The formula for selling design sprints.

Sabrina Goerlich
Sep 24, 2018 · 7 min read

What the AJ&Smart sales workshop taught me.

Design Sprint: Everybody is creative!

In early September I attended a sales workshop in Berlin at AJ&Smart’s lovely office on the Spree. Together with a group of international design sprint facilitators full of expectations, hopes and wishes, the head of new business, Penny, started her high impact, lean and focused presentation.

Visiting the set of AJ&Smart’s large range of videos, I discovered that everything is indeed real and authentic — just Pierce Brosnan didn’t show up, but this was covered by lots of posters, pictures and paintings all over the studio (the former Mr. Bond is an “in-joke”, his image having become a kind of mascot for the firm). But lack of superspies aside, the sales workshop with Penny turned out to be quite enlightening.

As an ice-breaker, we started interviewing our neighbours at the table focusing on the individual role and our love for Sprints. Luciano, a Brazilian product designer, reported about myself: “Sabrina is a strategic designer who is passionate about design sprints with which she closed the gap between creative concepts and viable business solutions.” (thanks, Luciano!)

After that our expectations were written on post-its and expressed a need for a formula to sell the design sprint!

To quickly outline the course:

  • Very experienced and inspiring guidance (Penny)
  • A nice and engaging group of diverse people from the design and coaching industry
  • Well prepared materials
  • Great atmosphere and delicious food together with the whole AJ&Smart team
  • Lots of deep insights into the design sprint and the way Penny is selling

Not to forget the valuable content of the sales workshop, like:

  • Important points on the design sprint
  • Preparing our pitch
  • Explaining the sales process
  • What a sales deck can look like
  • An indeep Q&A with Penny

Let’s dive deeper and search for the mysterious formula.

The design sprint is sufficiently mentioned in certain areas, so if you are not familiar with the process, please check it out (

Penny just touched upon it and then reinforced the essential principles from the design sprint which are crucial for the customer.

  • Getting started is more important than being right
    Don’t wait for the perfect idea or you will wait forever.
    You will never succeed or even fail if you don’t start.
  • Work alone, but together with the team
    Most activities in a design sprint are done alone but together with the team. The goal is to prevent early judgements of ideas for a much better output.
  • Don’t rely on creativity
    The process itself supports the team to create ideas.
  • Minimise discussion
    Be faster. Make every idea matter.

A short discourse on the point of “not relying on creativity”

Designers are set with the strong belief in their own ideas. They are convinced that creativity is the source where the value derives from. However, is this true or just an illusion?

Execution is the key to success. With a great idea and a bad execution, success will probably prove evasive, but a so-so idea executed brilliantly will be steps ahead.

The belief in creativity will be hard to eliminate from a designer’s view, but it is fundamental for the design sprint.

Whatever idea occurs will always work well for the process itself.

Preparing our sales pitch

In a group of nine, we could work effectively on our own sales pitch to find out about the individual way to prepare a package for our customers.

While getting ready for a demo pitch presentation…

  • We focused on the Sprint benefits for customers
  • We found out about who (our customer is), what (we do for them),
    how (we do this) and why (we are unique)
  • We developed our clear vision about what will be our design sprint package
  • We defined how our deliverables for the customers will look like

Then each one pitched to a fictitious audience — while everyone else could analyse the impression from both technical and personal points of view as a potential client. Attending the pitch in the audience was an inspiring experience, and the feedback for each one gave concrete and practical advice for future performances.

A quick hack: take some friends or colleagues and pitch to them. Get feedback. Improve!

Explaining the sales process

Penny rocked us with lots of slides, exercises and to-dos, and unfolded a toolbox full of practical and tangible advice which gave us a real-world approach.

So, here comes the fun part of the sales process: Don’t call it a sales process.

It’s all about communication and empathy. The customers need to be understood, their wants and needs, their challenges and problems, so they can be helped in the best possible way. Simply ask and listen.

Another point is building trust. Be yourself, be authentic, build a relationship and provide value to the customer.

And last but not least: Get out of the comfort zone!

The fun part of the sales process comes with a passion for communication and for the design sprint.

Why this is a very individual experience for everybody

As already described, our class was made up of personalities with various backgrounds, skills, roles and purposes.

The illustration makes it clear how special the formula for the sales pitch must be:

A diverse and international group of inspiring peopl

How does this lead us to the desired recipe?

Spoiler alert: there is no recipe. Although, I can say that there is a way to build a blueprint.

With the impact of the workshop, additional materials and follow-ups, each one of us can start with a formula respecting the following points:

  • Market
  • Skills
  • Role
  • Region
  • Language
  • Experience
  • Current situation
  • Vision for the future

Creating a tailored blueprint, the sales communication can begin with the maxim of the design sprint “getting started is more important than being right!”

From the designers view, I start analysing the market and potential clients, and preparing my pitch like the following:

  • why: with passion and our curious, open mindset
  • what: we make faster progress happen
  • how: using the Design Sprint 2.0 as a “no worries we care for everything” package
  • more steps are currently under construction ;-))

The result will be a concise presentation and a well thought-through profile, which is authentic to the customers and to me. Then reflection from the customer’s point of view will be crucial. It must have value for them, and they need to understand it quickly. For this to be accomplished, the Lightning Decision Jam (watch out the instruction here is an excellent choice to make each one feel what the design sprint is about and create value at the same time. However, for some clients you have to change the naming ;-))

If you are in an area where the design sprint isn’t well known, you can start building a community (eg. a meetup) and go to other events where you can spread the word and get noticed. Customers usually don’t like to be the first trying out a new method. They want to rely on a trusted process. So if you can find a customer being a trendsetter, it’s much more comfortable. Alternatively, refer them to all the large companies (like Google, Lego, Facebook, Adidas,…) that are making design sprints all the time ;-))

If you face this unpleasant principle of the Design Sprint as a designer — ”Don’t rely on creativity” — don’t worry. There is still big value in the designers’ creativity and I am still checking out this topic for myself, so there will be an update about it in the future. Keep in mind and make it clear for your customer that the process always works and that has been proven many times.

The insights Penny gave us were an initial spark and created more trust in the sales process that comes along with the design sprint. My expectation from the sales workshop was to discover a sales strategy with fun and success. And thanks to Penny and the whole AJS team I can now imagine how this could look like!

Now you see a group of happy design sprint facilitators ready to start what they’ve learned. Behind of us on the wall — undercover — you can identify AJ&Smart’s special agent.

If you have further question, want to discuss with me or just like the content, write a comment or just give me some claps!

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