Deal Desk

What is Deal Desk?

Elaine Tsai
Sep 23, 2018

Creating an effective deal desk can be especially useful in helping the sales team move quickly and close customers with unique circumstances.

While the forum and format of deal desk may change as a company matures at its core, the goal of deal desk is to agree upon a unique pricing deal and the appropriate contract for the customer. This goal is typically achieved through discussion with finance, sales, product, and other stakeholders relevant to your company.

What is a Deal Desk?

Deal desk is where complex, high-value deals can be discussed between sales, finance, and product. At a well-run deal desk, sales members present a summary of the buyer’s journey, the deal being reviewed, its value, and strategic importance.

For product managers, especially early in the company, deal desk can be invaluable to learn more about how customers may be responding to the products, their pricing, and capture any business and competitive intelligence.

Responsibilities of Product at Deal Desk

The customers and deals that typically come through deal desk are complex, unique, and of high value to your business. For product managers, this means three things:

  1. The customer is currently a power user of your product.
  2. The customer is pushing the boundaries of your product, platform, or pricing.
  3. The customer and their use case are likely interesting and different than your typical user.

Since these signals are coming from current or serious buyers, they can be extremely useful in informing you and your team where your product and the business may need to change and grow.

After sitting through a number of deal desk meetings at Twilio, here are some of my learnings.

1. The customer is currently a power user of your product.

As power users, these customers are expected to have usage volumes much higher than most other customers. When operating at a scale much larger than the average customer, they may also need to interact with your product in different ways to deal with this scale seamlessly.

Paying attention to the customers’ buying journey and current interactions with your products may help you discover new products or features important to these customers.

For example, at Twilio, a natural line of questioning from a customer after discussing the cost of their expected traffic would be how quickly they could send their messages. Some of these customers came to us because they were planning to launch new use cases that would greatly increase their usage, while others couldn’t get the speed of throughput they wanted on other platforms. We quickly learned that the speed of delivering messages was an extremely valued feature, and customers were willing to pay for the higher volumes of throughput.

2. The customer is pushing the boundaries of your product, platform, or pricing.

Especially with platform products, power users may not only be interacting with your product differently, but they may also be pushing the scalability of your product infrastructure. While the large volume of usage is welcomed, it’s important that your product’s infrastructure can handle the scale of these customers. Deal desk is a venue where you can quickly be made aware of the potential scale of new customers early in the sales pipeline and work with your engineering team to plan and prioritize future usage traffic. This allows your team to easily provide reliable service while your sales team goes out to sell larger and larger deals.

As part of the deal desk negotiation process, existing customers may also attempt to push the pricing boundaries, whether because they expect to bring more volume and want a new contract or because they’ve found an alternative solution. While a one-off deal is nothing to be alarmed by if there is a trend, it may be a sign that you and your team need to reevaluate your pricing strategy.

3. The customer and their use case are likely interesting and different than the typical user.

Deal desk will often also bring in a number of unique customers that may not have the same budget or buyer’s journey as your typical customer. This isn’t necessarily a bad sign as it may help you discover a new market and customer base.

At Twilio, we noticed a wave of not-for-profit use-cases where our price point was much higher than the typical budget. We loved these use cases and empathized with the work they were doing. They were a huge reason why we were driven to build the products we did. Early on in the life of the business, we weren’t set up to assist not-for-profits more formally, though. This meant deal desk often became a place where we could figure out how to support these organizations. As the company grew, we were later able to build and create more formal resources to support these customers.

Deal desk can provide valuable insight for product managers. As you attend your next deal desk, keep the top of the following questions of mind:

  • Where are our products priced competitively? Does it attract the customer we expect?
  • How can I help my team plan for scaling our infrastructure with potential new businesses?
  • What types of customers and use cases are giving pricing pressures?
  • Are there unique market and product opportunities we haven’t noticed before?
Head of Product Management

Elaine Tsai

Elaine enjoys building simple products for complex problems. In her free time, you'll find her hiking, training for triathlons, or grilling.

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