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Updated Apr 17, 2023

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

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Kimberlee Leonard, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Operations

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Not all sales are created equal; some require specialized processing and approval. When the stakes are high and closing the sale is complex, deal desks can help. Deal desks help drive sales engagement, performance and results by providing a centralized department to handle deals that don’t fit into your organization’s traditional sales process

Sales organizations have been using deal desks for several years, but this resource is gaining popularity by creating sales team efficiencies and offering creative solutions for customers. We’ll explore deal desks, their benefits and disadvantages, and share how to maximize them to their full potential.

What are deal desks?

A deal desk is a centralized team that facilitates special, high-end deals. It often works with complex cases using a cross-functional team to find solutions slightly outside the box of the standard sales channels. Its goal is to increase sales by ensuring high-value deals quickly move through the sales funnel

Deal desks play a crucial role for companies by providing a mechanism to support nonstandard deal requests. Deal desks also noticeably impact sales-adjacent activities, such as pricing and contracts, that support the deal process.

Deal desks don’t handle all sales deals. Standard deals should still go through the typical sales process, saving deal desk resources for high-value, complex situations.  

TipBottom line

To build a positive sales culture in your company, recognize your team’s successes and offer opportunities for continuous growth.

What are deal desk responsibilities?

Deal desks need a high level of authority and empowerment for business decision-making. They must have the information, power and authority to cut through approval red tape, and make efficient pricing and contract negotiation decisions.

These are some other deal desk responsibilities:

  • Creating deals: Deal desks assist with complex deal creation, beginning with the proposal.
  • Managing deals: Deal desks manage complex deals through the entire deal process. “Complex” is defined as anything outside the guidelines provided to the sales organization for pricing and contract authority.
  • Approving deals: Deal desks review and approve all deals that pass through your business. 
  • Outlining standard parameters: Deal desks provide and manage “standard deal” parameters and tools the sales organization can leverage. 
  • Handling internal issues: Deal desks serve as the point of contact for contract negotiations and internal deal issue resolution on behalf of the sales organization.
  • Finding solutions: Deal desk participants must be creative and solution oriented. Deal desks are empowered to find solutions to nonstandard deals that still align with your company’s brand.
  • Making efficient deals: Deal desks reduce a deal’s cycle time from opportunity to execution.
  • Collaborating with other departments: Deal desks actively engage with multiple business units, gathering input to facilitate the deal process.
  • Supporting the sales department: Deal desks allow the sales organization to focus on selling so it can find and close more deals.

Are deal desks effective?

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 ultimately results.  

Deal desk organizational structures vary by the roles and responsibilities assigned to that function. The deal desk is most effective when cross-functional roles are responsible for a deal’s pricing and contract management. 

Analytics can help with deal decisions, trend analysis and deal integrity (compliance). Although the analytics team may not report to the deal desk, it should maintain close ties and report into sales operations for the most integrated approach. 

TipBottom line

Involve your sales team in the deal desk’s creation to optimize what deals move to the desk and how the desk can support all of your company’s sales representatives.

What are the pros and cons of deal desks?

Deal desks provide enormous benefits, but they’re not without their drawbacks. Here are some pros of establishing a deal desk:

  • It saves time. Deal desks save time during complex transactions by cutting through red tape to make efficient decisions.
  • It makes clients feel valued. A deal desk gives high-value targets preferential treatment, so they know the organization values their business.
  • It eliminates bottlenecks. Deal desks eliminate the bottlenecks that can occur when traditional sales reps are unsure how to proceed with more extensive contracts. 

Here are some downsides of establishing a deal desk in your organization:

  • It takes away from other aspects of the company. A deal desk pulls team experts away from their day-to-day roles, so potentially some work isn’t being completed. 
  • It causes disorientation with sales reps. Sales reps may be unsure about which deals they should handle and which should go to the deal desk.
  • It can be confusing for clients. Since deal desks aren’t widely used, they may initially cause confusion with customers.  
Did You Know?Did you know

The best CRM software can help you implement processes and workflows to streamline deal assignments and eliminate confusion.

How to maximize a deal desk

Follow these guidelines to establish a deal desk function in your organization or ensure your existing deal desk is operating at its full potential:

  1. Empower your deal desk. Ensure your deal desk has the authority to set its own sales cadence and make decisions on nonstandard pricing and contract terms using clear guidelines. 
  2. Leverage it to manage the deal cycle. When you put your deal desk in charge of the deal cycle, you allow traditional sales reps to focus on customer-facing activities and develop new business opportunities. 
  3. Specify deal desk regions. Regional coverage eliminates the need for sales to operate outside the process, and you won’t risk losing an opportunity.
  4. Ensure the right people are on your deal desk. You’ll want a combination of critical thinking, creativity and attention to detail in your deal desk. Members must also have credibility, excellent communication and relationship-building skills.
  5. Size and staff the deal desk appropriately. A deal desk’s size and staffing depend on the roles and functions you expect to fulfill. There is no right or wrong model as long as it meets your company’s needs.
  6. Set boundaries. The best deal desk results stem from clear rules. Therefore, articulate boundaries and provide documents of these boundaries to empower the deal desk.
  7. Prioritize accountability. Successful deal desks are accountable for their responsibilities and hold others to established standards.
  8. Gather feedback regularly. Hold regular formal and informal feedback sessions to discuss trends and changing conditions so the sales organization can react in real time.

Overall, a deal desk can greatly help your business build and improve customer relationships, drive sales reps’ productivity, and execute on deals that make sense for both the customer and your company.  

Michelle Seger contributed to the writing and reporting of this article. 

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Kimberlee Leonard, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
Kimberlee Leonard is an insurance expert who guides business owners through the complicated world of business insurance. A former State Farm agency owner herself, Leonard started her decades-long career as a financial consultant advising on investment strategies before switching her focus to insurance and risk mitigation for businesses. Leonard has developed insurance primers on everything from small business insurance costs to specific policies, such as excess liability insurance. She has also reviewed business software tools, analyzed employee retirement plan providers and continues to share insights on financial topics as they relate to business. Leonard's work has been published in Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Fortune, Newsweek and other respected outlets.
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