When a new idea or mission is debuted to a sales team, it can inspire a number of reactions. Perhaps it was something the reps had been clamoring for, making them eager to jump onboard. Or perhaps it represents a significant change in the structure of the company and, as a result, it inspires fear over excitement. Design thinking is coming up again and again as a possible way to get people to come around, and experts believe it can work for customers as well as employees.
Solutions and threats
Companies often get criticized for being unable to change with the times, which is frustrating considering it’s sometimes the employees who dig their heels in rather than leadership.
When anyone is faced with change, they need to make sense of it, and how can they make sense of it if it’s brand new? Without getting too philosophical, plenty of amazing ideas have been ruined by a resistance to something new. Design thinking is essentially the answer to get people to commit to your idea despite having little to no evidence. Design thinking is a way to figure out what people really want, rather than what they say they want.
It can truly help ease the transition from one way of doing things to another.
The underlying principle
For a time, design thinking may have been associated with playing video games at work in an attempt to get the creative juices flowing, but that’s really just one component (and one we don’t necessarily recommend for that same strategy in sales).
Design thinking puts focus on how people are feeling in an emotional context, which is one of the best prediction factors of whether or not they will commit to a new idea. It requires a fundamental shift in thinking, meaning that both employees and employers will need to start looking at the people and the products within the organization with fresh eyes.
As companies rush around trying to get everything done, the emotions of what people are feeling get either lost or brushed aside. The best businesses don’t treat the feelings of people like afterthoughts and, consequently, their employees don’t treat management’s ideas as afterthoughts either.
Applying user engagement
When a person buys your product or service, they’re purchasing a feeling as much as a solution.
Perhaps you’re providing people with business supplies that are more durable than your competitor’s, meaning your client will feel like they’ve made the right long-term investment. Maybe you’re selling a piece of software that saves companies a lot of time, meaning you’re selling both a feeling of convenience and efficiency to the user. When it comes to your employees accepting your idea, you essentially need to sell them in the same way.
Your mission needs to be put in terms they can easily understand and relate to. Meaning, if you want to expand your territories and hire new sales reps, you don’t want your reps to feel as though their job and their time will be threatened by dealing with the new trainees. You’re asking them to feel confident that the company is expanding, which will mean more money, comfort, and security for them. These feelings of hope can be what build long-term loyalty to the company.
The more time you and your employees devote to design thinking, the more everyone will see the benefits. Before you start though, you need to be as certain as possible you’re willing to stand strong with your plans even in the face of extreme indifference or opposition. You will need to have concrete ways to cope with employees who may try to interfere with changes.
Once you know you are ready to jump in, you will want to come up with solutions rather than define problems. People skilled in this form of thought will often create physical models, such as sketches or digital representations, that illustrate and prototype the idea. This serves to reinforce and augment statements about growth or change in the future that may come across as idealistic to sales reps, and attach some type of realism to goals instead. For instance, you may want to show sales projections to the reps, or put labels on the attitudes you’re hoping to inspire from customers.
Reassure and build confidence
A big part of design thinking emphasizes the value of empathy over statistics, and the success stories are rooted in the ability of a manager to build confidence with their team.
This is another crucial way to create momentum and show the team that they’re expected to be a sustaining part of the new plans. Just one negative employee may do more harm than you think, so you’ll want to show employees again and again that your mission is really going to help the company go from good to great. It will also mean giving extensive praise to those who are able to adapt to the new order of how things work.
Design thinking is not necessarily easy to get salespeople to understand, but it does appear to be worth the effort of applying when it comes to rolling out new plans.
Danny Wong is the co-founder of Blank Label, an award-winning luxury menswear company. He also does marketing at Conversio (your all-in-one ecommerce marketing dashboard), Tenfold (your modern phone intelligence platform) and Big Drop Inc. (your preferred web design and development partner). To connect, tweet him @dannywong1190 or message him on LinkedIn. For more of his clips, visit his portfolio.