Transforming Sales with Design Thinking

Keywords: Empathy, brand experiences, customer centric, reframe content, two-way dialogue, free-flowing sessions, creativity in sales, customer solutions 

Transforming Sales with Design Thinking

Empathy. That is often the secret to making a successful sale. It goes well beyond merely googling for your potential customer and reading some of the top results that show up, or trawling through their LinkedIn and Facebook pages. It also includes putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and seeing the world through their eyes. And if it is a brand or a manufacturer that you are trying to sell to, then it means experiencing that brand as a consumer — becoming your potential customers’ customer before they become your customer.

Design Thinking and Sales

Design thinking in sales involves asking a lot of questions and grasping the customer’s point of view. The emphasis is on understanding their problems before you even think of offering a solution. Yes, the process is slow and may not work for salespeople always in a hurry, who have steep targets to meet, or who work for organizations that reward people who bring in the maximum volume of business. And yet, counter-intuitively, it is this very ponderous design thinking approach that is most likely to result in higher sales. 

A study conducted by HubSpot Research observes that buyers today really want to avoid pushy sales representatives. “They’re looking for someone who will listen to their needs, provide relevant information in a timely manner, and are invested in the success of their business.” Unfortunately, 84% of buyers have had negative sales experiences, and found salespeople to be too pushy. Similarly, 62% buyers felt salespeople do not listen to their needs. 

The solution is simple: Reframe content around what is in the best interest of the customer. “Tailor your sales content to the wants and needs of your buyer. As you learn more about your leads over time, you can better personalize your messages to their specific needs. Over time, organized sales teams will be able to identify the behaviors of best fit customers, leading to better qualified leads.”

Asking Questions

Data collated by Gong Research Labs shows that the difference between a salesperson who will get promoted and a salesperson who will get pink-slipped is in how they ask questions. And here, design thinking principles are of invaluable help. “Questions that were asked specifically about the customer’s business issues, challenges, goals, and areas of relevant concern had a stark relationship to bringing the deal across the finish line. Top salespeople just asked a heck of a lot more targeted, relevant questions than their struggling peers.”

Gong Labs also advises that B2B salespeople should spend less time pitching or, at the other extreme, “interrogating” customers and bombarding them with questions. The ideal middle ground is one where you “make it a two-way dialogue”.

Thinking Horizontally

Salesglobe warns of the dangers associated with the traditional approach, where salespeople converge in a meeting room for a brainstorming session. “They’ll load up their flip charts and engage in what they think is brainstorming. But in reality, they all probably entered the room with preconceived ideas – mostly ideas that have been used before. So instead of brainstorming, the team members spend most of their time making sure some of their ideas make it onto a flip chart. All this time, they have stayed within the realm of what’s familiar.” The solution would be to have truly free-flowing sessions where anything goes and one where ideas, no matter how far-fetched they may sound, are encouraged. 

As CloudTask observes, marketing and sales people often fall into the trap of stubbornly sticking to their established written marketing plans and ways of working. “Have your sales team think outside the obvious and get creative when coming up with sales pitches and finding solutions for your customers. Creativity can be a great bet in the sales department.” In fact, as CloudTask further points out, a European study has shown that creative salespeople sell more than their less creative colleagues. Design thinking and creativity is indeed a potent combination.