What is a deal desk and how does it help sales and finance?

As companies strive for growth and market competitiveness, deal management problems can get in the way.

Deals either slip through the cracks, lost in the chaos of disorganized processes and missed opportunities, or organizations grapple with pricing inconsistencies, unclear approval workflows, and a lack of visibility into the intricate dance of negotiations.

A deal desk is the answer — and it could play a critical role in every aspect of your sales process.

What is a deal desk?

deal desk is a cross-functional team that facilitates the quote-to-cash process. It’s a centralized hub that brings together stakeholders from sales, finance, marketing, customer success, and legal to ensure involvement and buy-in to improve the sales process. Usually, the deal desk is focused on complex and high value deals rather than standard deals.

For businesses offering complex recurring revenue models, the deal desk is an even more critical touchpoint to ensure pricing terms defined during the sales process align with billing and revenue recognition best practices.

Related: How to bridge the gap between sales and finance

The changing role of a deal desk

Due to digital transformation and technology, the deal desk’s role and function have evolved.

A deal desk used to handle transactional functions such as pricing and contract management. Now, it has cross-functional collaboration with sales and finance.

Due to limited technology integration and the absence of specialized software, its operations relied heavily on manual processes for deal management, documentation, and approval workflows. This has led to reactive decision-making.

The modern deal desk is customer-centric: a strategic enabler with extensive cross-functional collaboration. Unlike before, it now uses automation, technology, specialized software, and analytics for data-driven decision-making.

A deal desk also actively contributes to risk mitigation and ensures compliance with regulations, addressing non-standard risks early in the sales cycle.

Related: Refine your deal desk to keep the CPQ process on financial track

How does a deal desk work?

A deal desk performs a highly specialized function within an organization. It manages, facilitates, structures, reviews, and approves highly complex deals. Although operations vary across organizations, here’s how a typical deal desk works:

  1. Initiation

    The sales team identifies a potential business opportunity or deal. It could be a new customer, or an existing one where there’s an opportunity for renewal, upsell, or cross-sell. Typically, the deal desk moves from high-touch to low-touch.

  2.  Deal request

    The sales team forwards the deal request to the appropriate team within the desk. The request includes the product or service involved, the pricing, terms, and any other necessary details.

  3.  Deal desk review

    Depending on what teams make up your deal desk, they will review the deal request to ensure it aligns with the company’s strategic goals, pricing guidelines, and compliance requirements. The team will factor in profitability, risk, and strategic fit.

    A deal desk depends on cross-functional collaboration. The deal may require input from finance to review its financial viability or legal to ensure compliance. The deal desk is integral in creating deals with financial structures that require no reconfiguration or rebooking when finance teams are closing the books monthly or annually.

  4.  Documentation and approval

    The deal desk creates or reviews relevant documentation, such as contracts or proposals. It sets the approval workflows to ensure key stakeholders review it.

  5.  Negotiation support

    The deal desk may provide support during negotiations. It helps structure deals according to both company objectives and customer needs. This involves balancing flexibility and profitability.

  6. Deal closure

    The deal desk finalizes the deal once the necessary approvals are in place. They ensure all parties have signed the required documentation and the deal meets any financial or legal requirements.

Which teams should be involved in a deal desk?

While the reporting structures for deal desks will depend on your organization, goals, and structure, the most critical drivers of their success are the degree of authority they are given over the deal structure and finance’s ability to exert control over the process.

Some companies place their deal desk within sales while holding them accountable to processes and procedures dictated by the finance team. Other companies have stricter rules and don’t allow anyone sitting within the sales organization to enter quotes to ensure that every order is set up correctly from the start.

Deal desk and the perfect accounting-sales relationship

A deal desk will typically consist of the following teams:

Sales team

Sales representatives are the deal initiators. They ensure every proposal passing through the deal desk aligns with company guidelines and strategies.

Finance and accounting

They evaluate deals’ financial viability, revenue impact, and potential risk. They also help set pricing structures. During the deal desk, your finance and accounting teams can answer questions about discounts, bundles, one-time fees, and the impacts of these pricing levers on revenue recognition.

Legal team

The legal team is crucial to ensure deal terms comply with legal requirements. They prevent the unit from getting on the wrong legal footing.

