The Importance of Design Thinking in Sales Post-Pandemic
- Design thinking in sales prioritises the needs and perspectives of customers, enabling businesses to differentiate themselves from the competition and improve customer engagement.
- The pandemic has disrupted sales across industries, leading businesses to shift to online sales and explore new sales growth strategies such as gamification, social media marketing, and subscription models.
- Incorporating design thinking principles can help businesses redesign customer experience and empathise with customers.
‘A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.’
Tagged by many as the most difficult achievement in business operations, customer satisfaction measures the utility derived from the consumption of goods and services. However, experts believe offering quality products or excellent customer service is not enough.
In addition, the pandemic has had a significant effect on the sales process across industries. Businesses have observed radical shifts to online sales, disruptions in supply chains and change in consumer behaviour owing to social distancing measures and financial instability.
At this critical juncture, businesses are more inclined to incorporate design thinking principles such as redesigning customer experience, fostering collaboration and empathising with customers. This article highlights the multi-faceted nature of design thinking in sales and how it prioritises the needs and perspectives of customers post-pandemic.
Understanding Design Thinking In Sales Processes
Since the 1970s, design thinking has been a customer-centric approach to maximise customer satisfaction through understanding the needs and desires of customers, generating ideas, prototyping, and testing.
In sales, design thinking involves
- using empathy to understand the customer’s perspective,
- developing creative solutions to their problems, and
- continuously refining the sales strategy.
5 Core Design Thinking Stages
Design thinking focuses on understanding the needs and perspectives of the end-users to develop innovative solutions that meet their needs. The process of design thinking is divided into five core stages.
- Empathize: The first stage of the design thinking process is to empathize with the end-users. This involves understanding their needs, desires, and pain points. The goal is to develop a deep understanding of the end-users perspectives to create solutions that meet their needs. This stage involves conducting interviews, surveys, and observations to gather end-user data.
- Define: The second stage of the design thinking process is to define the problem. This involves synthesizing the data gathered in the empathize stage to identify the core problem that needs to be solved. The goal is to define the problem in an actionable and relevant way to the end-users.
- Ideate: The third stage of the design thinking process is to ideate solutions. This involves generating a wide range of ideas without judgment. The goal is to encourage creativity and innovation in the development of potential solutions. This stage involves brainstorming sessions, mind maps, and other ideation techniques to generate diverse ideas.
- Prototype: The fourth stage of the design thinking process is to create prototypes of the potential solutions. This involves creating low-fidelity prototypes that can be quickly and easily tested with end-users. The goal is to gather feedback on the potential solutions to identify areas of improvement. This stage involves creating physical or digital prototypes that can be tested and refined.
- Test: The final stage of the design thinking process is to test the prototypes with end-users. This involves gathering feedback on the effectiveness of the potential solutions. The goal is to identify any areas of improvement and refine the solutions based on the feedback received. This stage involves conducting user testing and incorporating feedback into the design process.
LinkedIn reports that design thinking methodology is not restricted to large businesses alone. Small businesses reportedly saw a 17.5% rise in average sales when they invested in design.
Empathy, agility and a customer-centric approach are the basic postulates of design thinking for sales teams across industries.
Here is why you should be design conscious:
- Customer-centric approach: Design thinking in sales centres around the customer, enabling sales teams to empathise with their needs and motivations, and tailor solutions that best meet their requirements.
- Improved collaboration: Design thinking fosters cross-functional collaboration and communication among team members, promoting the sharing of diverse perspectives and ideas, and breaking down silos.
- Better outcomes: Design thinking in sales leads to better outcomes such as increased customer satisfaction, higher conversion rates, and improved sales growth. Design thinking skills are expected to drive adaptive selling behaviour in salespeople, as the approach involves customising offerings to match customer needs. Additionally, the human-oriented nature of design thinking skills is likely to foster collaboration behaviour, strengthening the relationship between salespeople and customers.
How Can Design Thinking In Sales Cushion The Effects Of The Pandemic?
Design thinking can be a powerful tool for sales teams to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic. By using a customer-centric approach, sales teams can better understand the changing needs of their customers and develop new sales strategies tailored to those needs.
Here are three ways sales teams can apply design thinking to cushion the effects of the pandemic.
- Developing New Sales Channels
The pandemic has changed the way people shop and interact with businesses. Sales teams have had to adapt to this change by developing new sales channels catering to customers’ needs. By using design thinking, sales teams can identify their customers’ pain points and develop new sales channels that meet those needs. For example, many businesses have shifted to e-commerce to cater to customers who prefer to shop online. By leveraging design thinking principles, sales teams can develop new sales channels that are efficient, customer-friendly, and meet the needs of customers in the pandemic.
- Reimagining the Sales Process
The pandemic has disrupted the traditional sales process, making face-to-face meetings less common. To adapt to this change, sales teams have had to reimagine the sales process. By using design thinking, sales teams can develop new sales processes that are more digital, flexible, and customer-centric. This can involve using video conferencing tools, developing personalized sales pitches, and using customer feedback to refine the sales process. By putting the customer at the center of the sales process, sales teams can improve their chances of closing deals in the pandemic.
