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Technology Featured Southeast Asia

For UX designers: selling your product is about creating a perception, says Adaptis regional director

Vietnam – The current highs of digital have definitely pounded the people behind tech products with much pressure to grace the forefront – specifically to mold one into becoming an all-in-one man –  beyond making and designing products, that is, to become a marketer and a businessman as well. 

After all, we’ve seen model IT leaders early on, in the face of Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg, but product designers today are faced with a challenge to keep up with the bar of versatility.

With model IT leaders like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, UX designers are hit with the pressure to keep up with evolving skillsets including UX selling.

In the recently held UXVN Festival 2020, a virtual conference in Vietnam for user experience (UX) practitioners, regional director of creative technological agency Adaptis Binh Truong, laid out the process of how UX designers can make themselves ready to go beyond fulfilling UX requirements – learning how to be in sales, and effectively attracting buy-ins to their products. 

In his talk UX Selling, External and Internal Approach, Truong said that in selling their products, UX designers simply need to create a perception or bring about the ‘whole picture’ of where a product fits into clients’ own objectives. 

The sale is all about creating perception. When you talk with your peer or [with] your friend, it’s [easy] [for them] to know exactly what you’re talking about, but when you come to talk with [strangers], somebody in marketing [or] engineering from the client side, and [they say] we want to design this [app], and they have no idea what you have in mind, about the process.

Binh Truong, Regional Director, Adaptis

He further said that this is the time when designers must “ask the [questions]” because this is when you’re able to create the perception, where you arm yourself with the needed unified ‘pitch’ in order to justify and make clients understand your product.  

So what questions are these? Binh enumerated the important ones: 

  • Questions about the past
  • Questions to uncover the gap
  • Questions about their customer 
  • Questions about the company, org chart, culture
  • Questions about the decision-making criteria 
  • Questions of why
  • Questions about the competition and trend 

Truong said that while a lot avoid the activity of selling, being mostly a challenging undertaking, people, such as UX designers, must learn to embrace it, in order to “connect to people.”

UX selling is a skill. Design is a part of everything else. You need to know how to handle the people around you, not only the user.

With 18 years in the field of IT and digital, having earlier worked with Microsoft China e-commerce as a senior project manager, and also currently a regional manager at Interaction Design Foundation (IDF), a global online design school, Truong surely has mastered the nooks and crannies of UX selling. In the talk, he shares a number of pointers: 

UX project is an investment, either for an internal or external client – meaning you’re using someone’s money.

In laying out the ‘facts’ in managing sales, Truong stated, “An investment means you’re using someone’s money, [it means] you need to care about the return of investment, it means you need to deliver the value. [You’re asking] somebody to pay for this project, so [you] need to return it in some way.”

Sales is a journey 

Truong also stressed that one of the most important principles to remember in sales is that it isn’t a one-off engagement, but a process and a journey. 

“[Sales] is not only about signing a contract, [but it’s also a skill] you need all along, [bringing] the deal onwards,” he said. 

Truong even shared a crucial insight: “Sales process is lifetime, [the] same as your product lifecycle.” 

According to him, it starts with building that perception and trust, managing expectations, then communicating and providing the value; and once prospects have been converted, UX designers must guide clients through the process of onboarding the product, engaging users, and then eventually to the pot of gold – repeat purchase and referrals.   

“In order to convince people, you need to make sure that they like you, [and in order to do that], you need to bring in the value, so [that] they listen to you, and [that’s when] the obstacle and the barrier [between you and the client] go down, while you increase the mutual trust,” he said. 

You have enough UX skills to start doing sales, it’s only about doing it the right way. 

In the session, Truong said that right off the bat, UX designers’ expertise puts them in an advantageous position to sell their product. 

“You have the skill, you know a lot of UX technology, and [with] some mindset in [sales], you [just] need to do the right thing,” he said. 

In building that sales mindset, Truong offers the PACT framework. PACT stands for People, Activity, Context, and Technology.

“You have to know who you’re selling to (people), what activity they’re doing (activity), what context they’re in (context) – such as which period it is taking place, and how much money they have – and what technology is right for them (technology),” explained Truong.

UX is a framework you can tailor 

Contrary to Truong noting sales as a process, he believes that UX can be approached as a framework.

