How To Structure and Optimize Your Enterprise Deal Desk

Apr 9, 2021
Mohammed Shehu

You’re in talks for a $150,000 deal with a large enterprise customer. They want to iron out the implementation and payment details, but who will handle the legalities of the contract, and how will the deal be implemented? What new monetization opportunities can be built into the agreement?

An enterprise sales operation is a complicated process with many moving parts, and investing in a deal desk can improve your planning, forecasting, and implementation activities. In this article, we’ll explore what a deal desk is and why it’s important to enterprise sales success. We’ll also look at some best practices for who should be involved as well as the benefits that will come from the process.

Let’s dive in!

What is a deal desk, and what does it do?

It’s no secret that large deals can be complicated and tricky, and they require not only a lot of negotiation but also many other tasks - from training plans and software integrations to legal reviews and compliance. This requires an experienced team that knows how to ensure a win-win deal without any issues.

This is where the deal desk comes in handy. Acting as a point of contact for complex deals, a deal desk is responsible for managing the entire flow of complex deals and facilitating deal approvals from the right team members. Its goal is to ensure the deal process runs smoothly so both sides are happy and continue to work together in the future.

Benefits of a deal desk

Establishing a deal desk confers numerous benefits on your sales team. These include:

  1. Faster deal cycles: Without the coordination of a deal desk, deals take much longer to close due to back-and-forth communication. Dedicating a team to mapping out each deal ensures your sales cycle is executed as efficiently as possible.
  2. Insight and foresight: Without the collaborative aspect of a deal desk, siloed efforts can result in missing gaps of knowledge about the customer’s needs relative to your company’s interests. Deal desks provide insight into customer requirements, product deficiencies, budgeting, and new monetization opportunities.
  3. Better-aligned offers: Each customer’s context is considered while structuring their offer so that deals can be tightly aligned with the customer’s business goals, company size, and budget.
  4. Improved product development: Customer feedback can be fed into the product development lifecycle, making it easier to create a stellar product over time.
  5. Risk mitigation: More eyes and hands on an enterprise deal can reduce customer dissatisfaction around pricing, product features, support expectations, and more - all which contributes to lower churn.

Who should be on your deal desk?

The ideal number and make-up of each enterprise deal desk varies from company to company. Your deal desk team might consist of a deal desk manager and a deal desk operations analyst. Other internal stakeholders you might want to include in your cross functional team include:

1. Sales and Sales Ops

The sales and sales ops teams run the enterprise deal and are responsible for putting together a compelling offer for your customer. Liaising between the deal desk and the customer’s team, the sales and sales ops teams note down all requirements and objections for review by the rest of the deal desk. Your deal desk team might consist of a sales operation analyst, a deal desk manager or deal desk operations analyst, and other key stakeholders.

2. Product Management

At the heart of every deal is the product being sold, and complex deals offer opportunities to learn which aspects of the product are most appealing to the customer, what new features they’d like to see added, and which features are the most monetizable. The product or engineering manager is a great addition to the deal desk and should be involved in the deal as soon as possible.

3. Legal and compliance

Enterprise deals are wrought with complex terms and conditions, and legal oversight is needed to ensure that neither party is exposed to liability. For example, a customer may want to be indemnified for things like equipment damages or any other unforeseen incidents, while the company selling the product will want to ensure they don’t fall afoul of any data protection or privacy laws in each applicable region the product will be deployed. Having a legal manager or compliance officer in a deal desk limits risk and liability for everyone involved.

4. Finance and accounting

Complex deals tend to involve large sums of money (compared to more transactional deals), and these deals may involve multiple payments over a certain period, discount calculations, tax implications, margin calculations, and more. Having your finance and accounting team on hand helps with the following 3 things:

  • Payment structure: Will they pay upfront, monthly, quarterly, or annually? Are there any recurring payments? If so, how frequently and how much? Who needs to sign off on invoices or payments?
  • Profitability: What is the profit margin on this deal? Are we offering a discount, and if so, how does that affect our MRR or ARR?
  • Taxes: How are taxes handled both for our company and our customer? Are there any special taxes that need to be factored in depending on geography?

Consider adding a financial manager or accounting officer to your deal desk to facilitate all financial matters.

5. IT

Depending on your product, having your IT team on your deal desk can be crucial to deploying your solution smoothly. For instance, if you’re working on an enterprise deal to deploy factory management software to a customer’s factories across North America, the IT team can advise on:

  • Warranties: Specifying what the software can and cannot do, and what your business would be responsible for fixing or replacing in the event of critical product failure.
  • Platform infrastructure: Identifying and testing any network, hardware, or software components of the product for performance.
  • Content security and data protection: Ensuring that all data transferred is secure, encrypted, and backed up adequately.
  • Integrations: Identifying and dealing with potential compatibility issues between your product and the client’s existing technology stack (like ERP or CRM systems).
  • Scalability: Helping to ensure that the deployment can accommodate growth in your customer’s business over time.

