Routine notifications, warnings, service termination)
This is particularly useful when more than one person — e.g., a finance expert and legal counsel — needs to sign off on the final deal structure. The likelihood of errors or rejection in these critical areas is considerably lower if those in charge of sign-off have universally approved the predetermined rules.
Managing Approvals for Special Terms and Conditions
The deal desk reviews and approves any special terms or conditions a customer requests. Since they’re in charge of the approval process, they know exactly which approval authority to tap and how to properly package, present, and negotiate an intricate deal properly.
In this function, speed is the most important factor — even an approval lead time of one day could bog down the sales cycle by a week or more.
It helps to set approval guidelines (e.g., “if Contingency X is met, then the deal isn’t possible”) ahead of time to minimize back-and-forth negotiations later on and speed up the deal process.
In every deal, there will always be an element of risk. The legal and finance arms of the deal desk team are responsible for identifying, evaluating, and minimizing those risks to ensure the transaction’s success.
Key aspects of risk management within the deal desk function include:
- Risk identification. Deal desk members work together to spot potential financial (e.g., credit risk, pricing risk), legal (e.g., contractual violations, regulatory compliance), operational (e.g., delivery timelines, resource constraints), or reputational (e.g., customer dissatisfaction, negative publicity) risks.
- Risk assessment. Then, they evaluate the likelihood and potential impact of a risk on the organization to prioritize certain risks and employ appropriate mitigation strategies.
- Risk mitigation. Based on the risk assessment, they adjust deal terms, negotiate (or renegotiate) contract clauses, implement additional controls or safeguards, or seek alternative solutions that meet the needs of both the organization and the customer.
- Monitoring and review. Post-implementation, the deal desk team continuously monitors the deal’s progress to ensure risks are properly managed and new ones don’t emerge. They conduct periodic reviews to assess risk management effectiveness and make necessary adjustments.
The deal desk’s sales operations and customer success members support sales teams by providing insightful reports (e.g., customer lifetime value, win-loss analysis) and actionable advice to help them navigate complex deals more effectively.
They train sellers on best practices, introduce product updates and enhancements, negotiate with customers regarding pricing or terms, and ensure a smooth handoff between sales and all other departments involved in the deal.
Sales ops is also tasked with centralizing all sales collateral — product documentation, pricing sheets, sales workflows, contract and proposal templates, etc. — to make them easily accessible to sellers and customers throughout the deal cycle.
Compliance monitoring is an ongoing process for complex deals that requires the deal desk to identify, record, and report any customer-facing activities that may violate existing legal rules or company policies.
They track changes to laws and regulations that affect customers’ contracts or business operations, notify sellers about any non-compliance issues they have identified, and create processes to ensure compliance once the deal is finalized.
Standardizing Companywide Processes and Tools
All members of the deal desk team need to work together to create standardized processes that streamline the deal desk process flow, then implement technology that optimizes and automates them.
This starts internally with companies creating the following:
- Buyer personas, customer journey maps, and an ideal customer profile (ICP)
- Sales playbooks and methodologies
- Approval hierarchies (for those with signing authority)
- Quote, proposal, and contract templates
- Order management workflows
- Sales and revenue KPIs
- Billing and invoicing rules and contingencies
- Revenue recognition practices
Once they have the necessary processes and tools in place, they can optimize them using the appropriate software.
Measuring and Reporting Deal KPIs
The bottom-line goal of deal desk teams is to find out whether or not real-world outcomes of the above processes and tools are aligned with the desired business objectives.
To do this, they use KPIs like average deal size, win rates per quarter or year, profit margins, and customer lifetime value (CLV). They also measure conversion rates at each stage of the sales pipeline, average time to close, and customer satisfaction scores.
These data points are then used to draw correlations between the quality of the deal desk process flow and its impact on overall performance. This helps them identify areas for improvement so they can adjust accordingly.
How the Deal Desk Drives Revenue
Deal desks are an essential revenue-generating business unit for the following reasons:
- Streamlined sales processes. By centralizing deal management, the deal desk eliminates inefficiencies and bottlenecks, allowing sales teams to close deals faster and move on to new opportunities.
- Better deal quality. Deal desk members ensure contracts are structured effectively and meet the organization’s requirements, leading to more successful and long-lasting customer relationships.
- Discount and price optimization. Pricing decisions passed by deal desk members align with company strategy to maximize profitability while maintaining competitive market positioning.
- Risk avoidance. Proactively identifying and addressing potential risks in the deal process prevents unexpected costs, legal issues, and reputational damage.
