I’m no designer myself, I’m a salesman. I like sales and sales presentations. In chronological order, I’ve sold: jumping horses, sports equipment, business services, trade fairs and, for the past 15 years, solutions to help companies optimize their results. During that time I have trained 5,000 sales reps and 500 managers… So, no, I’m no sales presentations designer.
But I’m aware of design, or more precisely, I try to be. I even tend to be, because deep down I’m a bit of an artist, with a budding talent for drawing that ended up blossoming in two of my daughters. I’m dazzled by the artistic talents of my third daughter, Morgan, and discussions with my eldest, Emmanuelle, now an architect with a passion for interior design, have revealed unsettling similarities between architecture and design in business.
In my professional life, I’ve always been inspired by design. When I was selling trade shows for a Reed subsidiary, I hung out with the web and graphic designers in the communications department whenever I could – I spent hours with Laurence, who became one of my best friends, drinking in her knowledge and taste for design. I learned a lot from them, from her, and the thousands of patient answers she gave then – and still gives today – to my questions: “Why do you use that color instead of this one?”, “Why do you prefer that font?, “Why do you dislike “Comic Sans MS” so much?”, “How did you get that effect?” She opened my eyes to a new, magical world where design boosts the power of communication tenfold.
In sales, design matters
All sales people are designers. OK, maybe not in the strict sense: it may not say “Designer” on our cards, but we use our design skills every day, for better or worse, in our sales presentations, documents, meetings, emails, the way we dress, and so on.
Another Emmanuelle, my sister-in-law this time, a home designer in Brazil, opened my eyes to the similarities between home design and sales. She’s not a saleswoman, she’s not even in sales at all, she’s a designer, and I’ve discovered that… designers talk like salespeople! “Design starts with understanding what the client is trying to do, and solving the dilemma in the simplest, most efficient way possible.”
Design matters in sales, a lot. It is in our interest as sales reps to improve our design IQ and learn how to master it.
Why design matters in sales presentations
The design of sales proposals should not be left to advertising agencies, and not just because most sales people prepare proposals every week and it would cost a fortune. Design is strategic for a sales rep. A sales rep who doesn’t know how to design his or her ideas is like a writer who doesn’t know how to write: there’s no such thing. And impeccably-designed sales presentations are really what tell the difference between yesterday’s tacky salesman and the salespeople of today.
The quality of the sales rep and the sales proposal alone is not enough – there are lots of good-quality sales people, and lots of well-designed sales proposal, right? And yet, they don’t always win. Worse yet, it’s not always the best proposal that wins. Because in reality, it takes more than a good proposal: the sales proposal, its overall design and the way it meets the client’s needs must be so compelling that it serves as a key differentiator, gives you a competitive advantage and lets you walk away with the sale.
That’s why we are seeing more and more companies who understand that design is not just for products, and are pushing for better design in sales presentations produced internally. By enabling their salespeople to design sales presentations internally, companies ensure that their sales teams develop and deliver effective presentations every day, creating a decisive competitive edge when it comes to sales results.
Why should sales people care about design?
The more the business world matures, the more it appreciates intelligent, creative selling and sales professionals who can not only grasp the strategic role of design for a company, but who can build it into the design of their sales projects, creating sales proposals that surprise their clients and arguments so well-designed that they influence clients and make them change their minds. In my opinion, a well-designed sales presentation will necessarily have an impact on the client’s choice. Regardless of whether that impact is big or small, good design will make the client rethink his decision. If the client buys without having changed his mind, then you are not selling, you are being bought. And that’s fine – sometimes there’s no need to sell. But that won’t always be the case in a competitive world. The purpose of design in sales presentations is to change the mind of a client who would not have bought our solution if he hadn’t been influenced by the sales rep and the presentation.
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