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What is a deal desk? How legal, sales & revenue ops can win together

At an early-stage company, legal needs to enable commercial colleagues so they can meet their aggressive growth targets - which isn’t always easy, with a growing workload, limited budget, and a lack of resource. A deal desk process can help the business close deals more efficiently, and help legal free up valuable time.

What is a deal desk?

A deal desk is a cross-functional team that works together to close deals more efficiently, often involving stakeholders from sales, legal, revenue operations, finance, customer success, and more - though this varies from business to business. 

What does a deal desk do?

At a rapidly-scaling business, deal desks can ensure that the company continues to meet its aggressive growth targets, without compromising on the customer journey, quality of support, or compliance issues. 

Deal desks also streamline the process through standardization; by creating contract templates, approval guidelines, FAQs, and so on, commercial teams can speed up the sales cycle, closing deals more efficiently without any team acting as a bottleneck along the way. 

If you’re interested in setting up a deal desk for your business to improve the contract process, hit the button below - otherwise, read on to learn more.

Who runs the deal desk? 

This responsibility of running a deal desk usually falls on revenue operations teams. Sometimes the revenue operations manager will take on the project of centralizing information from various teams. In larger businesses, there may be a deal desk manager or deal desk specialist who advises the sales team and helps reps close more deals.

Why is a deal desk important?

A deal desk is important because it can empower businesses to scale faster, reducing the admin work involved in closing deals - and especially in a high-growth startup setting, this kind of enablement is invaluable. In a startup, some teams may double or triple in headcount while other teams don’t grow at all, so it's useful to find solutions that prevent lean teams from acting as blockers to the wider business.

Legal and sales are a great example - the legal team at a high-growth company usually consists of one or two lawyers, often serving a business well into the hundreds. In the space of a year, legal headcount may only increase by one - and by comparison, the sales team can easily grow from five reps to 50 in that same time.

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By setting up a deal desk, legal teams can:

  • Enable sales to self-serve as they close deals
  • Reduce their involvement in lengthy processes, such as contract review or contract negotiation
  • Mitigate the risk of sales bypassing legal to get signatures on contracts, or sending out documents with outdated terms
  • Spend more time on the work that really matters - like long-term strategy planning

There are several ways legal can get involved in streamlining the sales cycle, which we’ll explore below.

What is legal’s role in a deal desk?

Creating that oversight involves mitigating risk - and at a growing business, there are a lot of potential risks that legal needs to address, such as contracts, information security (or infosec) and compliance. 

Let’s explore all three of these points to see how legal can better enable the business.

What is the deal desk process?

Streamlining the deal desk contract process

Most scaling businesses agree and manage their contracts in the same way: through existing tools in the company. You likely know of the manual process by now, which involves:

  • A sales rep downloading a contract template from a shared drive, and manually populating the Word document
  • Sales then saving the document as a PDF, and emailing it to the counterparty
  • Getting legal involved to negotiate the document with the counterparty’s legal team, leading to back-and-forth discussions and lengthy email chains
  • Eventually getting a signature on the document, either through a wet signature or via an eSignature tool like DocuSign

It’s clearly a lengthy, time-consuming workflow, and it creates several black holes where legal doesn’t have visibility on the contract - for example, at points where the counterparty is amending the contract without tracked changes, or where legal isn’t copied into communications between sales and the counterparty. 

This lack of visibility makes it difficult for the legal team to enable sales to self-serve - but on the other hand, the sales team should be the ones responsible for using the contracts. How can legal enable self-serve on contracts whilst maintaining visibility on the workflow? There are a few options legal can follow: 

  1. Standardize key terms. Setting a standard for commonly-used clauses in contracts minimizes negotiations and reduces the risk of sales reps freestyling terms. This also eliminates the need for legal review on each contract - lawyers know what to expect with standardized terms, and they only need to get involved when the counterparty wants to challenge these terms. A contract automation platform that allows teams to create contract templates and restrict editing access can help with this
  2. Boost visibility on the process. All-in-one contract automation platforms like Juro can also help businesses agree and manage contracts in a unified workspace - ensuring that there’s visibility on every stage of the lifecycle. With everything from contract creation to negotiations to signature taking place in-browser, legal don’t need to worry about losing oversight on the contract
  3. Make contracts data-driven. Automating legal documents can help teams get data on the end-to-end lifecycle, which allows legal to understand where exactly the business can save time. Is there a certain clause that’s constantly challenged in negotiations with the counterparty? Can legal implement a Q&A workflow to reduce the risk of human error and speed up the contract creation process? Having this information to hand is useful - it means everyone involved in the deal desk can lean on an automated system, rather than an individual, to provide contract data and analytics 

Automating information security

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Information security, or infosec, is a responsibility that often falls with legal. This involves making sure the business’ privacy and security procedures are watertight. It’s important for legal to equip colleagues with the information they need, but it can also be challenging, especially without budget and resource for new legal software. 

Creating a privacy-focused culture is key, especially at a high-growth company selling software-as-a-service, for example. As the business scales, and the product develops, the questions surrounding privacy and information security will also change - and keeping up with those changes can be time-consuming for a lean legal team.

