A deal desk is a part of your business that can help maintain a strong, cohesive experience for customers, your data and the communication between your teams. It straddles that awkward point between your sales team closing an enterprise sales deal and the hand off of that deal to the customer service team and the finance team for invoicing.
This function operates within your SaaS company as a team or department that is responsible for managing deals, approving pricing and contract terms for enterprise-level sales deals. There is often a lot of negotiation and relationship maintenance that is required as well as data management. The deal desk team works closely with account executives, legal teams, and finance teams to ensure that you are able to close deals that adhere to your standard limits of agreement. This includes assessing the financial and legal risks associated with a deal, ensuring that discounts that the sales team are giving and contract terms are in line with what the founders are interested in and within the bounds of pricing models, as well as negotiating with customers as needed. Overall, the deal desk is responsible for managing all of the commercial and financial aspects of the sales process.
Why is a deal desk important to have in your business?
A deal desk is important to have in a SaaS companies sales pipeline for a lot of reasons and they will all help you to scale:
Consistency: A deal desk will make sure that all sales deals are structured and priced consistently, and help to renegotiate those that aren’t back into the right place, which helps to prevent your account executives from giving away too much in terms of percentage discount or making promises that the company can’t keep (the stuff of CSM nightmares).
Compliance: A deal desk helps to ensure that all sales deals are in line with legal and financial regulations as well as what you deem are requirements for your company, which can reduce risk in the future (VC’s are always looking at this).
Profitability: A deal desk helps to ensure that sales deals are profitable for the company and that your team isn’t being slowed down by red tape. By assessing the financial risks associated with a deal they will be able to raise questions to decision makers and to negotiate terms that are better for the company.
Scalability: A deal desk helps to scale sales operations by providing a central point of control and oversight for all sales deals, this will help to centralize things but it will also ensure that you can gather the data you need from deals as they go through the sales cycle
Speed and Flexibility: A deal desk can accelerate the sales process by providing a centralized team to quickly review and approve deals, it helps a lot to have this in place as your AE’s will know exactly where to go for answers.
Overall, having even a rudimentary deal desk in place helps to get your company’s sales humming, helps your integrate contract management with procurement and makes the process efficient, profitable, and compliant with all of your legal needs, which will lead to faster growth.
When should I start my deal desk function?
The size you should be at to start a deal desk function depends on a few factors, including the size and complexity of the deals that you are closing, the company’s growth goals, and the company’s attitude to risk tolerance.
Sales volume and how complex deals are: As the number of deals goes up and the complexity of the company’s deals increases, it becomes very important to have people in place to work closely with your sales team. Once you are edging towards 80-100 large enterprise deals that are renewing annually you’ll be getting towards this
Revenue goals: As the company’s growth goals are growing, it becomes more important to have a process in place to start to make sales deals more frictionless, in order to close more deals and increase revenue.
Risk tolerance: The founder’s risk tolerance should be considered when deciding whether to establish a deal desk function. Risk will come in the form of the team not having guardrails in place as to what they can and can’t agree to.
In general, your startup should start considering a deal desk function when you’re selling large and complex deals and when your team is starting to feel the pain of either red tape slowing them down or when you don’t have the data you need to give feedback and create improvements.
As a rule of thumb, it’s likely that if a SaaS company is selling into enterprise and you’re getting to around 80-100 customers or if you’re getting to the point that you’re adding on 2-3 new customers a month you’ll be in an area of growth that will benefit from a deal desk function. That’s when you need to start asking what is a deal desk?