Tag Archives: Pitching UX

If you only know 2 things about how to sell UX….

What are the most important things to know about sales and how to sell UX to your manager?  This is a very tricky question as believe it or not, sales is an extremely complex profession, which takes many years to truly master.  However, if you are a UX professional you probably don’t have years to find your feet in sales and want to know easy to master techniques to help pitch your UX skills to your manager.   So, I have attempted to break it down  into what I believe are the 2 most important things to remember when trying to pitch UX to your manager.

Ask questions

Selling is as much about asking questions as it is about answering them.  To truly understand what the problems being faced by your manager and the business are, you have to ask them questions.  And don’t let them get away with superficial answers.  Really listen to their answers and then ask follow-up questions to get to the bottom of the problem.  Only then will you really be able to frame your solution to the real problems facing your manager and the business.  Asking questions and getting to the root of the problem, is giving you invaluable ammunition to use when you actually go into pitch for budget for UX work.  Finding out the real problems gives you important information you can use to help leverage and convince your manager you can solve them.  You will have a far stronger pitch if you can say; “According to our Sales Director, the lack of sales enquiries coming through the website is causing a 20% drop in revenues per month”.  Use these problems you have discovered to your advantage, as ammunition to help give weight to the solutions you can provide with your UX skills.

Don’t try to sell a feature

This is the biggest mistake anyone (Especially rookie sales reps) make when starting out in their sales career.  They always try to sell a feature to a customer.  “We added inline help messages to the web form”.  You may love your new inline help messages, but the customer or your manager does not care as this is merely a feature and means absolutely nothing to them.  However, if you finish that sentence with “which has or will result in more people completing our check out process and more online orders being processed”.  The customer or your manager suddenly finds this very compelling as that feature has been transformed into a clear benefit to the business.  Create a simple table with the feature you are proposing on the left and the actual benefit to the business on the right.  Then when you are creating your pitch make sure you include the benefit and don’t try to sell a feature.

You can follow me on twitter here.

More resources:

How UX can get the budget they want

Pitching UX for the first time

Selling what we do (from Johnny Holland)

Leave a comment

Filed under Pitching UX

Pitching UX for the first time


Confidently pitching the importance of UX to your manager for the first time can definitely be tricky.  Just like approaching strangers in a bar, it can be nerve wracking, exciting, fearful, you may have read lots of books on one liners and can mostly come across like you know what you are doing, but its always an unknown experience.  However, when pitching you can practice your pitch, refine it using colleagues and friends, without the fear of rejection to really make sure you create an impact when you pitch for the first time.

Practice the art of seduction

On a first date, is your partner going to be more impressed if you never stop talking about yourself, or seem interested in them, ask questions and actually listen?  Pitching and sales is very much the same.  The image of sales people is often tarnished by the rude, brash, sales rep who just won’t stop talking about their product.  This is not good sales practice and a good sales person will always ask questions about your business before trying to sell you a product to fix a problem they probably have no idea about.

Prior to your pitch you have to ask questions of your manager, those who report to your manager and anyone else relevant in your organisation who will be at the pitch (customer service are usually a great starting point as they bear the brunt of poor website design).  Find out what the key problems facing the business are? Are sales up, down, or flat?  Does your manager have a problem with the current website?  If so what is it and why?  Is he aware that “x” is currently causing a problem?  You have to then actively listen, which is very different to listening.  When you actively listen you ask questions depending on the response given.  So if you hear that sales are flat, you should ask if any possible causes have been identified.  If they have, what are they?  Leads have dipped from the website?  The GFC causing problems in the marketplace?  A competitor has recently launched a better product?  By actively listening and asking pertinent questions you will usually be able to get to a root cause of the problem, which you will hopefully be able to fix by improving the design of your website.

Everyone needs a good wingman/woman

Once you have a platform to work from, start meeting with key members who will be at your pitch informally, take them for a coffee.  For example, if the customer service manager has said that they have seen an increase in complaints directly due to a problem with the website, resulting in extra overtime, which has subsequently increased costs, find out what has caused that issue, engage them and then leave them in no uncertain terms that the solution you are proposing will help ease these problems.

Have sales leads dipped on the website?  If so, speak to the sales director, find out what impact this has had on sales?  Do leads via the website have a higher conversion rate than cold calling?  If you could deliver “x” % more leads, what affect would that have on revenue?  Whatever the problem is, find an angle where you can make a difference, but get key people on your side prior to the meeting.  You need to have allies in the room, just like you need a good wingman/woman when approaching a pair of strangers in a bar.

