Designers need to be salespeople

Sales can get a bad rap, but it’s a skill to be used for good OR evil. It’s also essential for driving change.

Let’s face it. Interacting with salespeople is usually something we’d all rather avoid. The word ‘sales’ brings to mind pushy attitudes and pressure.

Bad sales equitique is everywhere. It’s so common in fact, we’re conditioned to dislike the very idea of being sold to.

Is selling really that bad?

Sales is like any other part of the customer experience.

When it goes well, customers are hardly aware it’s happening. When it goes poorly, it’s actively annoying. It leaves a lasting negative impression of that company or brand.

UX designers will be pretty familiar with this notion. Great design is often described as being invisible. It’s only when we do a bad job that users notice the warts in our interface.

In that sense, selling is no different.

So why do we notice bad sales interactions so often?

There are a few possible explanations. One is that most salespeople aren’t trained properly. True, perhaps. But I don’t believe it’s the real reason why sales is so reviled as a discipline.

Most sales experiences are negative because people rarely believe in what they’re selling. Either that, or it just isn’t aligned to what customers want.

To sell effectively you need to be invested in the product or service. You need to be confident that what you’re selling solves a problem, and be able to explain why.

When people think about sales, they recall interactions they’d rather avoid.

Sales is a skill

Selling is the act of bringing someone round to your way of thinking. You’re trying to drive an action or encourage a behaviour change.

These are important skills. In fact, they’re essential for our society. If there was no selling, the entire economy would collapse!

But all that’s products & services for consumers, right? We designers work in a world of ideas. Of concepts & solutions.

True. But ideas need selling, too.

If there was no selling of ideas, then nothing would ever change for the better.

We designers always harp on about ‘culture change’ and ‘digital transformation’. But how can that idea ever become a reality if we don’t sell it?

Take this post, for example. I’m trying to sell you an idea. The importance of selling. Pretty meta.

So yes. Sales is pretty important.

Designers need to sell process

When we get started on a project, our new team may not be familiar with our approach. The fundamentals of user-centred design may represent a big change from how they’ve always worked.

And change can be scary.

UX design, by its very nature, sets out to upset the status quo. It seeks to shake things up. To challenge assumptions that have gotten entrenched in an organisation’s thinking.

Getting teams to embrace new ways of working can be tricky. It’s our responsibility to convince them that it will pay off.

In short, we need to become salespeople for design.

Designers need to sell ideas

It’s not just the overall process we need to sell, either.

Before they can evolve into fully fledged products, the specific designs & prototypes we create must usually be sold in some capacity.

When it comes to innovation, we often talk about getting ‘buy-in’ from our teams & clients.

This phrase is used positively. It’s less often that designers want to be associated with ‘selling’.

Here’s the truth. Like it or not, selling is a integral to a designer’s job. It’s absolutely crucial.

  • We can do the right research.
  • We can go through the correct processes.
  • We can craft experiences that are truly wonderful.

All of this is great. But if we can’t convince our teams & clients that our solutions are worthwhile, then we may as well not have bothered.

Selling is an essential skill, if designers want their solutions to become a reality.

Sell your design work

As the great Mike Monterio bluntly puts it : “A designer who does not present his or her own work is not a designer”.

Presenting is our opportunity to explain the rationale behind design decisions.

If we’ve done our jobs properly, then nothing should be arbitrary. There should be some kind of research, insight or best practice backing up every recommendation we make.

This isn’t self-serving. It’s all for the benefit of whoever we’re working for.

The solutions we’re selling will ultimately improve user satisfaction. They’ll help the organisation reach its own goals.

But if we’re not around to explain our reasoning, decisions get overturned. Ideas get rejected. Changes get refused.

This results in inferior products. A world where design decisions are made by the uninformed.

All because the correct solution wasn’t sold effectively.

Practice makes perfect

As a designer, take any and every opportunity to present your own work. Selling can be exhausting, I know. It even can be downright nerve-racking at times.

But it’s necessary if we want our solutions to become a reality.

After all. we’ve already established that selling is more effective when it comes from somebody who understands (and believes in) the thing being sold.

And nobody knows your design better than you do.

Remember, selling is a skill. Like any skill, it takes practice. Get used to selling your design work, and being an ambassador for good process.

Don’t be ashamed to be a salesperson for design.

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Chris Myhill, an incredibly handsome UX designer who heads up Just UX Design

Chris Myhill

Chris heads up Just UX Design with 10 years of experience creating digital products and managing design teams.

He’s worked on loads of different projects, using UX wizardry to help businesses make better products.

Learn more about Chris

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