- Building Resilience
The pandemic has created uncertainty and disrupted the normal course of business for many organizations. Sales teams have had to build resilience to adapt to these changing conditions. By using design thinking, sales teams can develop a mindset of innovation and problem-solving. This involves being open to new ideas, experimenting with different sales strategies, and learning from failures. By adopting a mindset of resilience and continuous improvement, sales teams can cushion the effects of the pandemic and emerge stronger in the long run.
What Does It Mean For The Customers?
In a post-pandemic world, organizations must comprehend their customers’ shifting needs, particularly in light of the remote working paradigm. With complex B2B sales strategies now transpiring in home offices, sales representatives face new challenges that can sidetrack and distract them from understanding their customers’ requirements. This can result in the following:
- Improved Customer Experience: Design thinking in sales can result in a more personalized and engaging customer experience. Sales teams can use customer feedback and insights to develop new products and services that better meet their needs. Based on consumer behavior, customers are generally willing to pay a price premium of up to 13% (and potentially as high as 18%) for luxury products and services when they receive exceptional customer experiences.
- Greater Relevance: Design thinking can help sales teams stay relevant in a rapidly changing market. By continuously adapting and innovating, sales teams can better respond to the evolving needs of customers and offer products and services that are more meaningful and valuable.
- Enhanced Customer Loyalty: By focusing on the needs and preferences of their customers, sales teams can build stronger relationships and foster greater loyalty. Over 85% of customers expect proactive communication and outreach from businesses. Customers are more likely to return to businesses that understand their needs and are willing to go the extra mile to meet them.
Generating New Ideas For Products And Services Using Design Thinking
75% of organizations apply design thinking methodology in their processes to generate new and innovative ideas for their products and services that are aligned with their customer needs and preferences.
Businesses can generate new ideas for products and services that meet customer needs in design thinking sales through the following ways:
Empathy mapping is a powerful tool that can help sales teams develop new ideas for products and services that meet customer needs in design thinking sales. The Nielsen Norman Group suggests that by understanding the needs and preferences of customers through empathy mapping, sales teams can generate new ideas for products and services that are more relevant, valuable, and engaging.
Empathy mapping can help sales teams identify the pain points of customers, or the challenges and frustrations they face when using a product or service. Using this information, sales teams can thereby develop new products and services that address these issues and offer solutions that better meet the needs of customers.
Empathy mapping can help sales teams identify the pain points of customers, or the challenges and frustrations they face when using a product or service. Using this information, sales teams can develop new products and services that address these issues and offer solutions that better meet customers’ needs.
Brainstorming sessions are another effective means to generate new ideas for products and services that meet customer needs in design thinking sales. These sessions encourage creativity and free thinking, allowing sales teams to explore new and innovative ideas for products and services.
Businesses can generate new ideas through group brainstorming sessions by encouraging creativity, diverse perspectives, and open communication. This can be done in cross-functional teams with individuals from different departments.
Brainstorming sessions involve a collaborative approach, where sales team members can share their perspectives and ideas. This can lead to a diversity of thought and result in a more comprehensive and effective solution for customers.
Prototyping and user testing:
Prototyping and testing solutions can aid in developing customer-centric designs in a sales process that cater to customers’ evolving needs in a dynamic market landscape. Such solutions allow companies to measure design success in real-time by garnering customer feedback within and outside the organization.
Prototyping should be conducted in stages, commencing with low-fidelity prototypes used to gather feedback from users and stakeholders. As solutions are refined, higher-functioning and better-designed prototypes can be created for further testing in a realistic production environment.
Prototyping ideas in this manner enables the design team to create and redefine marketing and sales operations that address customers’ evolving needs in a dynamic market landscape. In the long run, it facilitates the development of user-centric designs that drive business growth and success. Vox Media has outlined its design prototyping method that discusses remote user research methodologies.
Testing is an integral component that runs parallel to prototyping. Prototyping and testing operate in a continuous cycle where a prototype is created, tested, refined, and tested again until the project is ready to deploy.
Testing a smart application for an established company may require a more comprehensive testing process that involves the participation of current customers and includes user interviews and other rigorous evaluation methods.
Instances To Show How Design Thinking In Sales Help Businesses
Empathizing with children’s pain points in terms of undergoing MRI treatments, GE Healthcare introduced the ‘Adventure Series’ as part of their patent design thinking project aimed at redesigning MRI with a creative solution. They successfully replaced the dark MRI rooms with flickering fluorescent lights with imagery of pirate ships and the ocean. It helped boost patient satisfaction by 90% and improved scan quality.
In 2016, Netflix continued improving its user experience by incorporating short trailers into its interface, responding to customers’ needs and using design thinking principles to drive innovation.
Airbnb invested in high-quality cameras and took photos of every room, highlighting special features like hot tubs and pools and showcasing the surrounding neighbourhoods. As a result, Airbnb’s revenue doubled in just one week, demonstrating the power of design thinking to drive business success.
In conclusion, the post-pandemic era has highlighted the importance of design thinking in sales. Adopting a human-centred approach to innovation and problem-solving can lead to relevant and innovative products and services that meet customers’ evolving needs.
Sales professionals should embrace a design-thinking mindset to drive business success in the current and future markets. Thus, it is imperative to prioritise people and empathy in sales operations and design solutions that truly speak to customers’ needs.