Collaboration: Design & Sales

There’s an ongoing battle between designers and sales representatives, which is predictable considering designers like to have more time with projects and sales reps need everything now.

This can create much tension between these departments. However if we keep the main objectives for these groups in focus, it will be easier to maintain a relationship that is less resistant.

These two departments have the same goals: first, to generate profit, and second, to please the customers. Obviously there are additional responsibilities and goals that are department specific, but everyone’s number one goal is to increase the company’s profits.

Here are three points, along with a few tips, to help smooth out potential bumps in the road.

Issue No. 1: Timelines and Turnaround Expectations. Turnaround time is a touchy subject for sign companies, as they want to produce drawings while the customer is actively thinking about the sign or beat their competition to the submission.

Sales representatives are creating deadlines and promising drawings to customers. The art department is drowning in projects and has to find a way to meet these deadlines. This problem sets both departments up for failure.

Solutions: “General deadlines” should be established through a quick weekly or bi-weekly meeting between art and sales. These “general deadlines” are for typical projects that your sign company produces frequently, and they should always have an additional day for padding.

Remember that this transparency will create a better relationship with the customer. Wouldn’t you rather promise two weeks out and deliver in one, than the other way around?

Sales reps should discuss all other “unique” or more time-consuming projects with the art department before providing a deadline to the customer. Simply put the customer on hold and buzz your art department for an accurate answer.

The art department should have all projects displayed for both departments to clearly see their order and workload. This can be achieved through project management software or by simply installing a large dry-erase board on the wall with the submitted projects listed.

Do not, by any means, place static turnaround times on the art department from which your sales reps are expected to work. Your creatives are constantly in flux depending on the project, project type, the day, and even the overall momentum. Some weeks will be faster than others, and in limiting this expression, drawings take a huge blow in quality, which ultimately hurts overall profitability.

Most customers do not immediately pull the trigger in our industry, no matter how quickly the drawing is delivered. The most important factor that will maintain your customer’s interest, allow you to stand out, and always result in the customer purchasing the sign is when they truly love the design.

Issue No. 2: Design Department Work Flow. Customer drawings are continuously backed up within the department, taking too long to be sent out, and art quality is lacking. Multiple revisions are also a common occurrence and are not returned promptly to the interested customer.


Solutions: This problem is frequently the result of issue number one. Consider those solutions as well as the ones below.

Designers should try to address revisions first or before moving into a new project. These items have the customer’s attention and are considered “hot.” Then move on to projects that take less than twenty minutes. This will keep any backlog work lighter.

Sales reps should work hard to gather and organize all needed materials, pictures, files, and information ahead of submitting projects. This allows designers to begin right away. (Note: See issue number three for more information.)

Additionally for issues one and two, try distributing projects according to your designers’ strengths and interests. Ongoing efforts to assess the workload per designer ratio can help you determine if another designer needs to be hired.

Once you have made these adjustments, watch your turnaround time, art quality, and workflow become more compatible with your company’s goals.

Issue No. 3: Sales Department Submissions. Sales representatives’ requests are not being returned to them in a timely manner, or what they do receive is different from what the client or rep requested. Another way this issue is presented is when design is not receiving the needed information for projects in an organized, understandable fashion.


Solutions: Design and sales should collaborate to create a simple project submission form that must be utilized by the sales reps for every project. A few helpful parts to include on this form would be a 1-to-10 creativity scale, space to draw out objects, and even a budget estimate.

Sales should be educated by design on proper file extensions, as well as image resolutions and how they are both used. It will also be beneficial for sales reps to understand image perspectives, camera angles, and how scaling is done on the computer.

Sales reps and the involved designers should have a quick discussion for every project submitted before it is begun. This will help ensure all needed information is present, allow the designer to take notes, and keep both departments on the same page.

Designers should provide a brief explanation of their designs and “train of thought” via email or in person to help the sales rep better understand and sell the drawings.


Art and sales departments must focus not only on their shared goals, but also on communication, which is the underlying problem within most of these issues.

I’d encourage these departments to meet regularly, speak openly, and implement drastic changes, if necessary. Within their partnership lies a power to dramatically increase profits.

By Brooke Albring, CEO of BA Innovative, a design firm based in St. Petersburg, Florida. For more information, log on to or email [email protected].

Photos: Dreamstime.