Flirting – practice makes perfect

Once you understand the problems and have worked out a good angle toapproach the pitch from, practice in front of the mirror, to your friends, colleagues, wife, husband, and anyone who will listen.  Good sales people and presenters are not naturally born with the gift of how to pitch and present.  It takes practice, much like refining your flirting techniques over time.  You know when a bad one liner doesn’t work, so you wouldn’ t use it again, right?  So whilst practising your presentation flow, if something doesn’t work or feel right, you know not to use it during your pitch.  When the time comes to actually pitch, it should not be the first time you have gone through the material.  It should be the 5th time, at least.  This isn’t to make you word perfect, but so that you know the material and understand the flow of the presentation.  Read Scott Berkuns book, confessions of a public speaker to find out more about how to prepare for public speaking and pitching.

Getting to first base

Once you have worked out an angle to approach the pitch from having questioned key members of the team,  now you need to work out a way to deliver your message and solution in a compelling manner that will really hit the mark with your manager.  This often does not involve pulling together a big pitch.  Sometimes it can be a 5 minute hard hitting off the cuff chat, check out my posts on pitching UX creatively and getting sign off in 60 seconds to find out more.  You have to decide what will work best within your organisation.

If it’s a full on pitch your boss wants though, you must follow some tried and true sales techniques when structuring your pitch:

  • Set the scene – show the problems currently afflicting your site (From your questioning of managers).
  • Show the impact of those problems on the business in real terms.  I.e. less sales leads are coming in therefore revenue is down X %.  Break it down for your manager.
  • Get positive reinforcement abd buy in from your allies in the crowd that the above are true.  Don’t be afraid to ask them to confirm the impact and potential upside.
  • Once you have everyone in agreement on the problems, confidently tell them you can fix these in X weeks, with a cost of X.  The solution will drive an estimated X % more sales leads, therefore X more in real revenue.  Again, break it down in real terms for your manager.
  • Keep it simple, don’t use jargon or big words for the sake of it.  ‘Inline contextual help” means nothing to your manager and will only alienate him and make him feel stupid.  Keep it simple and to the point, focus on the real benefits of your solution to the business, not the features you will apply to get there.

You can follow me on twitter

1 Comment

Filed under Pitching UX

Getting sign off on a UX project in less than 60 seconds


Too often CEO’s or senior managers are too busy, or don’t see value in attending hours long usability sessions.  There are many tips and tricks to get them there, providing food, drinks, bribery, but often times it just isn’t feasible.  The truth is you don’t necessarily need them to be at these sessions to make them truly appreciate the value of your work.  Instead you can still create a high impact impression by extracting the most valuable, high impact clips from your usability sessions and instantly proving the major problems of your website.

Usability testing sessions

Watching anyone either continually fail or continually ease through a usability testing session can become a little tedious.  Watching multiple users can be even more tedious and time-consuming for even the most seasoned UX professional, let alone a senior manager who doesn’t really understand the process.  The danger could be that after one session or an hour with not much happening they decide to leave the recording session altogether with a poor impression of the day.  So why do we continue to try to make our managers attend long sessions that have the potential to hinder and not help our cause to get our managers attention?  If a manager sits in a session where the user has performed well and leaves, what will be their honest impression of the final bill for the day / weeks / months worth of work?  Will they understand the true ROI of the session? Perhaps not, and perhaps your chance of getting further budget has been fatally harmed.

Create impact

Many user testing participants have issues at the same section of a session.  Usually you will get at least one of these participants who will completely melt down at the same part of the session.  These moments can often be punctuated with the odd expletive, “sh*t, f*ck”, or a classic one liner like “Are you sure your website is not broken?”, or if you are lucky both “Your website is f*cked cos that is correct address and postcode combination”.  You absolutely have to use these moments to your advantage to create a high impact presentation in under 5 minutes.

Pick apart the video logs of your tests and find the moment where a user completely fails a task, or utters some kind of rant about your website and use your editing software to condense that moment into a short clip, between 5 and 60 seconds.

Once you have done this, put the clip into a 3 page slide deck, with the clip being on the second page.  On the first page use a few small bullet points to set the scene to lead into the clip you have made.  Then do whatever you have to do to get 5 minutes of your manager’s time.  I do not mean set a meeting, but try to catch them when they are in their office and have the deck ready to go on a USB stick.  Tell them you only want 5 minutes and then you will leave them alone, but that what you want to show them has serious ramifications for the business.

