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The Do‘s and Don’ts for Creating, Implementing, and Optimizing Your Deal Desk

The Do‘s and Don’ts for Creating, Implementing, and Optimizing Your Deal Desk

A sales negotiation Deal Desk can streamline your selling process and provide critical guidance and support for standard and complex deals alike.  This week, the CFO|Circle gathered to discuss the best practices for creating, implementing and optimizing a Deal Desk operation.  Joining us on the call were VIPs Alyssa Filter and Tom Staub from Clari, Bong Suh, formerly of Dynamic Signal, Marc Friend from SunBasket, and Adam Vojdany and Jeff Walton from Simon Data.  Here are the takeaways from our conversation:

Why Create a Deal Desk?  

In general, our VIPs agreed that companies have many different motivations for implementing a Deal Desk operation. Still, most frequently, it’s when they’re looking to add more support for deal structure.  The Deal Desk’s common goal is to help normalize the negotiation process as much as possible for your sales reps.  Over time, the normalization of the process helps increase the velocity of deals and ensure that only truly exceptional deals require additional approval.  Finally, the implementation of a Deal Desk can help to bridge the gap between finance and sales.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Deal Desks

HIRING AND IMPLEMENTATION

DON’T wait too long to stand up a Deal Desk – The earlier you can normalize the process for sales reps, the better they will perform in the long run. Get involved early, have really clear guidelines, and standardize which tools reps can use during negotiations so people can be as self-service with their deals as possible.

DO consider carefully where your Deal Desk reports. Many peers agreed that the function should report to the CFO, as the CFO is in charge of company risk.

DO run Deal Desk initially as a partnership between finance and sales, with frequent collaboration between the Finance, Sales, and Legal teams. As the company and deal quantity scale and the deals become more standardized, hire someone dedicated to lead the operation.

DO look for candidates with a Deal Desk experience or a strong “Chief of Staff” profile – While technical sales or finance expertise is certainly helpful, but effective project management is paramount in this role. The ideal candidate has top-notch organizational skills, high EQ and is adept at generating consensus. If you can, it’s well worth hiring someone who has actually run a Deal Desk before.

DEAL DESK OPERATIONS

DO ensure your Deal Desk acts more as an advisor than as an operator. It’s not there to drive the full negotiations, just to advise sales reps through the process.

DON’T give sales reps the opportunity to simply hand off all negotiation to the Deal Desk after making the sale.  Similarly, forcibly taking negotiations “away” from the sales team and handing it off to the Deal Desk can be disempowering for the reps. Instead, spend time developing playbooks, documenting best practices, and clarifying to the sales team which levers they don’t need approval to use and which levers they need to escalate up.

DON’T make your CFO the bottleneck for all approvals. Encourage the development of playbooks and normalization of practices early so that the executive team doesn’t need to bless every unique deal.

DO consider carefully where your Deal Desk reports. Many peers agreed that the function should report to the CFO, as the CFO is in charge of company risk.

DON’T let the approval of a unique deal change the way a certain team operates without first getting direct buy-in from that team. If you need to make these kinds of exceptions, be transparent and work together to figure out what the impacted team(s) need to do to adapt for the exception.

“As I always say, time kills deals, and the most important thing Deal Desk can do is speed up the process of getting the deal done.” – Bong Suh

MEASURING PERFORMANCE

DO establish KPIs for measuring Deal Desk effectiveness as soon as you begin. To have a complete picture of how the addition of a Deal Desk is impacting your overall business, it’s important to establish a baseline and pay close attention to the metrics as time goes on.

DO track changes in deal velocity, which can be a key barometer for sales efficiency improvements.

DO use a Customer Lifecycle Management platform. This kind of software can help you track where negotiations are hitting delays and identify what (or who) is creating them.  

DO track the number of deals that make it through a “fast track” process. How many deals were able to get done completely without outside help from the Deal Desk or other executives? This is a great number to focus on increasing over time.

Although CFO|Circle peers agreed that the specifics of Deal Desks will be unique to every company, many of the principles remain consistent: start early, focus on cross-functional collaboration, and strive to normalize the sales process as much as possible.

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