Recently, one of my coworkers wrote on how he became an accidental salesperson. (You can read that article here). One quote stood out to me: “I slowly built up my skills and reputation, and started making more sales. One thing became painfully obvious: in sales, you must continue learning.”
As a graphic and web designer, my work is founded on creating new and unexpected design with proven, humanized UX. Designers get better by trying new things, looking at designs created by their peers, and having strong mentors that lead by example.
Because our job as designers is to introduce something that may be new or unfamiliar, designers have to become the salespeople of creativity. Articulating compelling ideas, professional communication skills, and handling objections, are essential in closing the deal on design.
Without exceptional communication, designing is futile. Andrew Grove stated it best: “how well we communicate is determined not by how well we say things, but how well we are understood.” Designers get understood by putting pen to paper or cursor to screen. Working through an idea into a functioning design is the best way to become understood.
For example, saying to a co-worker, “We need to create high converting CTAs (call-to-actions) to help our landing page generate a 20% submission rate” means nothing to a non-designer if you don’t have a design to explain how you’ll get the job done.
If your team doesn’t understand what you are trying to design, or more importantly, why you are trying to design something differently, the process is broken. Going back to the example, designing a page with different shaped and colored CTAs will help get to that 20% submission rate, to a non designer, those details mean nothing. Designers have to be their own advocate for their craft while explaining to others why they are designing in the first place.
Professional communication skills
Apart from trying to explain the reasoning behind making a design, a designer has to be able to prove to leadership why their design is helping the company mission. I read an article from Fast Company that explained how “92% [of people] reported they’d work harder if their coworkers could see their goals.” Designers have the gift that makes company goals a reality by visually communicating how the team can get from point A to point B.
Going back to my previous example, if a company needs to increase form submissions on a landing page, they will set a new goal to generate a 20% submission rate. Marketers will start generating social media posts to get users to the page, the sales team would start to increase their outbound sales efforts, while the design team will craft a new visual experience for the user interacting with the page.
Communication skills are different for designers. We have the ability to show a proposed solution. This solution teamed with the efforts of the marketing and sales teams, help communicate the solution to meet the goal.
Similar to salespeople, a design pitch (or sales attempt) may fail. Failure, or objections will look different depending on the situation. The design may work, but it could be inappropriate for a chosen situation. Or, the design could be impractical for the amount of time or budget allotted.
Salespeople deal with objections every day. Designers do as well. A design is like a widget a salesperson is trying to sell. People may not like parts of the design such as color or medium, but like the end result the design provides. Similarly, salespeople may deal with potential clients who like the product but can’t stomach the cost. Finding a healthy way to overcome these objections will only benefit the company.
I’ve claimed that designers are the salespeople of creativity because designers have to be able to handle design objections, communicate professionally, articulate the motivation behind their designs while selling their end product to clients or leadership.