Operations and delivery teams

Before committing to any deal, assess your capacity, resources, and logistics. This team ensures the company can fulfill any commitments included in a deal.

Marketing team

While the marketing team’s primary function is to drive potential customers to the business, they also contribute to a deal desk by providing insights into market trends, customer preferences, and competitive positioning.

Customer success or support teams

If you want to grow your net revenue retention, a customer success team needs to be involved. Customer success is important to every organization’s growth, and the team plays a vital role in shaping deal structures that lead to long-term customer satisfaction and retention.

IT and technology teams

IT teams implement and integrate the necessary technology infrastructure for seamless deal operations. This includes deal management software, CRM systems, CPQ software, and other tools.

Executive leadership

Executives and senior leaders, such as CFO and CAO, provide oversight and strategic direction. Their involvement ensures that deals align with the company’s vision, mission, and strategic goals.

Roles and responsibilities of a deal desk analyst

The following explains the basic job duties of a deal desk analyst.

Deal formation and execution

A deal desk analyst’s first job is to smoothly, quickly form and execute deals. They reduce the sales cycle and optimize profitability without compromising customer experience.

The deal desk analyst also provides recommendations on pricing and payment plans. They’re skilled at organizing complex deals that involve different products and services.

Rules and analytics guide their work, and they adjust their approach based on factors like how much discount is given and the channel or product involved.

Enhance business visibility

A deal desk improves business visibility. The team reports key performance metrics (KPIs) and facilitates regular reviews with senior executives. They provide organizations with clear insights and foresight to navigate the business landscape’s complexities.

For example, the CFO or CAO can collect finance or account insights from their department and share them with other teams to predict revenue.

Boost sales efficiency

The deal desk makes sales more efficient and effective by gathering important business insights such as the global competitive landscape, key marketing and industry trends, competitive positioning, and consumer research.

Impact of a deal desk on sales

Speed up the closing process

With stakeholders’ collaboration and efficiency, deal desks expedite closure. They reduce friction and optimize the sales process. Instead of chasing approvals, the sales team can focus on closing deals.

Prioritize deals

With a deal desk in place, sales teams can prioritize deals based on revenue potential and strategic alignment. Deals can be based on customer fit, deal size, financial impact, deal urgency and resource allocation. This prioritization enables you to focus on high-value opportunities.

Structure deals and optimize pricing

In the realm of sales, a deal desk serves as the linchpin for operational efficiency by standardizing templates and approvals.

With a deal desk management system and tools like CPQ, sales can offer flexible and custom pricing to customers based on volume of purchases, customer loyalty, and market conditions.

Customer-focused solutions

When aligned with customer-centric goals, deal desks enable sales teams to tailor solutions to customers’ needs. This personalized approach enhances customer satisfaction and builds stronger relationships.

Improve revenue and block leakage

A deal desk helps sales teams optimize revenue generation. An analyst gathers customers’ data, performs a detailed purchase history, and finds opportunities to cross-sell and upsell. It also blocks revenue leakage with proactive renewal actions — identifying customers with a close expiry date and promptly generating pertinent documentation.

How to set up a deal desk

A deal desk is only as effective as its setup. The following helps you optimize your deal desk for success.

Related: Learn how to set up a best-in-class deal desk

Strategic planning

This begins with defining clear objectives. There are various reasons to build a deal desk:

  • To improve closing speed by streamlining your deal process, approvals, and workflows to enhance decision-making
  • To maximize each deal’s value and success
  • To enable better visibility over deal status and progress

Whether you’re setting up a deal desk to improve efficiency, close more sales, manage risk, or ensure compliance, identify deal desk KPIs to measure the outcome.

After setting clear goals, it’s time to allocate resources to support your strategic plan. These resources include adequate budget, technology, and personnel.

Team formation and training

A deal desk involves an effective collaboration among stakeholders. Building a dedicated, well-equipped team with diverse skills such as sales, finance, legal, customer success, and operations is essential. Assign each team specific responsibilities.

Provide extensive training on deal desk software, company processes, and industry compliance.

Process and tools

Develop and document a streamlined, step-by-step workflow for deal processing, approval, and execution. Your deal desk will benefit from clear pricing guidelines set by finance, for example, to ensure consistency.

