If there’s one word fast-growing companies need to consider above all else, it’s “fit.”
Which use cases match your product best? Who does your product aim to help in the short term? What types of customers do you want to attract in the long term?
Attracting ideal customers isn’t a task for a single department. Engineering, Sales, Customer Success, Product, and Marketing all need to think about what types of customers they want to engage.
But the reality is your sales force wants to increase revenues and meet quotas. Plus, they’re the ones directly reaching out to new business.
When important or large opportunities are pursued without alignment across the organization, it creates much larger problems down the line.
This is why smart companies have implemented a deal desk process for evaluating promising leads.
The Deal Desk Process: How initial confrontation creates peace
Historically speaking, deal desks started as a way for brokerage firms to avoid lengthy bureaucracy and review high-value deals quickly. In an enterprise sales environment, it enables companies to evaluate large or important deals for quality-of-fit.
In other words, what do you want to add (and avoid adding) into your community of customers?
The process involves Account Executives “selling” the deal to relevant colleagues, including marketing, product, and customer success.
Preparing for deal desk meetings forces you to do your research on leads. It’s the dirty work that sometimes gets skipped in the discovery phase. You’ll be glad you did it later on. – Antoine, Aircall Account Executive
Confrontation and rejection are essential to the system. Teams must be aligned and willing to say “no” to certain opportunities.
For example, 6% monthly growth is better than 10%, if those signed clients are more certain to be on your books 18 months from now.
Young, fast-growing companies have a tendency to pursue any deal they see as winnable, but the overall vision must take priority.
In general, growth is good, but growth at any cost is dangerous. When you have too many of the wrong customers, things will go off the rails.
Disarray in the Absence of Deal Desk
What you don’t want to do is reel in clients who are a shaky fit for your product. If that happens, a few things occur.
One, it’s a problem for support. Maybe you exaggerated a use case, or maybe you mentioned a feature your product doesn’t quite have yet. If your product doesn’t deliver the advantages or features you promoted the customer success team will get grief for it.
In the moment, your product’s bright future sounds like a strong selling point. However, any deviations from your team’s projected timelines will only result in more headaches and dead ends for customer happiness. This type of behavior makes sales professionals no friends in other areas of the business.
The deal desk makes sure the right types of companies are coming down our pipeline. Poor product fits will always require customizations and special-attention that use-up valuable time and resources.– Olivia, Aircall N.A. Customer Success Manager
Plus, if it’s a particularly large deal, you may agree to contractual obligations — such as product commits — that you absolutely must fulfill.
What happens is these promises take priority over your product team’s current roadmap. Agreeing to too many of these one-off contracts will result in a sloppy product — one that’s workable for a few niche clients, but awkward for everyone else.
Plus, these ill-fitting customers can’t be pleased indefinitely. They’ll churn at much higher rates than target customer profiles.
Deviating from your company’s ICP every once-in-a-while is tolerable, but imagine if every AE was doing this to close large deals.
All of a sudden, you don’t have a product roadmap anymore — you have a smorgasbord of features that customers needed. You’re living to survive for the day.
What Your Deal Desk Could Look Like
Setting up a Deal Desk within your organization is simple, provided you take the time to establish rules and stick to them.
Step 1: Designate People and Time
Schedule a recurring meeting for Account Executives and executive-level personnel to sit down and review important opportunities. Monday mornings are ideal and are a great way to begin a productive week.
There should be representatives from all teams which are affected by new and large customers. This includes Product, Sales, and Customer Success teams.
Step 2: Determine an Agenda
All sales are valuable, but some deals will be too small or low maintenance to merit a review process. VIP leads should be determined mostly by the amount of monthly revenue they produce, but exceptions can be made if a client may expand in the future, or if they’re a particularly good market fit.
Step 3: Define and Measure Your Company’s Vision for the Future
Deals that take your team too far off your current product and marketing roadmaps should be rejected.
However, it’s important to consider where your company wants to be in 6 months, 12 months, or two years. If a deal appears in your pipeline and requires customizations to close, but they’re the exact type of customer you want to eventually target, it’s a golden opportunity.
True, the product team may have to shift priorities, but they’re completing work that was already within view.
And of course, large deals directly within your ICP shouldn’t require a second thought.
Everyone’s Ready for Success
The benefits of a deal desk are all about preparation.
The Account Executives defend why a client would be a good fit for the company and define their strategies for success.
The research they’ve gathered for the deal desk is directly applicable to the sale itself. Demos and other sales conversations will be presented with heightened confidence and knowledge.
But moreover, the rest of your team — by approving a deal — are also there as a support structure. When it comes to onboarding, support, and technical requirements, everyone knows what to expect and can prepare accordingly.
The deal can move forward with momentum. Fifty-percent-plus win-rate, here we come.
Published on January 2, 2024.