Deal management is the discipline of creating a consistent sales process, for the benefit of not just salespeople, but also marketing, customer success, finance, and – above all – for the end-customers themselves.
You’ll know when you’re successful at this discipline when:
- New AEs going through sales training can be told exactly what the exit criteria of each CRM stage is, and how long the average opportunity spends in each stage
- Prospective customers have a consistent experience across the board when considering buying your solution
- Sales leadership and the head of finance can both inspect customer contact history, see the same data, and predictably forecast pipeline conversion
In this post, I’ll walk you through deal management, its benefits, what technology sales teams need, and how to implement this discipline in an organization.
What Is Deal Management?
Think of deal management strategy as the B2B equivalent of what Six Sigma is for manufacturers: maintaining quality along with consistency to produce the same great product every time, while iterating toward continuous improvement. Metaphorically, it’s “the arrows on the floor at IKEA”, or the “guard rails on a bowling alley lane”.
Put dryly, deal management is: the structured container in which the selling experience happens. Deal tracking is when sales management maps out the path that deals follow from beginning to end. It also means reviewing the path of any one specific deal to see how it compares to the prescribed process.
Why does Deal Management matter so much? Well, salespeople waste too much time in CRM, not just by doing excess admin work, but also from just plain old not knowing what exactly they should be doing to move deals forward. The CRM should be the source of truth, yes: but it should be a proactive and prescriptive guide, not a time suck.
Technology should serve your process, not the other way around. In fact, that’s where sales pipeline software comes in—it guides and prescribes actions to salespeople, and allows for deep sales cycle analysis, while letting the CRM become just the source of truth and not necessarily the operating system for selling.
Streamlining and connecting each part of the sales cycle into a coherent deal management system also ensures consistency, because all of your team’s deals follow the same playbook and best practices, allowing the focus to be on each customer’s unique situation and goals. This is one key ingredient for creating an environment where sellers do their best work.
How to Implement Deal Management to Run Better Sales Teams
Here are steps that you should follow to ensure sales teams’ buy-in to the deal management process that you develop.
In the first step, focus on these three things.
- Assess current sales processes: Evaluate the existing sales and deal processes to identify areas of improvement and define how your sales process aligns with how your customers buy solutions like yours.
- Define objectives: Set clear goals for what you want your sales reps to achieve with deal management.
- Create clear deal management processes: You’re building these based on the stages discussed earlier. They cover the entire deal management workflow and are vital to consistency in the sales process.
Speaking of which: you should be able to translate this process to your customer, to teach them how they should be buying! Because often, they won’t always know.
Process design and optimization
You now have a deal management strategy. It’s time to put it into action, while understanding that it won’t be set in stone forever as your company evolves.
- Workflow design: Develop workflows and templates that outline the steps involved in managing and closing deals.
- Automation: Distinguish opportunities to automate repetitive tasks within the deal management process.
These deal cycle elements must be documented and accessible in your deal management system. You might need to do some customization and simplification of your underlying CRM, too.
For your deal management objectives to deliver results, you must manage data effectively through:
- Ensuring the collection and storage of data collection related to deals is systematic, and nobody is spending late nights until 10pm in the office, doing and undoing WorkBench and DataLoader jobs, because there’s no consistent data management process in place. Yes, we’ve done that before. No, it’s not a fun way to spend an evening, or four.
- Using data analytics to gain insights into how well the deal management process is working, and presenting that information to the executive team
Team training & enablement
Once the process is ready for action, it’s time to get sellers acclimated so they adopt it. Before you send your sales team out into the world, you’ll need to review the data quality:
- Is the most recent data about prospects present in CRM?
- Do sellers have information on product features, updates, and discount flexibility?
- Are salespeople empowered to handle prospecting, note-taking, report creation, and closing with minimal admin effort?
Before you do any training, let your sales team know how important it is to their success. As you train, you’ll need to engage your team with:
- Actionable, concise, hands-on walkthroughs of the processes and tools
- Access to continuous learning with a system that offers on-demand resources
With this information, sellers will be able to handle each situation with confidence.
After addressing any gaps in the pre-deal stage, you’ll work with your team on assigning them responsibilities for different stages of the deal. Some sales leaders like to define Service Level Agreements across their sales teams and the marketing department, outlining when and how SDRs/BDRs step in, how far they take each lead, and when and how everyone passes a lead to another teammate. Here, you should optimize for the customer experience as much as possible: leaders should enable reps to roll out the red carpet for prospects.
The main ‘meat’ of deal management is the art and science of taking prospects from what feels to them like the start of the sales cycle – when they’re Interested In Your Solution – to nearing the end, when they’ve Decided To Work With You. You probably won’t call your pipeline stages by those names, but the purpose here is to define each stage from the beginning of that phase, to the end, and map those to stages in your CRM. Make sure salespeople are taught examples of what it means to be in the “Discovery” Stage for example, and specifically what must happen for a deal to move beyond that to the “Proposal” phase.
Define stages in terms of Verbs: the selling activity that is happening, while a deal is in a particular stage. For example, during the Negotiation stage, negotiation is not something you’re “hoping to do”, it’s something you are already actively doing, and the deal only exits that stage once negotiations are finished: which is defined as… you get the picture.
Stages describe activities. Exit criteria are what must have been done to change the stage to the next one. Write all of this down and implement it in your deal management system.
Deal negotiation parameters are what, if any, legroom given to sales to negotiate terms and/or price. It’s critical to not leave money on the table by leaving this open to chance. A study on sales negotiations found that top-performing negotiators know how to come in high and adjust down. While we think that generalization is making Chris Voss’s ears burn and his eye-twitch, the important thing is to give salespeople a process for negotiating whereby they won’t be able to bring in a bad deal, as long as they stick to the parameters you specify.
