Check out a free preview of the full Enterprise Design Systems Management course

The "Selling Design Systems" Lesson is part of the full, Enterprise Design Systems Management course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Ben demonstrates selling a design system by continuing to add value over time. Handling differences between concept and reality is also discussed in this segment.


Transcript from the "Selling Design Systems" Lesson

>> So I'm reading this book, maybe some of you are reading this as well, it's Rick Rubin's new book, The Creative Act: A Way of Being. And this is kinda the last concept I wanna share in stage 3, and it's about how to sell design systems. Now I'll just read you this little quote.

He says, turning something from an idea into a reality can make it seem smaller. It changes from unearthly to earthly. The imagination has no limits. The physical world does, but the work exists in both. And I think when I read this, for me it solidified sort of a little bit of a model or a process that I use.

Because a lot of my job is talking to leaders inside organizations. So I may do some coaching with a design system lead but inevitably, they need to interact with their executives and they need to get buy in. And the way that I do that is actually [LAUGH] very closely aligned with this little section from Rick Rubin.

I know that none of you probably signed up as a designer, a developer or whatever, to be a salesperson. [LAUGH] And unfortunately, I just I don't know of another way to do design system work. It is a 100% part of the job. And so if you wanna be successful in design system stuff, you've got to learn how to speak to executives and how to sell to them.

So let me tell you kind of how I use this little, almost like a poem from Rick Rubin, in my concept around selling a design system. So, with a design system what we're trying to do and with any process, what we're really, what we should expect, is that we should have a periodic check in with our stakeholders.

And in those conversations, they're gonna expect to see more and more value created over time, right? So each time that I sit down maybe this is quarterly, or monthly, or whatever your cadence is, each time I sit down with them. I should plan to be able to show here's where we've created value based on the investment you've made.

And here's where we're headed, right? Now, if we plot out sort of Rick Rubin's idea of the idea versus the reality, or the unearthly and the earthly, we might get something that looks kinda like this, right? So the thing that I'm selling, this idea, this sort of aspirational concept, is always ahead, it's always a little bit better [LAUGH], than where we actually are.

And that very first day, on the vertical line of value there, we've got nothing to show. We have zero value, right? But I'm sitting down and I'm pitching to them, that star right above me, and I'm saying, look, this is where we're going, right? This is the idea, the concept, the aspiration, and what happens is over time, in reality, we're gonna work now over time, to build something close to that.

But very quickly, we'll start to plateau. And as the design system lead, it's your job to identify what that next big thing is, right? You've gotta be thinking ahead, you have to be, way out thinking ahead. This is where you're pitching, right? So we can actually break this whole thing down right here.

In the next meeting, what I wanna do is be able to say, this is where we were. This is the structure of a pitch that I would make to my leadership. I would say, this is where we were last time we met. And last time we met, I told you, this is what we would do.

And you invested in me, you invested in this idea, you were part of this. And now, this is where we are, right? We've made great progress. We've moved our way toward that aspirational thing that you invested in, and it took us this much time to do so. And also, by the way, hey, we made some really good progress, don't forget to call this out [LAUGH].

And right on the heels of that, you have to have ready for them what the next thing is, right? This is what we could achieve together in our next phase of work. And it's sort of breaking this concept down into little tiny steps. So that what you're doing early on is, maybe it's a little ask, and you're getting a little amount of time to show a little value.

But over time you can start to take larger risks with that, and you can earn the trust of those folks who are investing in this work. And you can start to see real progress. They will begin trusting you with this stuff if you can show a few of this iterations, where you are actually meeting the goals you've set with them.

It's a trust building exercise and it takes time just like everything else [LAUGH] in design systems. It's definitely possible to overpromise, right? So, I mentioned it's good to start small, but it's also really good for you to think about that way, way out in the future point. And you're probably gonna be wrong, about what that is that you're building, right?

But it's good to get those ideas out of your head, that really big sky kind of dream stuff, get it out. And then you can kinda extrapolate back down to what makes sense in the short term. And that end point is gonna shift and change. And definitely, you've gotta be careful about over promising here.

And there's lots of other factors that can come in to play here. So this is, again, the idea realistic model that you're aiming for. But if you're having trouble shorten the iterations, right? Try to get a few more conversations with them, make smaller promises to start and then sort of build up to making these larger ones.

Learn Straight from the Experts Who Shape the Modern Web

  • In-depth Courses
  • Industry Leading Experts
  • Learning Paths
  • Live Interactive Workshops
Get Unlimited Access Now