Elaine Tsai explains how the Product team at Twilio used Deal Desks as a valuable resource to learn how customers respond to products, pricing, and business intelligence.
Deal desk is a place where complex, high value deals can be discussed between sales, finance, and product. At a well run deal desk, members of sales present a short summary of the buyer’s journey and the deal being reviewed, its value and strategic importance.
Creating an effective deal desk can be especially useful to help the sales team move quickly and close customers that have unique circumstances. While 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 contract appropriate for the customer based on the summary presented through discussion with finance, sales, product and other stakeholders relevant at your company.
For product managers, especially early in the company deal desk can be an invaluable place to learn more about how customers may be responding to the products, it’s pricing, and capture any business and competitive intelligence.
For finance, deal desks help make revenue forecasting more predictable and are the place to enforce margin requirements.
Responsibilities of Product at deal desk
The customers and deals that typically come to deal desk are complex, unique, and high value. For product managers, this means three things.
- The customer is currently a power user of your product.
- The customer is pushing the boundaries of your product, platform, or pricing.
- The customer and their use case is likely interesting and different than the typical user.
Since these signals are coming from current or serious buyers, they can be extremely useful in informing you, as a product manager and business owner, where your product may need to change and grow.
Here were some of my learnings after sitting through a number of deal desk meetings.
1. The customer is currently a power user of your product.
As power users, these customers may be using your product differently. They are expected to have usage volumes much higher than most other customers and when operating at a scale that is larger than the average customer will likely interact with your product in different ways in order to seamlessly deal with their scale.
Paying attention to the customers’ buying journey and current interactions with your products may help you discover a new product or feature request that are important to customers of large scale. For example, at Twilio, a natural line of questioning from a customer after discussing the cost of their expected traffic would be how quickly could they send the messages. Some of these customers came to us because they were planning on launching new use-cases that would greatly increase their usage while others weren’t able to get the speed of throughput they wanted on other platforms. We quickly learn that since the speed of delivering messages is so valued, customers were willing to pay for higher throughput.
2. The customer is pushing the boundaries of your product, platform,
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 possible scale of these customers. Deal desk is a venue where you can quickly be made aware of the expected scale of new customers and work with your engineering team to plan and prioritize for future usage traffic.
As part of the deal desk negotiation process, customers will also push the boundaries of your price whether because they expect to bring more volume than the average customer or because they’ve found alternative solutions. While a one-off deal is nothing to be alarmed by, if there’s 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 is 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 really empathized with the work they were doing. They were a huge reason why we driven to build the company. In the beginning since we weren’t set up to assist not-for-profits more formally, the deal desk often became a place where we could figure out ways we could support these organizations as we formalized other programs to support these customers. As we continue to grow the company, we were later able to build Twilio.org and create formal dedicated resources to support these customers.
Deal desk can provide valuable insight for product managers. As you attend your next deal desk keep the following questions top of mind:
- Where are our products priced competitively and not competitively?
- How can I help my team plan for scaling our infrastructure?
- What types of customers and use cases are pushing pricing pressures?
- Are there unique market and product opportunity we haven’t noticed before?
Article written by Elaine Tsai.
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