Deal management software can help reinforce these parameters by providing reps with battle cards, stage exit criteria that remind them of how to approach negotiation, alert them of approaching renewal dates, and other valuable activities that lead to high-quality, proactive negotiation.
As with anything, you want to monitor performance in your deal management. Do this by:
- Defining metrics and KPIs that you and your other department heads have agreed on
- Regularly reviewing performance against objectives
Continuous monitoring improves deal management for organizations because it’s not something to set and forget. It’s a landscape where changes, internal and external, impact selling. In particular, as the organization matures, you’ll need to evolve and professionalize your process. You can offer sellers additional tools to support this, such as:
- Templates that guide sellers through sales calls by prompting them to collect the most needed deal information
- Playbooks that provide sales reps with the content they need to initiate better conversations and win more deals
Performance monitoring and improving them should also be data-driven. Analyzing the deal management process can render light-bulb moments and insights on what to adjust. For example, you may find a common objection that buyers have and sellers struggle to counter, so you focus on creating new negotiation parameters.
The Benefits of Deal Management
Excellent sales leaders thrive in the day to day activity of measuring, improving, and scaling their department’s ability to manage the progression of deals through the pipeline.
If you aren’t spending most of your day on a combination of deal management process improvement and sales coaching, I’ll try to convince you to do so.
Sales process predictability
When you read the part of “The Challenger Sale” describing the types of salespeople (relationship manager, hard worker, problem solver, lone wolf, challenger, etc)… did you have a vision of your own chaotic department of sellers all following different processes? Or did you picture your team as diverse in personality but highly aligned toward one consistent way of operating?
If you want to be a less-stressed sales leader, do everything in your power to provide structure intelligently for your team. They’ll appreciate the firm leadership, not having to reinvent the wheel on each deal, and you’ll finally be able to forecast win rates and sales cycles due to consistency in how your team handles opportunities. Won’t that be nice, when your CEO asks for how sales is pacing for the month, and you want to give a confident answer?
Improving process predictability looks like this: make a hypothesis about how you should be selling; coach your team in real-time as they do it; measure how that goes; and then finally, update your hypothesis and revamp the sales process based on your findings. Over time, you’ll be doing less revamping, and more tweaking and refining. Stability and scalability will be within your grasp.
Improved forecasting and planning
Does your sales forecast resemble a dart board, where you compute the weighted average probability from a Salesforce report but know that this has no basis in reality and you’re just throwing a dart at a dashboard? You’re not alone, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Getting sales forecast accuracy into the single digits is possible if your AEs are following intelligent guard rails that you’ve defined in your deal management process, and if you’ve encouraged the thorough adoption of a sales pipeline software.
Want your finance manager to buy you and your Revenue Operations manager some lunch as a thank-you? Don’t forget to continually reinforce the adoption of your deal management tool. Buying a tool is only ⅓ of the battle, after all.
Enhanced collaboration and communication
Communication and collaboration between sales and other teams can improve deal management in several ways. First, all the necessary data about a deal is in one place and is accessible, so there’s no confusion about the deal stage and whether the exit criteria has been reached.
Second, salespeople have received automated note-taking assistance on each meeting, and don’t need to defend themselves against an onslaught of “where are your notes on this deal?!” messages that they dread. So they’re much more likely to enjoy spending time in pipeline review meetings talking about how to actually sell more products.
Third, improving collaboration and communication ensures everyone stays on top of deals. It’s easy for these to fall through the cracks when teams are unaware of what others are doing. The unfortunate thing about those “where are your notes?!” messages? We send those only because we know that, without any kind of deal management discipline, reps are only human. And they’re going to make mistakes. Don’t berate them for this: support them as their leader.
We’ve referenced tools and software quite a bit so far, so let’s now address that.
Deal Management Tools and Software
Deal management software tools are platforms that enable all the organizing, tracking, analyzing, and prioritizing of deals.
Here are the deal management tools to implement and the most valuable features:
- Note-taking modules that sync to your CRM, eliminating a lot of admin work. Ideally, the functionality should include inserting CRM fields into notes, real-time syncing, and getting new contact identification integrated to CRM automatically.
- Pipeline tools that provide the intelligence needed for forecasting, as well as the guard rails for reps on how to move prospects through the buying process. Features that allow this to work seamlessly include all opps in one view, custom dashboards informed by best practices, and 1-click pipeline updates.
- Deal-by-deal view tools that display the most crucial information in a streamlined manner. Provide this as a summarizing view for revenue stakeholders and sales managers that need to know about specific deals in the pipeline, and an overview of it all.
The best deal management software will have all these capabilities at a minimum, and these will integrate with your CRM. Be sure to compare these platforms to ensure they meet your team’s needs and that your team will actually, really, truly use whichever one you choose. Play a key role in implementation and roll the tool out intentionally, not haphazardly.
How Dooly Can Help
Deal management can accelerate your sales team and get everyone on the same page. As a result, you can achieve sales process consistency, can forecast more accurately, can have more data to derive insights, and can be on a path to more predictable growth.
Dooly is designed to enhance your deal management process, not burden it with extra work. Our team will help share what’s worked for other sales leaders like you, and show you how our tools can provide the automated pipeline management guidance you need to give your sellers their best chance of success.
Join the thousands of top-performing AEs who use Dooly every day to stay more organized, instantly update their pipeline, and spend more time selling instead of mindless admin work. Try Dooly free, no credit card required. Or, Request a demo to speak with a Dooly product expert right now.