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Thread: sales vs. design (someone else selling your stuff)

  1. #1
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    sales vs. design (someone else selling your stuff)

    This was sort of briefly touched upon in the mockup discussion but I would really appreciate hearing from any of you who work with someone else who deals with the client.

    People skills aren't really my thing but I'm starting to be an at least halfway good designer (self confidence isn't my thing either ) and a friend of mine, whom I used to work for in another capacity and did a site for, would like me to go into business with him in a little cottage industry web design deal (like the world needs another one of those, right?)

    He has an enormous number of contacts in the community and GREAT people skills and would be doing the sales/client part of things while I sit around and noodle on the computer and play with Flash. Sounds ideal, right?

    Okay, we get our first client...woohoo!...I do a mockup with some Flash elements after hearing what the client would like. I show the mockup to my friend and he's all the sudden Mr. Designer and hates it but can't tell me ways to change it so that he would be able to sell the client on it. *Note: I had blocks of lorem ipsum in the mockup to represent spaces where text would go on the page and he actually said, "no one reads french, what the hell is that? get rid of that!" - I'm sorry but if the use of lorem ipsum is one of your major critisms in the design of the page...well, just go away and leave me alone because you clearly don't know what you're doing!

    Okay, rant over but c'mon how do you deal with someone like this? It took me two days to get from him (and I even added in little control clips in my mockup - I'm weird I do my mockups as swfs - so that he could change the elements and send me a screenshot so I could figure out what the hell he wanted so we could move forward with the project but he either wouldn't or couldn't use the control clips and the print screen key) that what he didn't like about the site was the use of a couple of red touches. He says that HE likes red but that other people don't: it evokes strong emotion. He showed the site to three people (one of whom was his 17 year old foster child) all while he was standing right there (this guy has an unbelievably powerful personality and won't believe me when I say that what other people say about stuff doesn't count when he's standing there because they're looking for the RIGHT answer even if he doesn't think that he believes there is a right answer if that makes sense.)

    I guess I just feel like I'm doing my job, trying to find out what the client wants and doing the best I can to give it to them and he isn't holding up his end of the bargain which is to sell what I come up with to the client.

    So how do you all work it when you've got someone else doing the sales end of stuff for you? I know that he's going to have to have some say so in the design but does anyone have any good ways to get feedback from someone who thinks they know a lot about design but absolutely doesn't have the vocabulary to discuss it (and I would say doesn't have an iota of taste but since that is subjective... )

    Barrie

  2. #2
    Senior Member MG315's Avatar
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    just so you know, i'm a designer gone seller. started designing, then freelancing, then established a small design studio (more of a partnership, i don't do any backend) and now after getting a few clients i've moved onto selling. While I still design a little bit, i find it much more efficient to be selling rather than designing, especially when you have about 5 clients to deal with at one time.

    anyway, it sounds to me like your seller isnt doing his job right. his job isn't to tell you how bad it looks in his opinion, but how bad it looks in the clients opinion. Before starting design, the seller should walk through an extensive needs analysis with the client which includes but is not limited to such components as sites the client likes/dislikes and why, the corporate colors or desired colors for the site, the types of technology to be used (static, flash, database-driven...), any marketing or offline printed material that advertises the company so you can incorporate it into the site, and a description in the clients words as to what the site should look like. its the sellers job to guide the client through this and educate him as to the possibilities, not just to find the client and get someone to design it. There's much more involved in selling than actual pursuing money. Remember the long term relationship with the client and subcontractor. if the subcontractor (you) do an excellent job and exceed expectations, he might/should reward you for that. He should treat you with the same respect he treats his clients, because it is equally as difficult to find good subcontractors as it is to find good clients.

    My suggestion is to request measures that make your job easier like a needs analysis (can be in the form of a questionnaire, formal meeting, discussion at a restaurant for lunch, telephone call...), and for him not to say how bad the design is because its completely subjective. rather he should take your design and present it to the client in a meeting, go through the different components of it (navigation, information architecture - *dont dis the lipsum*, general aesthetics) and ask for the clients feedback on it. another thing you might try doing is a usability testing with selected individuals from the clients target market. Have them fill out a form which asks basic questions like "find out the company's phone number you would use to contact them" and see if they can find their way throughout the site (usablility side) and ask questions like "is the site visually pleasing" and "does the design in any way detract or distract you from the main purpose of the site" (design side). Having a group of individuals go through it is much more effective than the opinionated and bias view of the sales rep.

