Design thinking

How to Pitch Design Ideas to Clients

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Introduction

Effective design is the best sales pitch! Design is good when it serves a purpose and turns a few heads, but it becomes phenomenal when it can twirl your client by the pixel. And this is where most designers face a roadblock. The only problem is, they somehow fail to associate “selling” with designing. And for those who don’t fall into that category, are most probably doing it wrong.

We, designers come across a wide variety of clients to appease. Some of them turn out to be quite friendly and supportive, who hands over the liberty to the project in a barrel with other important stuff you might need to know. But some are more specific about their requirements and prefer to keep the freedom under a leash. Whoever we work with, the bottom-line remains the same: ideas don’t sell themselves. The key is to adapt to the ‘sales strategy’ to suit the customer. These are soft skills every designer must have!

Playing the role of an effective virtual tour guide isn’t a cakewalk, but I have for you, a few valuable and time-tested skills to help you add muscle to your selling.

Here are some pointers that you can mobilize to sell the design to your clients.

1. Know your Client : Get Talking

The number one rule of sales is getting to know your customer. This is where all the magic happens. It always starts with a string of conversations. The trick is to not let the thread go cold. At the start of a project, gather as much information about the client as possible. This will serve you well in the future in navigating through what actually matters to your client.  You can ask about their city, (a classic conversation starter), the weather may be, or about their likes and so on. And if you hit the right buttons, you would be amazed at what a simple conversation can uncork about your client’s design preferences, unless of course, you are Sherlock Holmes. Here’s what happens when you get talking:

  • You would get a clearer picture of what your client would prefer in your design.
  • A friendly conversation establishes trust. And once your client begins to trust you, the restrictions fall apart giving way for a fair amount of liberty on the projects you’re handling.
  • Once clients feel comfortable working with you, 80% of your pitching is done. They would start taking your designs more seriously and who knows, their next string of projects might have your name on them.
  • Establishing a relationship with the client is a fundamental precursor to pitching design ideas to them. It always gets them listening and responding more positively to your ideas.

2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK: GAIN CREDIBILITY

Decision making in design can be a bit challenging. It is not like throwing in variables in a formula to get to the right answer. Therefore, there’s always room for error. And this is why you need to have an answer for everything you do because rest assured there will be questions!

The business of design dictates that there exists logical reasoning for every UI/ UX move you make. There needs to be a reason for your chosen palette of colors or, your one-page layout preference. Backing your ideas up with concrete statistics is the way to go. A little bit of research goes a long way. It is always advisable to have complete knowledge of the amazing solution you are about to present since this dramatically reduces the chances of skewing up the thought process. This way, you can let the data talk for itself. And clients seldom argue with data.

However, where data falls short, big players come in handy. Another way to gain credibility is by making examples out of well-recognized names in the market. Think of this as a simple hack to the path of least resistance. If your idea coincides with Google’s, to some extent, then that should definitely be a part of your pitching strategy. This little information can open up doors you never thought existed. The bottom line is, clients will have a lot of queries, and you need to have all the answers ready to make for a smooth design selling work-day!

3. KNOW THE TRENDS: DESIGN FOR THE FUTURE

Don’t just be a great designer, be a smart one. We happen to live in a world where nothing is constant, except change. And when it comes to design, change is what pulls the wagon.

The next time you have a design intervention, do quick trend research. Make yourself aware of the big trends in the market and find out the ones that will stick. You can incorporate those in your designs and make it work. Thinking out of the box is a gift, but thinking smart is an acquired taste. Whatever you do, keep in mind that there’s a difference between an unprecedented risk and well-thought-out-and-researched one. You would definitely need to avoid the former.

If you look closely, you would find that there exist two broad kinds of designers, the trend-setters and the trend-followers. Who do you want to be?

4. PRESENTATION, PRESENTATION, PRESENTATION

Even the best, path-breaking, award-winning ideas need a good presentation to get them out of the shed. Which is why, in order to sell your design ideas effectively, you will need more than a few sketches or words.

Consider making a pitch desk that communicates your ideas in a way that catches the client’s imagination. Make sure that they get the bigger picture. While addressing the client, make sure that you put everything in context. Use mockup templates, distribute design samples, go the extra mile. This will help the client visualize what the final design will emulate. The closer your working prototype comes to the real-life design functionality, the closer you will be to sealing the deal.

5. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE YOUR CLIENT: ACCEPT CRITICISM 

In a profession without absolutes, criticism comes in bountiful. Your work might be your territory, but you need to keep in mind that you have been hired to solve a problem. And how effectively you do it, measures the conversion rate. Your clients may not have all the design know-hows, but they know exactly what they want and how they want it. So it’s best to always stay on top of your game and pitch your design ideas without getting too defensive.

Your clients need to know that you are distilling their ideas and steering them to the best possible fruition and not taking it as a challenge. So treading with a touch of finesse would be a great idea. Instead of responding “I don’t think this change is required”, you could tone it down to a “While the changes you have suggested are completely do-able, you might find that it already satisfies these requirements, if you re-examine the one I have submitted.”

The manner of accepting the feedback on the design is critical to its final acceptance. You will find yourself in situations, where a positive attitude, attention to detail and an inane ability to address all the pain-points will ensure that the client is more receptive to your version of the final design that otherwise.

Quick Tip: You are on the same side as your client, stop taking it as a challenge.

Summary

With design, you need to keep two things in mind:

  • Less is more
  • It is always better to show than to tell

Even though the thought of “selling” might make you cringe, it is a milestone to achieve to make your designs see the light of the day. Having said that, you need to believe in your pixels and your instincts to see you through the worst because at the end of the day, you are what you present. Figuring out the art of presenting your design ideas, pitching them articulating them proficiently and ‘closing’ the design sale are important skills that will come in handy rather regularly over the course of your career.To know how to build design system click here

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