- Cross-functional collaboration. The deal desk brings together members from various departments, which ultimately results in more effective decision-making and increased revenue generation.
- Sales enablement support. Guidance, insights, and best practices make closing deals easier, contributing to higher win rates and increased revenue.
The deal desk is central to all of a company’s revenue growth efforts. Through deal desk functions, companies make sellers’ lives easier, shorten sales cycle times, improve the customer experience, and reduce the risk of costly mistakes.
How to Streamline the Deal Desk Process Flow
Align Legal, Sales, and RevOps
Since the deal desk function spans multiple departments and levels of corporate leadership, its operations quickly become siloed if there’s no effective way to coordinate activities.
Software integration is key to cross-functional alignment, but true alignment stems from organizational culture. Establishing a unified corporate vision helps ensure that all stakeholders understand their roles and contributions, and can work together more efficiently toward shared goals.
To align different members, a company needs to have clear expectations for each team — from roles and responsibilities to timelines, communication protocols, and decision-making processes.
Regular meetings between departments can foster better interdepartmental collaboration and help ensure everyone is on the same page.
Decide Which Contracts the Deal Desk Will Manage
Not every contract requires deal desk intervention — its time and effort should be reserved for deals with:
- A high degree of potential risk
- Intricate or completely custom product configurations
- Custom-coded software for a company’s specific workflow
- Elaborate contract terms that don’t fall within the organization’s pre-approved agreement templates
- Ad hoc services, such as non-standard support or customer success requirements
- High-value enterprise deals (which may be international)
- Non-standard terms and pricing
- Customized payment plans
Train Sales Teams on Deal Desk Processes
The sales team is the most direct beneficiary of the deal desk’s efforts, and the processes they implement are only effective if sellers adopt them.
To ensure the success of the deal desk process flow, it’s important to educate and train sales reps on its nuances. This includes everything from customer segmentation and account qualification to pricing strategies and compliance best practices.
Automate Processes with Technology
Technology can help streamline processes by automating routine tasks. The most readily-automatable tasks associated with deal desk processes include:
- Proposal and contract creation
- Approval workflows
- Order management
- Compliance monitoring
- Billing and invoicing
- Revenue recognition
The deal desk team can also use technology to centralize data, eliminate paper-based processes, and provide visibility into the deal cycle. That way, stakeholders can find and execute on improvement opportunities.
Deal Desk Tech Stack
The exact components of a deal desk tech stack and chosen vendors for those components vary from company to company depending on size, industry vertical, and a multitude of other factors.
Briefly, a deal desk tech stack comprises some or all of the following tools:
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM is the backbone of every deal desk function and serves as a centralized hub for information related to deals, customers, sales team performance, product data, and more.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
Deal desk members use ERP to manage their product data, supply chain, inventory, and other operational functions.
Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ)
CPQ software automates the most critical functions of the deal desk, including quote, proposal, and contract generation and management, approval processes, pricing optimization, and revenue recognition.
A digital sales room tool like DealRoom from DealHub CPQ centralizes communication between the sales team, deal desk, and decision-makers, making communication more efficient.
Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM)
CLM tools automate the entire contracting process, from templatizing, creating, and storing it to renewing it a year later.
Giving sellers the content and materials they need to accelerate the sales cycle is a deal desk function that can be almost entirely automated using sales enablement tools.
Billing and Invoicing
Rather than remembering payment terms and when to send each customer their invoices, billing and invoicing automation can take care of it for them.
The deal desk relies on analytics from revenue intelligence, CRM, and BI tools to understand how their processes and strategies play out in reality and where they could improve company performance.
The Role of CPQ in the Deal Desk Process
If there is any one tool (besides CRM) the deal desk needs to succeed, it’s CPQ. CPQ solutions automate many of the processes that would otherwise fall to the deal desk team.
CPQ implementation is vital to the deal desk process for the following reasons:
- Standardizes pricing and discounting
- Syncs with real-time data for real-time availability
- Simplifies complex product configurations
- Generates accurate quotes
- Integrates with CRM and ERP systems
- Automates approval workflows
- Provides analytics and reporting
As organizations grow, CPQ solutions scale the deal desk function by automating repetitive tasks and enabling efficient management as higher deal volumes move through the pipeline.
A deal desk manager is responsible for managing and negotiating commercial contracts on behalf of an organization. The deal desk manager works with multiple departments within an organization and coordinates activities across the sales team, finance, legal, customer success, and support teams.
A deal desk is important beacuse it centralizes cross-functional operations related to closing deals. Without a deal desk, finance, legal, sales, RevOps, and customer success departments work apart from each other, which causes deals to move slowly and inefficiently.