Deal Structure

What Is a Deal Structure?

A deal structure in subscription sales defines the terms and conditions under which a customer subscribes to a company’s products or services. This typically includes price, licenses, and contract duration. Deal structures are essential in sales as they outline the framework of an agreement between the seller and the buyer.


  • Contract terms
  • Agreement structure
  • Subscription terms
  • Sales agreement

Why is a Deal Structure Important?

A well-defined deal structure is important for establishing successful business relationships and facilitating smooth transactions when selling SaaS products and other subscription services. Here’s why it’s important:

Clarity and Transparency

A clearly articulated deal structure helps prevent misunderstandings by providing explicit terms that both parties agree upon. This transparency ensures that all stakeholders are on the same page regarding the expectations and deliverables.


Deal structures offer the flexibility to customize agreements based on specific customer needs. This adaptability enhances customer satisfaction by aligning the deal with each client’s unique requirements, fostering stronger business relationships.

Revenue Management

Deal structures enable companies to predict and manage revenue streams over the contract period by defining the terms of the agreement. This predictability is imperative for financial planning and stability leading to better revenue management.

Competitive Advantage

Innovative deal structures can differentiate a company from its competitors. By offering tailored solutions, businesses can attract and retain customers more effectively, gaining a competitive edge in the market.

Common Types of Deal Structures

Different deal structures cater to varying customer needs and business goals, offering flexibility and strategic benefits.

Straightforward Deal

In this type of deal, the customer purchases a fixed number of licenses for a specified period at a set price. This simplicity makes it easy to manage and understand. For instance, a software company might offer 100 user licenses for its product at $10,000 annually. This transparent, straightforward pricing model is often preferred by small to medium-sized enterprises that need predictable costs.

Staggered Activation Deal

Here, the customer commits to a total number of licenses, which are activated and paid for in stages over time. This structure helps manage cash flow and scalability for both the vendor and the customer. For example, an enterprise might agree to a total of 300 licenses but only activate and pay for 100 licenses every six months. This gradual activation allows the customer to scale up as needed without an immediate financial burden.

Price Ramp Deal

This deal structure involves an initial purchase of a fixed number of licenses with the price increasing at predetermined intervals. This approach is beneficial for customers who expect the usage and value derived from the product to grow over time. For example, a company might start with 50 licenses at $20 each per month, with the price increasing by $5 every year. A ramp deal pricing model supports businesses that anticipate growth and can justify higher costs as their reliance on the product increases.

How to Implement Effective Deal Structures

Effective deal structures require strategic planning and a deep understanding of customer needs.

Understand Customer Needs

Knowing what customers want helps create deals that match their goals and constraints. Salespeople should actively listen to clients and ask insightful questions to grasp their requirements. For example, understanding a client’s growth projections can help in proposing a staggered activation deal that aligns with their expansion plans.

Use Technology

Leveraging CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) tools can streamline deal structure design, management, and tracking. These tools provide valuable insights and automation capabilities that ensure accuracy and efficiency. Salespeople should become proficient in using these technologies to enhance their proposal capabilities and build customer relationships during deal negotiation.

Set Clear Guidelines

Establishing clear policies for creating and approving deal structures ensures consistency and profitability. Sales teams should follow a standardized process that includes predefined discount limits, approval workflows, and compliance checks. This practice helps maintain deal integrity and profitability.

Train Sales Teams

Continuous education and training equip sales teams with the knowledge and skills to effectively propose and negotiate various deal structures. Regular workshops, role-playing scenarios, and access to updated market data can empower salespeople to present compelling deals. Sales training should also cover negotiation tactics and objection handling to prepare salespeople for diverse customer interactions.

Common Challenges and Solutions

Navigating deal structures can present several challenges, but with the right strategies, these obstacles can be effectively managed.

Complexity in Negotiation

Negotiations can become complicated when deal terms are intricate, and thus, it becomes increasingly important to simplify the negotiation process by clearly defining terms and ensuring mutual understanding. Salespeople should focus on transparency and use straightforward language to explain the deal. For instance, providing a detailed breakdown of costs and benefits can help simplify complex contracts for the customer.

Ensuring Profitability

Ensuring that deal structures remain profitable requires careful financial forecasting. Utilizing financial models to project the profitability of various deal structures is essential before making final decisions. Sales teams should work closely with finance departments to evaluate the long-term financial impact of proposed deals, adjusting terms as necessary to protect margins.

Customer Adaptation

Customers may resist unfamiliar deal structures, preferring what they know. To overcome this, salespeople should provide detailed explanations and real-world examples highlighting the proposed structure’s benefits. For instance, presenting a case study where a staggered activation deal helped a similar company manage growth effectively can alleviate customer concerns and illustrate practical advantages.

Understanding the nuances between deal structures and related terms can help clarify their unique roles in sales agreements. Listed below are some associated terms:

Deal Structure vs. Contract

A deal structure outlines the key terms of an agreement, such as price, number of licenses, and duration, setting the framework for the deal. In contrast, a contract is a formal, legally binding document encompassing these terms and other legal stipulations and obligations. While the deal structure defines the business arrangement, the contract ensures legal enforceability and compliance.

Deal Structure vs. Pricing Strategy

Deal structure focuses on the overall framework of the agreement, detailing how the deal will be executed and managed over time. Pricing strategy, however, involves setting the specific price levels within that framework. Pricing strategies consider market conditions, competitor pricing, and perceived value to determine the optimal price point. For example, a pricing strategy might decide that a software license costs $50 per month, while the deal structure might determine how and when those licenses are activated and paid for.

Key Takeaways

Deal structures define how customers subscribe to products or services by outlining prices, licenses, and contract duration. They provide clear terms and the flexibility to tailor agreements to customer needs. Typical structures for SaaS contracts include fixed deals, staged activation, and price increases over time. Implementing effective deal structures requires understanding customer needs, using technology, setting clear guidelines, and training sales teams. Key challenges involve simplifying negotiations, ensuring profitability, and helping customers understand new deal types. Grasping these basics helps create practical and customer-friendly sales agreements.

People Also Ask

What factors influence the choice of a deal structure?

Several factors influence the choice of a deal structure, including the customer’s business needs, budget constraints, and growth projections. Additionally, understanding market conditions, competitive intelligence, and the selling company’s strategic goals can help tailor the deal structure to offer the best value to both parties.

What are some examples of innovative deal structures in sales?

Innovative deal structures often include flexible payment plans, performance-based pricing, and usage-based models. Consider a software company that might offer a pay-as-you-go model where customers are billed based on actual usage rather than a fixed fee. Another example is a performance-based structure where pricing is tied to the achievement of specific customer outcomes, such as cost savings or increased efficiency.

How can technology assist in managing different deal structures?

CRM and CPQ tools can revolutionize the process of designing, tracking, and managing deals efficiently. CRM systems store customer information and track interactions, while CPQ tools automate the configuration, pricing, and quoting processes. This integration ensures accuracy, speeds up the sales cycle, and provides valuable insights for optimizing deal structures.