    If all else fails, find a new sales rep. you don't want someone trying to sell your product who doesnt fully believe it is the best product on the market. He should know without doubt that you are the best designer for the job. If he is saying things like "I don't like the colors or layout of this concept" to the client, he is influencing the client to doubt your work due to his own opinion. Don't force yourself to work under those conditions.

    And i'll keep you in mind. always looking for some good subcontractors.
    Bill Erickson: resume | portfolio
    1 | 2 | 3 | 4
    Great Designs for $100

  3. #3
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    MG315 made a very good response to your threat, thanx for that MG!
    I would only like to add one thing: don't you ever doubt your skills... don't overestimate yourself either, but as your story sounds it may be that your lack of self confidence gives your sellor the opportunity to walk over you.

    Try the new approach MG315 suggested, that works. If it doesn't, find another seller who has knowledge about webdesign and, just as important, likes your designs and is able to criticize them in the right way.

    Good luck!

  4. #4
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    Sorry to have ranted on so long in the original post I was just REALLY frustrated!

    The below from MG315 is exactly what I was looking for; how do I give this guy the tools to communicate effectively with me when we keep getting stuck on stupid stuff like the lorem ipsum thing? BTW, I'm gonna get freaking t-shirt with "don't dis the lipsum" on it! I LOVE that!

    Originally posted by MG315
    My suggestion is to request measures that make your job easier like a needs analysis (can be in the form of a questionnaire, formal meeting, discussion at a restaurant for lunch, telephone call...), and for him not to say how bad the design is because its completely subjective. rather he should take your design and present it to the client in a meeting, go through the different components of it (navigation, information architecture - *dont dis the lipsum*, general aesthetics) and ask for the clients feedback on it. another thing you might try doing is a usability testing with selected individuals from the clients target market. Have them fill out a form which asks basic questions like "find out the company's phone number you would use to contact them" and see if they can find their way throughout the site (usablility side) and ask questions like "is the site visually pleasing" and "does the design in any way detract or distract you from the main purpose of the site" (design side). Having a group of individuals go through it is much more effective than the opinionated and bias view of the sales rep.
    All of this is very good and I'm going to spend today coming up with some basic questionairres for him to give to clients, but the business model that he is working toward means working very quickly on a bunch of little sites. Almost like template stuff but with much better designs than what you generally see in that. I thought I might be on to something with my control clips idea (http://www.stonnie.com/Salon1050) when he couldn't seem to articulate clearly to me what he didn't like about that mockup or tell me what he would like to see changed (he had said, gee I wish I could just drag this stuff around when we were looking at it which is what gave me the idea.) As I said, he either couldn't or wouldn't use the control clips + print screen as a communication tool. When I finally discovered that it was only the use of the color red he objected to I offered to add a control clip so that he could change the color of the ribbons or do some mockups using various other colors. He said not to bother but I went ahead (after he told me that the client didn't care if I fiddled with her logo) and did this version: http://www.stonnie.com/Salon1050/pink.html which he LOVES and has already sold the client on.

    There are some actual practical problems with the second mockup: the font on the top things is so small that it is pretty much unreadable in 1024x768, because the client has now decided she doesn't want to have to deal with updating the page every time booth renters come and go we lost the 'stylists' button and links to the co-owners' portfolios/bios are all the way on the left hand side of the page going sideways (I do plan to add text links within the copy) which is NOT good navigation...despite all these problems everyone is happy because I did a half an hours work on some freaking motion tweens, lol! What is that? The client actually said, "don't change a thing!"

    Words that she used when talking about what she wanted in a site and my impression of her and the salon (she cuts my hair ;p) are 'contemporary yet classic', 'hip yet subdued'. What we've got now is bubblegum! Bubblegum does not say any of those things to me. Which is why I think that my seller's opinion was GREATLY influencing the client's opinion. That and the fact that her original logo did not allow for horizontal growth and tended to get lost in the shuffle as a result.

    I am 99% certain that the only two things that changed my seller's opinion were the horizontal logo (and not every client is going to let us fiddle with their logo like that) and the eye-candy.

