IT consulting is a highly charged, highly competitive landscape. Over the past half-decade or more, IT consulting firms have had a great deal of success positioning user-centered design as a key selling point in the commercial and government sectors. However, it’s really easy for sales and business development professionals to want to sell customers on the “concept car” – a glossy view of what could be. The concept car has its’ roots in advertising when agencies used to pitch companies on a promising campaign. Even then, agencies worth their salt would spend a great deal of time to understand the market, the product, the consumers, the competitive landscape, and then work to craft and deliver a conceptual solution that was directly informed by that research.
“when we started to talk about the customer’s journey and identifying opportunities to provide value to their customers, the client lit up… “
One of the biggest risks with the ‘concept car’ mentality is that you may fall flat, lose face with the client, and quickly get shown the door. I recall being on a sales call with a major brand, where the sales representative was attempting to engage the client by discussing ROIs of a proposed project. The client could have cared less about ROIs or other monetary concerns. However, when we started to talk about the customer’s experience, the customer’s journey, and identifying opportunities to provide value to those customers, the client lit up and said “That’s exactly right!” It was at that moment that we made a real connection with the client. In “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It” world-renowned hostage negotiator, Chris Voss, says “When somebody says ‘that’s right,’ they’re telling you they felt completely understood.” The research we did going into that call and the empathy we showed for his concerns helped bridge that gap, and that was much more powerful than any concept car.
“When somebody says ‘that’s right,’ they’re telling you they felt completely understood.”
If we don’t stop to understand the client, understand the people they serve, the problems they are trying to solve, and their psychological drivers and motivators, we miss key opportunities to engage and excite them with possibilities. While it may be possible to stumble on a flashy design that thrills a narrowly focused client, there are better ways to approach the sales cycle. Find the itch they need to scratch, connect the dots for them or uncover problems they didn’t even know they had, and you will open more doors than not.
written by Shane Close, originally appearing here