Design thinking in the sales process: How you can increase your success in sales

Picture of Kathrin von Kaiz

Kathrin from Kaiz

April 4, 2018

Sales processes are becoming more and more complex while sales pressure is increasing. The growing complexity of offerings such as IoT, CloudAI, VR etc. has made the work of sales teams much more difficult in recent years. The transparency of the markets and the associated comparability of offers have also resulted in increased customer requirements, which often render traditional sales activities ineffective. Companies need new strategies and approaches to win and retain customers. Agile methods such as design thinking in the sales process offer such an approach. Read this article to find out how you can put it into practice in your company and successfully implement design thinking in the sales process.

It's about gaining insights into the hidden needs of your customers!

Of course, you don't always have time to deal with your customers' problems for as long and as intensively as Sachin does in the Example with surprising success in sales has done. What this example makes clear, however, is that the approach of putting yourself in the "customer's shoes" can open doors for your sales team that were previously closed.

Every company has customers and the aim of every company should be to satisfy its customers. Regardless of whether it is a company from the B2C or B2B sector and regardless of whether they are internal or external customers. So focus on the needs, problems and pain points of your customers and understand how you can positively influence their experience with your company and your offering.

Build empathy for your customers and then sell real solutions that you develop together with them instead of products.

User research and gathering insights as a basis - deciphering the human element behind the data with design thinking

As already mentioned, it is important to build empathy with the end users: the focus is on the people and their thoughts and actions that you want to influence. Of course, data and facts are also important when solving problems, but ultimately it's always about real, breathing people. It's one thing to learn about the workings of a ticket scanning application for a bus driver that allows customers to check in efficiently. But it's quite another to see the driver's frustration at the application being far too slow to operate - and the dissatisfaction of the passengers.

User research provides the data and facts, while the empathy element of the design thinking process focuses on people. We collect findings from both areas as insights. Because without insights, there are no innovative solutions. In most cases, these insights lead us to much larger problems that shed new light on the initial issue and thus offer new starting points for sales activities.

Change of mindset and implementation of a new process to identify new sales opportunities

In order to implement these findings on design thinking in the sales process, it is first necessary to establish the conceptual basis and structure the various phases.

Changing the mindset

Companies tend to be happy about the cool things they can offer, but usually forget the most important thing: the question of user desirability. In design thinking, the person or user of an offering is always at the forefront of all activities and thoughts.

So before we think about what we can implement technically (feasibility) and how much turnover we can achieve with it (profitability), we first need to understand,

  • who is our customer,
  • what is important to him and
  • Why he needs it (desirability).

As sales is the direct contact for customers and the first point of contact for customers in the company, sales employees are ideally positioned to embody this mindset. Sales staff should therefore learn how to bring to light what is really important to customers, namely insights into the desirability of their own offering.

Concrete application of design thinking in the sales process - the process

There are three important phases that have been derived from the design thinking process for sales and can be easily integrated into existing sales processes:

  • Phase 1: Discover important insights through user research.
  • Phase 2: Summarizing the key insights we discovered about the customer and their business in Phase 1. The goal is to build empathy: "Why did these things we discovered happen?"
  • Phase 3: Developing ideas based on the insights and finding solutions together with the customer in several rounds.

Each of these phases has its own mindset. In phase 1, it is the Curiosityin phase 2 it is Empathy and in phase 3 it is Agility.

Conclusion: The use of design thinking in the sales process

To survive, or rather to improve, sales staff need to transform from experts to collaborators. This means understanding customers well enough to design solutions for their ever-changing needs. We no longer live in a seller-buyer world. Success in this new world is achieved when customer and sales are on the same side of the table.

In order to successfully integrate the design thinking method into the sales process, it is helpful to create an appropriate basis for the new and different mindsets by coaching the teams.

You can find more information at

Design thinking in the sales process and more

If you would like to find out more about how Design Thinking can be applied in practice, please register for our regular newsletter on the subject at:

Save the date: September 21 and 22, 2018!

Seminar on "Sell by Design" - how you can increase your sales success with Design Thinking (exclusively after the Method from somersault innovations).

You will find more information here shortly.

(Cover image: © psdesign1 |

About the author

Picture of Kathrin von Kaiz

Kathrin from Kaiz

Kathrin von Kaiz is a TCI partner and specialist when it comes to advising companies on digital transformation with regard to user centricity. Whether it's communication, service design or IT - the focus is always on the customer.

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