On slide 3 break down the true impact this problem is having to the business in real terms.  Use language and terms your manager will understand and emphasise the true potential cost that leaving this problem is having to the business.  Check out my post on how UX can get the budget they want, for more help on this.

Use this wisely

It is important to use this technique wisely and don’t choose clips where you have not seen a pattern of users having problems on the same section of the test.  You have to stay true to your principals and do not want to be selling a problem to your manager which is a complete edge case.  However, if you do see a pattern, use the worst clips to help you get sign off for projects in less than 60 seconds and create high impact presentations that will make your manager sit up and listen to the true value you can give to the business.

You can follow me on twitter

Update: This method can also work well if you do not have budget for a project, but already know there is a major problem on the site.  Go guerilla, test 5 users out of hours without working up a plan, or methodology, just in a quick session and then use the footage to help you get sign off for the project.


Filed under Pitching UX

How UX can get the budget they want


If you want to get bigger budgets for your UX work, you have to look at the problem from the eyes of your manager and even their manager.  Just as you look at interfaces from the point of view of your users, what angle is your boss looking at the problem from?  And what is your hook that will make them sit up and listen to you?  An exit rate of 10% due to poorly formatted error messages and form fields? Or $2 million dollars in lost revenue?  Which is more compelling to your manager?  You have to frame your arguments in terms that will appeal to your boss, or face always feeling like they are never listening and you are not getting the budgets you deserve.

The Problem

Each time I visit a conference I hear the same problems faced by UX professionals.  Not the never ending search for a perfect interface, the perfect user flow, or a usability test that passes without incident.  Most commonly it is “If I could only get the budget, my CEO just doesn’t listen to me in meetings, they seem to switch off and just don’t understand my point of view”.  In the majority of cases this is probably your problem, not theirs.  Successfully pitching your ideas and making your managers, and their managers buy into the UX problems on your site is essential in getting sign off for your projects.

An Example

Imagine you are responsible for the sign up process for companies registering to use your web app.  You have a 5 step form, which has a reasonably high exit rate on each step.  However, you are still getting a high volume of signs ups to your sites and your manager doesn’t want to invest in improving it.  How do you pitch to get funds to improve the web form and decrease exit rates?  Here is how to do it.

The Hook

Often referred to as your elevator or 3 second pitch, but ultimately means being able to explain the value you will bring to the company in 1 sentence.  Your manager will be fielding requests from staff, and from their own managers and have limited time.  Don’t setup a long presentation, if you cannot also deliver an effective hook.  Why should they give you some of their valuable time?  In this example, because you can help save the company $2 million in lost revenue.

Break it down

If you want to affect change you have to first understand the goals of the business and the KPIs of your manager and of the company.  How are they being measured?  What is the company trying to achieve this year?  Once you understand this, you can then frame the value you are delivering (or want to deliver) in these terms.  That way you are immediately appealing to something your manager understands.

It is no good telling them in a meeting that the existing sign up form gives a terrible user experience and error messages are poorly aligned and the copy needs improving.  They won’t care and will already be fiddling with their blackberry.  Frame it in your managers language;

  • 24% drop out rate across the 5 step process
  • On average, that equates to 1000 customers per month, lost
  • Scaled across the 10 international sites you run, that’s 10,000 customer per month, lost
  • Or 120,000 customer per year
  • A customers average lifetime value to the business is $20
  • $20 x 120,000 is $2.4M in lost revenue per year

Go into a meeting and concisely break down the tangible affect the poor UX is having on the business in these terms and your manager will listen.

The Close

Make sure you are prepared with your solution, again using your managers language.  Don’t give them the intimate details of how you will change the error message alignment (Unless of course they actually ask, if so be visual check out my post on pitching UX creatively to affect change) as they likely won’t care and probably don’t understand.  Be positive and again break it down for them;

  • 8 week project timeline from testing to production
  • Cost $200,000
  • Ready to start work in 2 weeks

As a UX professional, you have to understand the direct impact of your work on the business.  To do this, you need to first understand how the business operates in implicit detail to ensure you can effectively frame the value you deliver.  Find an angle where the problems caused by poor UX, IA, VD has a direct impact on revenue, or whatever your boss is KPI’d on and then break it down into language they will understand to force home your message.

You should follow me on twitter


Filed under Pitching UX