Changing the Game: How Deal Desks Are Shaking Up Sales Organizations

Business.com / Sales / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

There are untapped opportunities to leverage this function to drive sales engagement, performance, and results.

“If you want to have clean water, send it through a filter,” a sales executive said recently.

He was discussing the new deal desk function at his company, which consolidates and organizes information for non-standard deals, and makes decisions to keep the sales process moving.

“We need visibility and a way to understand the impact of our decisions for non-standard deals. Our deal desk also helps us identify trends.”

Deal desks have been used by sales organizations for several years, but are gaining popularity because they create efficiencies in the sales organization and offer creative solutions for customers.

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In a recent SalesGlobe survey, 70 percent of companies had a deal desk in their sales organization; but nearly 30 percent of respondents had not yet heard of a deal desk. The deal desk function is making a difference for companies by providing a mechanism to support non-standard deal requests and is having a noticeable impact with adjacent activities – like pricing and contracts -- that support the deal process.

Deal desks don’t handle all sales deals. According to our study, 90 percent of non-standard pricing deal exceptions are managed by the deal desk; and in 20 percent of the organizations, the deal desk also manages and reviews standard price deals.

A high level of authority and empowerment to make decisions are two critical attributes of a deal desk. The deal desk has the information, power, and authority to cut through the red tape of approvals and make real decisions regarding the pricing and contract negotiation phases of the sale.

Other responsibilities of deal desks include:

  • Assist with complex deal creation, beginning with the proposal.
  • Manage complex deals through the entire deal process. Complex is defined as anything outside of the guidelines provided to the sales organization for pricing and contract authority.
  • Review and approve all deals that pass through the organization.  
  • Provide and manage “standard deal” parameters and tools that the sales organization can leverage.  
  • Serve as the point of contact for contract negotiations and internal deal issue resolution on behalf of the sales organization.
  • Be creative and solutions-oriented. Deal desks are empowered to find solutions to non-standard deals that still align with business rules.
  • Reduce cycle time of a deal from opportunity to execution.
  • Actively engage with multiple business units, gathering input to the deal process.
  • Allow the sales organization to focus on selling, giving them the opportunity to find and close more deals.

The empowered deal desk is proving to be a successful model, and companies are asking for more. There are untapped opportunities to leverage this function to drive sales engagement, performance, and results.  

Organizational structures of the deal desk function vary depending on the roles and responsibilities assigned to that function. The deal desk is most effective when cross-functional roles are responsible for pricing and contract management of the deal. 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.    

Below are typical deal desk roles that report into sales operations.  

chart of typical deal desk roles

Follow the guidelines below to ensure your deal desk is operating at full potential, or to establish a deal desk function in your organization.

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  1. Empower your deal desk. Make sure it has the authority and accountability to make decisions on non-standard price and/or contract terms using clearly articulated guidelines and parameters.  
  2. Leverage your deal desk to manage the deal cycle; this allows the sales rep to focus on customer facing activities and develop new business opportunities.  
  3. Regional coverage eliminates the need for sales to operate outside of the process, or risk losing an opportunity.
  4. Ensure the right staffing of the deal desk. A combination of critical thinking, creativity, and attention to detail, combined with excellent communication and relationship building skills with credibility is a must.
  5. 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 your business needs.
  6. The best deal desk results are those that have clear boundaries and rules. The better articulated those boundaries, the more empowered the deal desk will be.
  7. Keys to success include accountability to hold others to established standards; and regular feedback sessions on trends and changing conditions, so the sales organization can react in real time.

A deal desk function in your sales organization can have a powerful impact on improving and building customer relationships, driving sales rep productivity, and ensuring that the business is executing on deals that make sense for both the customer and the company.  

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