He said that in selling their product, UX designers have the tendency to talk about every little part of the product and technology, which could overwhelm a potential client. 

“It’s your job to make it easier [for your stakeholders],” he said.

Truong notes that designers can pick out any part of the UX ‘framework’, such as the prototype, the journey map maybe, the form design, or the user interface (UI) patterns, and start talking about and engaging that part of the design with stakeholders. 

“You don’t need to put everything in the same [conversation], it’s [frustrating for] your client [and] stakeholders, so just pick something,” he said. 

Concluding the session, Truong said, “Everything starts with you.

He further shared designers need to remember that every business or individual, has its own stage, age, and maturity level. A one-size-fits-all strategy won’t work as one may encounter a variety of prospects – companies –  that are either starting or full-grown, as well as individuals from different age groups, hence carrying different needs.

Ultimately, he said, “Long story short, you need to know the map before you enter the game.” 

Adaptis has a presence in Europe and the Asia Pacific. They have offices in Switzerland, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Their global clients include Kempinski Hotels, Toyota, Johnnie Walker, and more.

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Technology Featured Southeast Asia

Can UX designers be part of the business decision making process?

Manila, Philippines – Expertise is the name of the game in the workplace, but even that carries a challenge – often you are thought to be limited to your specialization and miss the chance for your voice to be heard in other valuable areas of the company. 

In the field of user experience, designers aren’t an exception who are often left from the business decision-making process, but a principal product designer from Indonesia e-commerce Tokopedia might just have the perfect answer. 

In the recently held UXPH Conference for experience designers last November 14 to 15 in the Philippines, Tokopedia’s Sonya Seddarasan presented a framework that can help UX specialists gain ample background of a product’s marketability, and therefore, get their foot in the “business” door.

Seddarasan has been with Indonesia e-commerce since 2019 where she works with multidisciplinary teams of business, data analytics, engineering, and experience designing.

“[There’s] a lot of culture [where] [UX] designers are being [passed down] requirements, and our job is basically just to empathize with it, and then give [back the result] to [the] product [team]. So you are actually missing a lot of the background work that has to done,” she said.  

In her talk Using Customer Value Proposition as Revenue Model, she explained the structure of how designers can identify a product’s best revenue model with customer value proposition as the entry point.   

Also called a viability assessment, the framework consists of three building blocks: identifying a product or service’s top customer value proposition, coming up with user personas, and then matching the latter to the best revenue model for the business.

With four to six key people in the team, the assessment simply involves asking the right trigger questions, brainstorming a list of the answers, and rearranging them based on priority. 

With the existing product or solution as the baseline, Seddarasan said to ask three key trigger questions to name the top values it offers the user: what value does the solution offer, why should customers use the solution, and what problem is being solved for them. 

With three priority values named, the target users are then identified. Seddarasan said to differentiate them based on four different tiers: their job, their age, their needs, and their behavior.

Similarly with a number of three user groups to focus on, the best revenue model – from pey per use, bundling, or subscription, among others – is matched to each persona. For the final step, Seddarasan said such questions must be asked: how much is the customer in a certain group willing to pay, in what medium are they likely to pay, and where can they find such medium.

In the UXPH session, Seddarasan said by applying such framework, designers won’t need to clamor for validation from stakeholders, whereas an intelligently informed business suggestion would naturally emerge via following the steps.

Seddarasan, having been in the design industry – with experience ranging from graphic and product design to UX – for more than ten years, is no stranger to receiving prejudice from other functional teams in the workplace.

“At the end of the day, you’ll meet different people anywhere, whether they’re accommodating or [not], but everyone has got the same basic behavior. If they know that you actually add up to [the company], no matter how small it is, as long as you know how to speak to them and how to negotiate your way around it, I think everything is workable.”

But despite workplace differences, Seddarasan said pushing for the immersion in business strategy is well worth the effort, for business knowledge could make or break designers’ longevity in the industry.

“UX strategy will be something that is an [asset] for us designers to be able to have a chair, to have a seat in the middle of business environment.” 

MARKETECH APAC is an official media partner at the UXPH Conference 2020: Designers as Navigators of Change, which was held from November 14 to 15, 2020.