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Building a Deal Desk Function in B2B

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Several events can kick off the search for your first deal desk hire. Redlines and slow legal responses may hinder your sales team. Maybe your CFO is keen to approve special deals but is in back-to-back meetings and never responds to requests. Your product bundling may be complex, your contract process behind the times, or approvals unautomated. 

Whatever the reason, deal desks can take a lot of the back-and-forth administrative work off the shoulders of your sales team, giving them back time to do what they’re best at. 


This article will cover the responsibilities of the deal desk, how your deal desk should be structured, and what to watch out for when optimizing for efficiency.

What Is a Deal Desk?

The deal desk is a centralized point of contact for the sales team to help optimize the contract process. The deal desk was originally created to help external (remote) sellers navigate processes and procedures managed by people located at the corporate headquarters. In other words, the function is intended to expedite high-priority sales and push through red tape on behalf of the salesperson.

Historically, the deal desk was a sales operations function and reported to the vice president of sales. I’ve seen the deal desk report to the chief financial officer, vice president of sales, chief revenue officer, or vice president of revenue operations. I’ve also seen a single revenue operations resource be responsible for CRM administration, compensation plan design, analytics, and deal desk.

It’s not uncommon for the deal desk function to start as a fraction of a revenue operations professional’s responsibilities. Once the sales volume or workload becomes too intensive, organizations will build a separate deal desk function. The number of people dedicated to this role depends on the automation for contracting and approvals, the complexity of the average deal or pricing model, and the sales volume every month or quarter.

Which Responsibilities Fall Under the Deal Desk?

A deal desk analyst should be primarily responsible for decreasing the average time from contract submission to contract approval by finance. This often includes:

  • Establishing a workflow for contract exceptions
  • Documenting the approval process
  • Reviewing contracts for accuracy, completeness, and any unusual modifications
  • Cross-checking that systems are updated to reflect contract details
  • Navigating internal approvals 
  • Documenting company policies
  • Reviewing accounting or ERP software entries to ensure they match the CRM and contract details

Depending on the skillset of the person being hired, they may also:

  • Be responsible for sales analytics
  • Provide summaries to the executive team about deal volume, discounts, and common exceptions
  • Work with legal to navigate redlines from potential customers
  • Help guide the sales team through negotiations
  • Provide feedback and suggestions around special discounts or product pricing
  • Train the sales organization on company policies
  • Train the sales organization on how to use the contracting product or Salesforce quote process
  • Entering contract details into accounting programs or the ERP

Fair or not, it is customary to expect deal desk representatives to work extra hours at quarter or month end. The deal desk is expected to be open until every contract submitted is final. The final result could be a rejection. If the salesperson is trying to push through a contract that violates company policies and the prospect’s office is closed for the day - preventing contract modifications - the deal is dead.

For the deal desk representative to do their job well, they must understand what the chief financial officer will and will not tolerate. The CFO doesn’t always make this easy. CFOs should communicate how they think about profit margins, how that impacts what they will and will not discount, and what kind of issues they’ve seen in the past that they want to avoid.

If they don’t proactively communicate these things, ask. It never hurts to ask.

For example, I worked at a data storage company with a cloud-based product, hardware, software, and professional services. Working with the CFO helped me understand that he had already priced the hardware as close as he was comfortable to his minimum acceptable profit margin. We made our largest profit margin for the software due to fairly minimal maintenance costs (people coding, QAing, and releasing version upgrades). Professional services, on the other hand, involved a group of costly people. 

Knowing these things, I understood that the CFO was far more likely to accept a deal that heavily discounted software – even if it was at a lower price than a deal that evenly discounted all three product categories. If a salesperson had issues with a difficult prospect and needed to cut expenses, we worked together to find an acceptable solution to prevent the painful process of iterating on a rejected proposal.

Who and How Many People Should I Hire?

Not everyone enjoys working the deal desk. The people who do well are compliant personality types. They follow the rules and pay attention to detail. They also empathize with the sales team and share a sense of urgency because they know that a salesperson’s living is tied to how many deals they close.

I’ve hired excellent deal desk people from financial backgrounds and excellent deal desk people who worked in theater. The background matters less than the attitude and ability to understand where salespeople are coming from – because sometimes things get intense. When a contract is rejected, it can surprise the salesperson, and they don’t always react well. Deal desk personnel must recognize the salesperson isn’t personally attacking them. They’re frustrated about losing out on commission.

That said, it’s never acceptable for someone to be rude, and it’s essential to hold salespeople to a consistent standard.

The number of people you hire on the deal desk depends on several factors, including the amount of automation put in place for contracting and approvals, the complexity of the average deal or pricing model, and the volume of sales every month or quarter. It’s also important to remember that the deal desk will go through very slow periods throughout the quarter.

A word of advice. Don’t overload a single resource because your deal desk only seems overwhelmed at the end of the quarter. Failing to address key deals at the end of the quarter is much worse than having an extra headcount in the first month of the quarter. Find people interested in expanding their skill sets and open to learning new things. For example, an interest in salesforce administration or analytics can help take some pressure off other team members when the quarter is slow.

The deal desk function can be seen as an entry point or stepping stone in revenue operations, but it isn’t always. Some of the highest-performing deal desk representatives I’ve known cared deeply about doing their job well and weren’t interested in other work, while others lasted 18 months before wanting to try something new.

A List of Deal Desk Gotchas

Sometimes high-end products are complex enough to warrant special circumstances with each contract. Still, early startups are usually much more willing to negotiate product and contract terms than established companies or companies with products or services at a lower price point. Common early-stage gotchas include:

  • A lack of formal, consistent contracts
  • No corporate standards for payment terms, contract length, or delivery 
  • Overly complex pricing models
  • Usage-based pricing is allowed before monitoring usage is built into the product
  • No corporate legal team
  • A single point of contract review/approvals
  • No documented approval rules
  • No standardized pricing rules

Early in a company’s journey, the biggest concern is finding early adopters and determining product market fit. The product may not be fully baked, and pricing exceptions must be made to compensate for missing functionality. In these cases, pricing will be highly variable. The CEO or CFO may be more willing to agree to proof of concepts or free trial periods.

Typically, the finance team leads the charge regarding establishing rules around pricing and legal vulnerabilities in contract terms. However, it’s not uncommon for the deal desk to spearhead these initiatives and train the sales team as standards and processes are implemented. 

However these standards are developed, the head of sales must be vocal about their support. These rules and procedures will feel like obstacles to the sales team. They must see the value in following the rules and expediting their orders.

The deal desk is essential for any sales team needing help navigating internal contract processes. A strong manager and support from sales leadership are crucial to the team’s success. Strong personnel on the deal desk team will help your organization identify pricing issues, process gaps, and opportunities for automation. We wish you the best of luck building an A+ Team!

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