1. Garyq Riccio said:

    This is very useful guidance to scientists who are making invalid assumptions about selling. I will add to your three points about the science of selling in ways that, based on my experience, follow directly from those points. “Understanding the big picture” is the point with the most significance and, as such, it has direct implications for actions taken with respect to the other two points.

    On the first point, the “customer” with whom one most frequently interacts, as a scientist or as someone employed as a salesperson, is an institutional buyer or representative of the end user or consumer. It is equally important for this intermediary to understand the consumers for whom they are buying. This typically involves a mostly implicit translation of needs into a more or less presumptive solution. This translation typically is influenced by the buyer’s awareness of potential solutions and, unfortunately, often only legacy solutions. This is an opportunity for the “seller” to educate.

    The communication between buyer and seller can be more like collaborative investigation (i.e., scientific inquiry) than like education narrowly considered (i.e., telling). In a changing market or context of use, collaboration is as necessary as it is problematic to achieve. It requires mutual trust and management of conflict of interest, even the appearance of conflict. It requires relationships such as those in vested outsourcing between companies and their suppliers or broader value network (e.g.,

    Vested relationships between buyer and seller that enable collaborative inquiry are difficult to achieve in commodity buying but they are powerful when the complexity of the service sought is high and the number of apparent suppliers is low ( The buyer and seller learn together. The seller can become the buyer’s friend by facilitating “strategic sourcing,” and the buyer can simulate development of new offerings in the seller’s organization or broader community of practice (see e.g.,,

    On second point, as implied above, a mutually edifying and beneficial relationship between buyer and seller enables both to learn about each other as well as the demand and supply they are trying to match. This should be familiar to scientists in their role as teachers, mentors, and sponsors of students from whom they gain almost as much as they give. As indicated in the article, it also should be familiar to scientists in their service role within a community of practice (i.e., a community of shared responsibility and self governance).

    Scientists have deep skills and experience that can help them become superbly valuable sellers. In doing so, they will be comforted to know that a sale is an outcome and that selling may or may not result in an immediate sale. It is a way of being, of constant teaching and learning, with respect to which one must take the long view. The inter-temporal relationships are characterized more by the familiar patient progress rather than compromising tradeoffs.

    1. Peter Fiske said:

      Gary –

      Great points – thank you for your comments!

      Your comment about the “Big Picture” is spot on. Quite often, the “buyer” is him or herself needing to turn around and “sell” your proposed solution to their organization. This means you not only need to convince them, you need to educate and empower them to formulate the arguments on your behalf. A common question that salespeople are taught to ask is: “Who else needs to be part of the buying decision?”. For scientists, understanding the “Big Picture” of wall the people (and steps) required to arrive at a decision is crucial.

      Many scientists don’t realize that some of the most successful “salespeople” are really just excellent teachers.

      Thanks again for that comment –

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