Getting Deal Approval Should be Quick and Painless.
For too many companies, Sales teams view Deal Desk as the “sales disablement” function and serves as an obstacle to closing deals. In a landscape where sales reps spend less than 30 percent of their time on sales, it’s not a surprise—one more approval process to navigate can easily feel like an unnecessary hassle. But deal approval can actually enhance your sales team’s productivity and profitability if it’s structured correctly. Companies that can build deal desks that work will be better positioned to thrive in the sales landscape to come.
What Problems Can a Smarter Deal Desk Solve?
To enhance your deal approval processes, we can start by recognizing what’s not working. Organizations that struggle in this area often face a few specific challenges:
- Seller alignment with organizational strategy. Sellers are incentivized to close as many deals as possible. That’s a good thing—if they’re not offering overly favorable terms to get to a win. A deal desk that can’t enforce your pricing guidelines is going to cause more problems than it solves for your bottom line.
- Deals lost to slow processing time. On the other hand, in a quick-moving market, many customers aren’t willing to wait two weeks for everyone in your company to approve a quote, giving the advantage to companies who can get deals approved faster. Keeping the deal desk from becoming a bottleneck is critical.
- Bad deals being approved. Deal desks are often swamped with approval requests, especially during busy seasons. With the pressure on to avoid delaying deals, mistakes happen, and unprofitable deals get approved. This is particularly common for companies selling complex products.
With the strategic use of automation, a company can reduce the amount of time spent on the formalities of deal approval, speeding up straightforward deals and giving analysts more time to assess more complex ones.
Automate What You Can…
Begin your deal desk automation process by making sure your company is truly aligned on your pricing rules. What does a good deal look like? What does a bad one look like? It will be important to determine what projected margin is acceptable for the discounts the sales team is allowing. Companies will need to determine what kind of pricing is acceptable for upsells and newer versions of products and standardize contract terms to ensure proper scheduling for upsells and renewals. In an ideal scenario, many of your company’s deals will be approved or rejected with no human input, so being crystal clear about the rules your system will follow is critically important.
Automation doesn’t need to make your approval process inflexible, however. Once you’ve got your basic rules in place, you can begin to automate go-to-market dynamics into your process as well. For instance, if February is typically a slow sales month for your company, you may choose to accept a lower profit margin from a deal than you would in September. Time of year, product trends, sales rep history, and SPIF considerations can all be built into approvals automation logic—it’s up to your organization to decide when to be flexible, and to what extent. Robust and flexible criteria can sharply reduce average approval time.
…And Streamline What You Can’t Automate.
Some deals, of course, will still need human approval. Though automating most approvals will give your deal desk more bandwidth to get into the weeds on the ones that remain, it’s important to keep your process running smoothly. Analyst approvals can still be quick and easy if the reviewer is armed with relevant supporting data. Historical trends on seller behavior, product discounts, and a customer’s sold inventory can arm a financial analyst with the information they need to approve or reject a deal and guide a seller to the right contract terms to prevent multiple reviews. An automated system should provide the reviewer with not only the full deal package, but also this data to minimize cycle time. That means a reviewer can quickly make an approval decision or frame a new idea to the seller.
A Modern Tool Can Speed Up Your Deal Desk.
Achieving a faster system like the one described above is made easier with modern business solutions. Spaulding Ridge uses Anaplan and Salesforce in lockstep with each other to accelerate the process of telling a good deal from a bad one by pairing relationship management with powerful analytics—leading to less convoluted deal approval processes and a more agile go-to-market approach. If you’re curious about how your deal desk can make an impact on speed and profitability, we’re ready to talk!