Sales Managers need to think like Designers.

Design is the search for a magical balance between business and art; art and craft; intuition and reason; concept and detail; playfulness and formality; client and designer; designer and printer; and printer and public.

–Valerie Pettis


I was on the phone with a newly hired sales manager.  He was a little stressed.  No management experience.  No kitchen table sales experience.  On good terms with his sales team…maybe too good of terms.  We were talking about “where to start” and “what to do” in order to be most effective (which is another way of saying ‘remain and develop in to an asset’).  It’s an appreciable position.  OJT is difficult for anyone.  He was considering his position in a functional, tactical manner.  Dot the “i” and cross the “t” and manage time and organize space and set goals and measure performance and review numbers.  And reports.  Don’t forget about all of those reports.  In other words, he was considering his job in a reactionary manner.  He’s not alone.  Most sales managers I know and work with treat their job in hindsight rather than foresight.  They ask their sales team questions like “How’d the call go?” or “Did you sell anything?”  Essentially meaningless questions that, at best, lead to hypothetical “coaching” and “what if” scenarios.  It’s no wonder that sales managers often feel ineffective.  You cannot manage the past.  But you can design the future.

Sales managers need to start thinking like designers.  Creating frameworks, paths, customer journey’s, user experiences.  They are most successful developing frameworks for their teams and building something that is seamless, elegant, and ultimately invisible.  Designers consider functionality, use, space, and the interaction between a person and the design itself.  And, when done well, the design itself becomes the product–and people love it.  

A manager cannot develop a well designed structure for his team unless he has a bright, clear picture of how he wants the world to experience the structure itself.  Do they want users to feel calm or intrigued?  Engaged or passive?  Wonderment or happiness?  Of course the design is intended to inspire action but not all actions are the same.  With the user experience in mind the sales manager can start developing a foundation, framing the walls, and filling in the gaps.  Above all, and never wavering, the design needs to reflect a concentrated and actionable vision of how the end user, or customer, will function within the design itself.  

There are plenty of clunky sales processes out there.  They usually have one thing in common: a sales manager’s assumption randomly performing sales tactics across a spectrum of dissimilar salespeople will be sufficiently compelling for a customer.  But it isn’t.  As a result the cream rises to the top while the rest of the salespeople fall to the middle of the bell curve.  Sales managers chalk it up to the old 80/20 Rule.  But if companies like Zappos can teach us anything it’s that design and culture and results go hand in hand.  Well designed sales model that focus on internal and external user experiences create a culture of unity and respect and enjoyment.  And it all starts with design.

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