Having an IT manager, senior developer, or security specialist on your deal desk can help mitigate any deployment issues and ensure a smooth integration.

6. Customer Success

The customer success team member ensures that customers have the resources they need to be successful with your solution. This means mapping out a training and onboarding plan for each customer, identifying challenges your customer may face, and compiling help docs and other resources that your customer may find useful throughout the lifetime of their contract with you. Having a customer success manager or support specialist on your deal desk is a good first step towards structuring deals that work in your customer’s best interests and reduce churn.

Deal desk example

To help you better understand how an enterprise deal desk works in reality, let’s explore a hypothetical deal between two companies.

The vendor, SaaSy, sells factory management software for industrial clients. The client, Automata, manufactures automotive parts and accessories. After SaaSy’s sales reps have sufficiently prospected and engaged Automata’s Head of Operations and made an offer, they assemble a team from different departments to hash out the details. This includes the sales manager, finance manager, legal manager, product manager, and customer success manager.

The sales manager creates a deal memo to present to the team, helping them to understand the client’s pain points, their desired solution, their timeline, and their budget. This is the culmination of months of prospecting, discovery, and engagement, and the details are presented via Zoom and sent over in a dedicated Slack channel for the deal.

The finance manager then prepares a pricing model that includes a healthy margin for SaaSy but doesn’t break the bank for Automata. This pricing model accounts for a base number of users and makes provision for extra seats to be added to the license at a nominal fee. The pricing model includes a payment structure that will see Automata paying quarterly for the software suite, with all applicable state and federal taxes included.

The legal manager creates a contract that will form the basis of SaaSy’s arrangement with Automata. This contract stipulates all the terms and conditions of the agreement, including early cancellation penalties, waivers of liability, and any applicable warranties.

The product manager presents a breakdown of the product features that specifically solve Automata’s challenges, such as mobile access for factory management, cloud-based factory data storage, and tightened security at the enterprise level.

The customer success manager maps out the onboarding sequence for the customer’s team and puts together a training pack, while being on hand to answer any pertinent questions the customer may have.

The IT Manager works on a rollout plan for SaaSy’s system in Automata’s facilities around North America. They gather information about Automata’s current tech stack, the integrations they’ll need to successfully use the product, and their security and data privacy protocols.

Finally, the deal terms are presented to the client for review. Automata approves of the terms and proceeds with implementation.

The above example may vary based on your product, industry, or client, but it gives you an idea of how a deal desk carries a deal from quote to cash to implementation. Let’s now look at a few ways to optimize this process even further.

Deal desk optimization tips

There are a few ways to optimize your deal desk for greater sales productivity, as follows:

#1 Over-communicate

Open communication lines are essential to aligning everyone on the same page. This includes communicating on elements such as client feedback, deal progress, pricing changes, and product updates. Hold daily, weekly, or monthly meetings to check in and act on any new changes quickly.

#2 Get organized

There are all kinds of ways to organize your deal desk, but we recommend setting up deal desk communication protocols that are specific to your organization. Instead of having team members share information across different tools, use dedicated channels like email, Slack, or Zoom for that purpose. The right deal desk tools will automate processes that were previously done manually and allow you to do more with less effort from your sales team.

Momentum is one such tool that allows you to build complex workflows that integrate seamlessly with Slack and Salesforce so that your team has the information they need at their fingertips (while staying auditable). Here’s what that looks like:

#3 Map out your approval workflows

It’s easier to move complex deals along when there’s a clear map of who needs to approve different elements of the deal. For example, if you’ve got a merger or acquisition, identify who needs to approve items like the purchase price and terms of the deal, the implementation plan, and the onboarding sequence.

#4 Continuously review your deal desk strategy

There’s always room for improvement, and the way you currently run deals through your deal desk might surface gaps in your workflow that you can improve. For instance, if your deal desk is still using email to manage the main stages of a deal, you can create a task board in your favorite project management tool and assign each task to the appropriate team member.

#5 Document everything

Process documentation has two main benefits. Firstly, it allows you to review each deal from beginning to end to spot areas where you can improve. Secondly, it fosters accountability and transparency among the team. Share process updates to your dedicated communications channels (e.g. Slack) and have other members of the deal desk weigh in.

Set up your enterprise deal desk

The deal desk team is crucial to your B2B deal velocity. Having a dedicated team of key stakeholders with experience across different departments ensures faster deal closure. To supercharge your deal strategy, aim to align your team, ensure everyone understands the role they are playing, and give them everything they need to make the deal process as efficient as possible.