One way legal can enable colleagues in a deal desk with the most accurate and up-to-date information is by setting up a chatbot that can answer the most frequently asked questions. 

As an AI tool, this chatbot can use machine learning to understand the variations of questions colleagues may ask, and direct them to the correct resource. This takes legal out of the equation and automates that knowledge for the business to easily access.

This can also empower sales to find answers to their questions in a fraction of the time, speeding up the sales cycle without legal involvement. 

Monitoring company-wide compliance 

Larger businesses have the luxury of internal audit functions to tackle compliance issues. At smaller companies, however, this falls onto legal’s plate.

And it’s not easy - as the business scales, it’s vital that legal maintains oversight on compliance issues. Whether it’s financial reporting, key contract terms, or privacy policies, colleagues need to be able to access this information as and when they need it, in order to remain compliant. 

How can legal ensure colleagues have this access, without sinking too much of their valuable time into this? This involves empowering other members of the team to self-serve on that knowledge. 

  1. Online trainings. Legal can create lessons on certain topics, such as contract terms, and upload these sessions to a shared space where colleagues can access regularly. These can also be included in introductory sessions with new joiners, to make sure everyone is aligned
  2. Q&A opportunities. Legal can attend weekly meetings with the commercial teams to give colleagues an opportunity to raise questions and concerns during the call. This provides a useful insight into the gaps of knowledge, allowing legal to address those in informal how-to sessions or dedicated trainings 
  3. Company showcases. More significant changes, such as regulatory updates, require a larger session. Legal can deliver a company-wide presentation to discuss these compliance issues and, more importantly, how these issues impact the business. With deal desk stakeholders, it’s essential that legal provides the right information to empower colleagues to discuss these issues with customers and counterparties

How to implement a deal desk

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If you’re considering setting up a deal desk, here are some tips to get you started. 

  1. Set clear objectives, and define expectations. Before doing anything else, it’s important to establish what the deal desk will achieve. Defining roles of different colleagues is also important; having these objectives, key results, and  defined roles in place will ensure that all teams involved are on the  same page.
  2. Make sure the  teams involved are aligned. Both stakeholders involved, and the resources they provide, need to be aligned so  the  deal desk can run effectively. This will ensure a reliable, seamless flow of information that’ll help sales close deals without needing to raise questions. In legal’s case, this may include providing a page of answers to frequently asked questions, so sales don’t need to contact legal every time they negotiate a contract.
  3. Enable teams to collaborate effectively. The deal desk needs authority and accountability to make decisions without getting others involved - so make sure they’re empowered to do so. For example, legal teams can enable sales to make decisions on non-standard contract terms, or set up an approval workflow that requires legal review each time a contract deviates from the predefined terms.
  4. Don’t forget your most important stakeholder - the customer. The deal desk should help sales close deals faster, but not at the expense of the customer experience. Make  sure you prioritise the customer throughout the sales cycle; a poor customer experience can lead to lost momentum, disengagement, and a poor first impression of both the business and the teams they’ve collaborated with. And if the client or customer has had a substandard experience, sales won’t be getting signatures on dotted lines - no matter how efficient the deal desk is.
  5. Consider implementing deal desk software. Deal desk software, or sales automation software, can simplify how teams manage and maintain the deal desk. Integrating this software with sales’ chosen CRM can also create a two-way flow of data, keeping everything up-to-date and helping teams maintain version control

Frequently asked questions about deal desks

What is deal desk review?

Deal desk review is the process of a cross-functional team coming together to assess the implications, value and importance of a complex, high value deal. A deal desk review typically involves a presentation by the sales function about the details of a specific deal and this is then discussed in more detail. 

Other departments then respond by providing their input on matters such as contract terms, pricing, quotes, and timings. Following a deal desk review, most deals will receive a final, cross-functional approval. 

What is a deal desk manager?

A deal desk manager is an individual that’s responsible for ensuring that the deal desk process runs smoothly. They are typically responsible for:

  • Co-ordinating discussion between different departments
  • Providing (and organising) the necessary documentation throughout the process
  • Liaising with different teams to ensure fair and healthy communication
  • Setting approval workflows and processes 
  • Reporting on sales deals as they progress and supporting the finance team with revenue reporting

Where does a deal desk sit in an organization?

Deal desks typically sit in the sales operations function within organizations. However, since deal desks are comprised cross-functional teams, various different departments will have an influence over the deals managed within a deal desk. This means that it is more of a centralized hub than one that sits exclusively within the sales function.

Looking to implement a deal desk?

Legal teams don’t scale in the same way as the rest of the business, so deal desk strategies that empower teams to spot and resolve legal problems without getting legal involved are invaluable. By enabling self-serve on these processes, legal can ensure the business continues to scale, while eliminating repetitive tasks from their workload. 

Feeling buried under manual work created by increasing deal volumes? Get in touch to see how Juro can automate the process, mitigate risk, and eliminate the repetitive work. Hit the button below to get started.

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