Another crucial aspect of a smooth process and workflow is to ensure the deal desk software integrates seamlessly with other relevant tools such as your CRM, ERPCPQ, etc.

Performance management

A deal desk is not something you set up and forget. It’s essential to analyze your success and continuously monitor KPIs. With analytics tools, identify what’s working and where there are areas for improvement. Typically, you should start seeing a reduced sales cycle time.

With the performance information you gather from analytics tools, you can make data-backed decisions, optimize processes, and foster constant improvement.

Be customer-centric

The only way a deal desk can achieve maximum results is when  it understands and prioritizes the buyer’s journey. Ensure your processes treat your customers with empathy rather than a number added to your sales list. When you show you value them, they are more likely to have a great customer experience.

But if you treat them like a metric, your process loses empathy, and they’ll likely have a poor experience or disengage during the sales cycle. This is why a customer success team is crucial to a deal desk.

Metrics to measure deal desk performance

Measuring a deal desk’s performance is crucial to drive business insights, make data-driven decisions, and optimize deal management processes. Here are some key metrics to evaluate deal desk performance:

Deal size or average deal value

This assesses a deal’s business value and impact. You want to ensure that the deal desk is helping you close high-value deals in an efficient way.

Deal size or average deal value also provide insights into the effectiveness of your pricing strategies.

Related: How to accelerate iteration on pricing, bundles, and promotions 

Win rates

This shows the percentage your team has converted from opportunities into closed deals. This metric should keep increasing. A decline indicates an issue with your deal strategy, pricing, or sales process.

Sales velocity

This is the average time a business moves from a lead (opportunity) to closure. A fast deal cycle (fewer days) shows your deal desk’s effectiveness and responsiveness. In contrast, a prolonged cycle might signify either customer hesitancy or an internal bottleneck.

Deal pipeline

Analyzing your pipeline of leads by stage, conversion rate, and deal value can help forecast revenue and identify potential issues early.

Deal margin

Deal margin measures how profitable your deal desk management is. It considers your cost, discount, and pricing strategies. A positive margin signals a profitable deal, while a negative margin indicates it’s time to reevaluate your sales cycle.

Deal volume

Refers to the number of deal tickets the deal desk processes. This metric tends to rise as you manage more complex deals but declines gradually over time. A lower number of deal tickets is preferable. This signifies your sales representatives are self-sufficient and only get involved with complex, high-value deals.

Contract error

A deal desk handles complex deals, which could involve some degree of error. Contract errors can impact customer acquisition and retention, not to mention billing and revenue recognition challenges, so aim for a low percentage.  A high rate of contract errors takes up more time and resources to fix, which prolongs your sales cycle.

Renewal rate

This measures your customer lifetime value and revenue continuity. High renewal rates signal customers are satisfied with your product or service offering. A low renewal rate indicates potential satisfaction issues.

Lower renewal rates also mean you’ll have to invest more to acquire customers to keep growing your business. Those high customer acquisition costs strain your resources.

Support your deal desk with the right technology

Each unique deal requires unique configuration. Choose a platform with built-in support for any pricing model your business may require, including subscriptions, pay-as-you-go, consumption-based pricing, and bundled products or services.

With a strategic approach to your deal desk process, supported by a flexible CPQ and billing platform that gives sales teams ability to support customer needs without causing revenue recognition issues, your finance team can help your sales organization win new business without compromising compliance.

Zuora CPQ and Zuora Billing can help your finance team streamline billing operations, automate revenue recognition, and keep your finance and revenue teams connected throughout the sales and billing cycle.

FAQs on deal desk

Who runs a deal desk?

A deal desk manager runs a deal desk. This person oversees daily operations, ensures alignment with business goals, and coordinates activities with various departments involved in the deal-making process.

What is the role of a deal desk manager?

A deal desk manager facilitates cross-functional collaboration among different stakeholders in order to create seamless sales operations.

Where does a deal desk sit in an organization?

Due to the deal desk’s close collaboration with the sales, marketing, customer success, and finance departments, it may sit directly within the sales organization or the finance team. A deal desk can also be a standalone unit that comprises various stakeholders.

What is a deal desk review?

The deal desk team comes together to thoroughly evaluate and examine a complex deal. They’ll take a look at its potential value, profitability, risk assessment, and compliance with legal, finance, and regulatory requirements.

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