    Am I going to have to do that to solve every dispute? Not that big of a deal I guess since noodling around with Flash falls into the realm of entertainment in my life but still...and what happens when he gets as jaded about eye-candy as I am? I wouldn't be impressed by the current version: I know the motion tweens are actually kind of crappy and need some serious tweaking, I know it isn't good to have two important pieces of information not obviously accessable. My seller said that the original version wasn't balanced. I think the new version lists to the left.

    How do I give him the tools to communicate with me so that I can figure out what he wants? The dude can sell anything so I'm not willing to give up on the relationship but I am going to lose my mind if I have to go through this on every site!

    Barrie

  5. #5
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    Hi Barrie,

    How do I give him the tools to communicate with me so that I can figure out what he wants?
    It seems like your seller runs the show on the design, functionality, content etc. of the website. Why is that? Do you give suggestions to him about being a better salesman? I guess not.

    YOU have to convince HIM why your design is good, especially in terms of usability, screen resolution, navigation etc. You're the expert on website design. Of course, where two people give their opinion about that red colour, you probably get two different views. Why not let the client make the final decision in those cases?
    Before you design a site, you would make a plan on all the specifics of the project. It is a guideline to you and you can use it "against" your seller to explain to him why you made certain decisions.

    I too work with a seller and the guy likes my designs and has the knowledge (though limited) to make suggestions to improve a design. He trusts my ability to make good websites that he can sell to clients. Try going to that direction: mutual trust in each others abilities.

  6. #6
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    I too work with a seller and the guy likes my designs and has the knowledge (though limited) to make suggestions to improve a design. He trusts my ability to make good websites that he can sell to clients. Try going to that direction: mutual trust in each others abilities.
    This just about sums up what I was going to say. All of the systems you might put into place to make this process smoother will still be fundamentally flawed if your relationship with this person is flawed. (Only you can answer the question of whether it is or not.)

    I have two partners. I am the designer, one programs and the third handles sales/client relations. As MG315 posted, we have a needs assessment system in place, so I am very clear what it is that the client expects. But my partner still looks at my design before he shows it to the client.

    Even with this in place, there have been a few occassions where my partner has suggested a change. First of all, I honestly want to know what he thinks and if he thinks that the client will like it. If he suggests a change, I try to be open-minded. If I disagree, I explain why.

    He already thinks I a great designer. (He thinks I'm a better designer than I think I am.) So he is pleased 99.9% of the time. When we disgaree, he is quite willing to defer to my expertise. It's a relationship of mutal respect and trust.

    Now, these things take time to develop. We worked with each other for a year before we decided to form a partnership. You have to ask yourself if you think that you can establish this type of relationship with your friend or not.

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    It's a relationship of mutal respect and trust....Now, these things take time to develop. We worked with each other for a year before we decided to form a partnership. You have to ask yourself if you think that you can establish this type of relationship with your friend or not.
    Hmmm, I think this might be the root of the problem I worked for this guy for 3 years running his boarding/training kennel. While I was working for him I set up a website for the kennel and started learning a lot about design, etc. Discovered that I really like doing it and seem to have something of a knack for it. He was in a position where he didn't really need anyone running the kennel for him because my main purpose was to free him up to raise a baby who was, by now, old enough to go to pre-k. I went out on my own doing freelance work but three years later I'm not getting enough work to quite make it and kind of going back and forth on whether or not to bother with it or to just take one of the office jobs I get offered doing temp work. So he sees a way for him to make enough extra to send the kid to private school and get me situated at the same time.

    Whew. Kind of a strange progression, hunh?

    Anyway, he thinks of me as a pet project. We do have a longstanding relationship and I think this little endeavor could work out well for both of us but BECAUSE of our previous relationship I am just having a very hard time making him believe that I really do know what I'm doing and trusting my sense of design. Add to that that he doesn't know how to look at something like the first version of the salon site and see that the basic layout is fine, that pink vs. red might open it up some and envision it with a couple of motion tweens thrown in and I am just worried that if I can't figure out some way to either a) educate his eye and give him some way to communicate with me or b) figure out a way to read him better so that I know what he wants I'm going to wind up dead of a heart attack from stress before I hit thirty

    Barrie

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