Ever since Mark Zuckerberg had to defend Facebook as a “positive force in the world” in front of the US congress, it got me thinking of writing this article on the use of design thinking to create a better sales discovery process. As Grant Cardone would say “a great salesperson is solution minded.” The more you know about the problem, the better a solution you can provide. This is where design thinking comes in to play. Design thinking is a systematic approach to handling problems and generating new opportunities. The concept is pertinent to any field and purpose. Now let’s dive in and let me show you how design thinking could help your sales discovery process.
Sales has changed a lot in the past 10 to 15 years. It used to be about cold calling more than anything else. There wasn’t really a need to know a whole lot about your customer. It was a hustle game. In most sales jobs you were basically given a phonebook to make calls from. The call would go something like: “Hi ABC… How are you doing? I’m from XYZ company, and I’d like to spend two minutes talking about what our company is and what we do.” When there was interest, you’d keep going. If you were talking to a rental car company, for example, you’d have a basic understanding of what it did and that was enough.
Since Facebook has come around there’s been a big shift in sales, or more so since Facebook has taken over our lives. Customers expect you to know about them, so not only what the rental car company does, but what it specializes in (i.e., corporate/leisure), what the relationship is between the company and its top-tier customers, how it’s differentiating itself in a crowded marketplace, what are the pain points in the customer experience, and so on.
But salespeople are expected to close fast, so they tend to take the path of least resistance and go on the internet to do their research. There’s so much information out there about companies today, that you feel, as a salesperson, that you’ve got this. Salespeople also tend to fall into a prescriptive rut. A client calls, presents his or her problem and the salesperson says, “Oh, well I have the perfect product/solution for you. It will solve this, this, and this.” The client signs up and the salesperson closes the deal. Boom!! Everybody’s happy. Right? Sure that works but I want to show you how you can close an even bigger deal.
What if the customer presented his or her problems and instead the salesperson said, “Okay, I understand you have those problems. However, let me spend time with you and understand what it is you’re going through and find the root causes?” Empathy and understanding the customer is what I’m trying to get to here. When a salesperson goes through this they may actually find that along with the problems the customer told them about, there are four more. The conversation would be different. The salesperson could reply “Not only will our product solve for the first three problems, if you take these two additional solutions, it will also fix the other four problems you didn’t even realize you had.” That extra layer of curiosity is the game changer.
Isn’t this a no-brainer?
Yes, listening and customer-centricity seem like they should be automatic skills, especially for someone in sales. Yet sometimes this fast-paced and complex world drives the humanness out of us. We have so much on our minds and are under so much pressure to deliver that we forget we are actually selling to another human being. In addition, typically salespeople are naturally good at closing and therefore not as inclined to stay curious and empathetic, yet we need to be good at both to be great at sales.
At the end of the day, buyers are driven by emotion as much as by logic. If they view you as a trusted advisor, they are much more likely to buy from you. Design thinking helps salespeople make the shift to becoming a trusted advisor.
How do you introduce the design thinking methodology to your company?
It is crucial that a design-centric culture begins by having a strategic intent and broad commitment from your company’s senior leadership, including at the executive and board levels. In some ways, this is the most essential element, having leaders throughout your company that value design.
Next, making a long-term investment in design infrastructure, training, and support across the organization is critical. If design thinking does not permeate an organization, it is all too easy for things to revert to business as usual, with everyone hidden away in their own silos instead of collaborating. To make design a driving force within a company, everyone—from executive leadership to engineering, marketing to sales—should receive training and coaching in design thinking, lean methodology and agile project management; whether it be in-person workshops or online courses.
I’d love to help you out with your marketing and sales process. If you have any questions or need more info on design thinking, feel free to get in touch. Always here to help!