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Sell your design to clients in 4 steps

Posted by Raffaele Di Meo on

I have been in a lot of meetings to present designs to clients or stakeholders and I have realised how important it is to present designs effectively.

It doesn’t matter how good or bad your designs are, if you do not engage with the people in the room and you do not talk about the things that your audience wants to hear, your designs will not be approved and you might need to go back to your desk and pretend to change something for the sake of showing stakeholders something different.


A lot of the designers I come across, do not think that presenting is a skill that belongs to the design world. But I always remember the quote from Mike Monteiro — founder of Mule — who states that “A designer who doesn’t present their work is not a designer” and I couldn’t agree more.


Presenting to clients is not the most creative task, and it requires a more systematic approach. It’s about organising your ideas and understanding the people in the room.


Thinking about people, we are all busy working across a lot of different projects and it’s important to be mindful of that. Juggling different things, we try our best to achieve goals that the business has set for us. At the same time, we are people and we have personal goals. When we walk in a meeting room with a lot of people around the table, we walk in a room with many personalities, problems, ambitions, thoughts.


As UX designers, meetings are the best way to practice empathising with people. Think about the user as well as the business and the individuals sitting there. Ask yourself, what does the user want/need? What does the business want/need? And how is my design helping them?


Golden rule

Nobody wants to hear you listing all the features and items you put in your designs


I realise this is direct but as designers, we can spend hours talking about fonts, page style or imagery. I could spend hours investigating the journey a user can take on a website and I love it! However, we are not all designers and we are not all interested in the same things.


When you present your work to a client, most of the time you find yourself in a room with stakeholders who don’t know a lot about design and they are only interested about fixing a problem, money and timelines. This can’t be further away from the creative world where we are in most of the time.


During presentations, we have all seen designers explaining everything they have added on the screen. Mike Monteiro describes this as the Real estate tour in his book Design is a job ⬇️


From contracts to selling design, from working with clients to working with each other, you’ll learn why navigating the…


He talks about how designers start from the top navigation and they read attentively all the items. They go to the next item on the page telling everyone in the room about colours and fonts. This is a waste of time and a lost opportunity for designers to engage with stakeholders who hire us to do the work and require our help to reach their users.


Everyone in the room can see what you have done on the screen. What they do not know is why you have designed it that way.



Talk the talk

How do you make sure to engage stakeholders in a presentation? Think like a salesperson!


What I am saying might seem controversial and that’s why I want to state right now that I do not mean that designers should become salespeople. But (and here is the but!) our job is not just to craft beautiful experiences for users. Our job is to identify businesses problems and create the right solutions for them. As part of this process, we need to sell our ideas and convince clients or stakeholders that our designs really do so. Therefore, we need to learn how to adjust our language and the way we communicate to sell our designs.


We should put ourselves in the clients’ shoes!


Reading Dale Carnegie book ‘How to win friends and influence people’, I realised how important is to change the way I talk to ensure I obtain the best outcome from a meeting. In the book, Carnegie goes through a lot of stories that allow you to understand the importance of looking at things from your listeners’ point of view. He also shows what difference it can make not only to the outcome but to the whole conversation.


He provides a great example from Ft. Gerald S. Nirenberg who says: “Cooperativeness in conversation is achieved when you show that you consider the other person’s ideas and feeling as important as your own. Starting your conversation by giving the other person the purpose or direction of your conversation, governing what you say by what you would want to hear if you were the listener, and accepting his or her viewpoint will encourage the listener to have an open mind to your ideas.”


He also says that if, as a result of reading the book, you get only one thing that should be what Dean Donham of the Harvard business school says:


“I would rather walk the sidewalk in front of a person’s office for two hours before an interview than step into that office without a perfectly clear idea of what I was going to say and what that person — from my knowledge of his or her interests and motives — was likely to answer.”


The way I organise my meetings is simple and includes extensive planning and I bring to the table a lot of empathy and confidence.


1. Start with business aims and objectives

This is what the people in the room are most bothered about. Your work is based on a brief that is connected to business’ goals so make sure you state them clearly. Reassure your audience that you haven’t just put pretty images on a screen but you have analysed their goals, identified a problem and provided them with a solution. It’s so valuable to connect to your stakeholders and give them a clear message that you know what they want and your work reflects that.


Tip: sometimes this is as simple as reiterating what has been written in the brief. I understand that business talk is not everyone’s favourite, but it’s pivotal to engage your audience and have a conversation that is based on the same level of understanding.


2. Talk about the users

Set the tone correctly and introduce who you are designing for. It’s not about what you or the business like. It’s about the user and it’s your job to make this clear. Sometimes projects don’t have the budget for user research, but you will have some data or idea of who you are designing for, so state this.


Tips: The first place to start is usually analytics to get a high-level understanding of your users and their journeys. Ask yourself where are users coming from? What are they trying to do? Is there any specific goal or need? My first call is usually Google Analytics. This is free and most companies have it set up on their website. Look for what devices are most used by your users, landing pages, navigations patterns and keyword searches. Data is what makes your work objective rather than subjective. Even if this is a very shallow view of your users, it sets the conversation to a different level.


3. Talk about the why (and not the what)

Explain the rationale behind your design. This is the time to show stakeholders that what you have done solves the problem and achieves their goals. Why have you chosen a colour more than another? Why is the photograph a certain way? What is the design trying to communicate?


Tips: Take your audience through your creative process and the steps you have followed to get to the design. You can also talk about competitor analysis, web standards and any other research you have conducted, or things you have considered as part of your designs.


4. Storytelling

The people in the room need to buy into what you are saying and you need to take the conversation in the right direction to make this happen. I always enjoy seeing how great speakers manage to captivate the audience and make their message heard. I have looked at people like Steve Jobs or Obama in admiration for their charisma and also for the simplicity and effectiveness of their speeches.


This interview of the Obama speechwriter David Litt highlights three simples steps to take for a good speech:

  1. Make clear the why of what matters
  2. Make it interesting
  3. Make it memorable
(AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

How do presidential speechwriters decide what to include in a speech? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain…

What next?

Presenting your designs and ideas is not an easy task, but it’s an integral part of every designer’s job. So:

  • Organise your thoughts well and plan for every eventuality
  • Rehearse (even if just in your mind) what you are going to say
  • Think about questions that clients may have and how you are going to answer
  • Prepare any file you need for the presentation and documents you may want print and distribute
  • Build up your confidence

Raffaele Di Meo

Design, mentoring, workshops, strategies and innovation

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