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Selling for Researchers – a force for good or an excursion to the dark side?

“So, are will you be a force for good – or will you be lured over to the dark side?”

And with these words, Philip Guildford introduced the “Selling for Researchers” course, run for the third year and delivered by Marcel Dissel, again to excellent reviews and feedback.

The challenge that Philip threw out, and the insights that Marcel shared drew the distinction between “consultative selling” and “manipulative selling”. In consultative selling you work with your industrial partner to develop a project (and a budget) that gives you both a win and can be the basis for a long-term relationship. Manipulative selling, by contrast, is the hard sell that leads to a slightly uncomfortable feeling on both sides and usually ends in disaster. It’s manipulative selling that gives sales such a bad name.

In fact, there was quite a lot of curiosity about the dark side – and this was explored during the course as well…Text box 1

What did participants want from the course? On the day it was to:

  • Develop confidence through having some frameworks and some practice
  • Understand the difference between selling to industry and selling to the research councils
  • Learn some selling techniques
  • Understand what industry cares about
  • Identify which person to talk to about what
  • Understand who are our competitors and how to address that
  • Understand how to close the deal

Marcel then presented a very simple model of selling

Fig 1and facilitated discussion around topics including

  • The difference between ‘farming’ (long term relationships nurtured over time) and ‘hunting’ (looking for new business’) which is the focus of this course
  • The realities of hearing ‘no’ a lot
  • How to avoid being a commodity
  • Thinking about your competitors (be they other universities, consultants or the industrialist’s internal R&D resources)
  • A simple five step process model
  • The role of open questions in finding out what really matters (as distinct from forcing your solution on the listener) (“What’s your role in the business?”, “Tell me about ….”, “What’re the challenges in your industry?” “Why might customers choose you over your competitors?”)
  • The importance of the 5 Ps (“proper preparation prevents poor performance” – i.e. “do your research before the meeting”) – as a way to keep leadership of the conversation and to cover the topics you want to discuss
  • And vitally importantly – the process by which a sales is made – see the diagram on the right
  • The importance of matching seniority between the selling team and the buying team – ensure their CEO can meet your Prof or Head of DepartmentText box 2
  • The value of demonstrators or prototypes
  • How to think about and develop your Unique Selling Proposition, and, of course,
  • The difference between consultative selling and manipulative selling.

Then the course turned to the elevator pitches and people’s chance to practice and rehearse their proposition and their pitch.   As usual the range of topics was truly amazing. We heard about

  • Screening techniques for diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • How to make engineering simulators faster and easier to use, saving design time and minimising errors
  • Using monitoring systems in buildings to reduce through-life costs
  • How to reduce the costs of insurance fraud
  • A new technique for earlier detection of breast cancer
  • A new device to find missing objects (everything from car keys to patients with dementia)
  • How to dream up new products and services which are more ecologically sustainable
  • A service to find tenants for industrial zones in emerging economies
  • A faster cheaper way of making nanofibres – with an amazing array of uses
  • How to eliminate the need for passwords

Intense negotiationThe afternoon session enabled teams to explore how to sell and buy university research services by choosing some of the ideas from the elevator pitches and working them up.

And this little picture provides a simple map for how to plan and run a good meeting.

Fig 2

The feedback, lessons and discussions continued unabated

Feedback on the day

And then, finally, Marcel provided his famous “summary slide”.

Summary chart1

(And by the way, if you’d like to be put in touch with any of the pitchers to follow up their research then just contact cb683 (at)

IfM ‘buns talk’ on ‘Cashing in on your research’ 24th October

Gillian Davis and Julian Peck from Cambridge Enterprise will share their experiences and observations about different ways for academics to work with industry for commercialisation of their research work. They will explore ways of working with industry, from finding an industrial partner through to spin-outs and products on the shelves, including a story from the archives – “The lows and highs of Tech Transfer”.

Cambridge Enterprise Ltd. is the commercialisation organisation in the University, helping the university to achieve its greater impacts to the society.

Cashing in on your research – Cambridge Enterprise explores ways of working with industry

Venue: Seminar Room 2, Alan Reece Building, Institute for Manufacturing,
17 Charles Babbage Road, Cambridge CB3 0FS

Time: 10:00 – 10:45, the 24th October, Friday, 2014

Everyone is welcome. After the talk, coffee, tea, buns, and fruits will be served for further discussions and mingling.

Selling for Researchers – 31 October, Moller Centre

In response to the uniformly positive reaction to past events we have invited Marcel Dissell back for a third time to deliver his wonderful course, “Selling for Researchers”

This day-long course is limited to 40 participants and describes principles, frameworks and approaches for researchers who are looking for industrial funding – who to target, how to get the first pitch right, how to sell in complex organisations. And Marcel does so in a uniquely lively and interactive way that includes many tips and experiences and generates much enthusiastic discussion.

To keep it practical, participants are invited to deliver elevator pitches about their work and why it deserves funding. Then the group discusses what works and what doesn’t.

The afternoon sessions build on the elevator pitches with four chosen for sales role-plays. Teams of researchers meet with teams acting as industrialists and the sales meetings unfold. This year we will have Professor Rick Mitchell, one of the Visiting Professors of Innovation to coach “the industrialists”, so helping them to understand the elements of a fundable proposition from an industrial perspective.

Feedback has always been very good – so, if you think you’d be interested then please apply to Ella Whellams ( for a place. If you’d like more information on the content and focus of the day then contact Charles Boulton (

Engaging with industry: what to say, how to say it, and who to say it to

Are you interested in building links with industry, but don’t really know where to start?

Have you got an idea that you’d like to discuss with companies, but aren’t sure how to approach them?


PK at CL(t)Aimed primarily at postdocs and early career researchers, this seminar will provide an informal introduction to engaging with industry, including how to find the relevant contacts, what to consider before speaking to them, what to say and what not to say, and what might happen next and how to manage it.


It will be given by Pieter Knook, who has had a long and distinguished career in mobile services and technologies, including serving as Senior Vice President Mobile Communications at Microsoft and Director of Internet Services at Vodafone Group Plc, and who is now a Visiting Professor of Innovation at the Engineering Department.


Friday 3rd October 11am in the Computer Laboratory, followed by lunch


If you would like to attend, it is essential that you register (for catering and room-booking purposes) via e-mail to Andrea Kells –


Reminder about Knowledge Transfer Fellowships, Follow-on funds and Partnership Development – by 8th September!



Funding for public engagement

The call for proposals to Ingenious - the Royal Academy of Engineering’s grant scheme for creative projects that engage the public with engineers and engineering, is now open.

Applications will close at 4pm Monday 22 September 2014.

More info below and on the website at


The Royal Academy of Engineering is looking for projects that

  • inspire creative public engagement with engineering
  • stimulate engineers to share their stories, passion and expertise in innovative ways with wider audiences
  • develop engineers’ communication and engagement skills
  • create debate between engineers and people of all ages to raise awareness of the diversity, nature and impact of engineering.


Funding is from £3,000 to £30,000 but please note the application process has changed from previous years so check the website carefully


If you have any queries, please get in touch with Manisha Lalloo, Manager, Public Engagement: manisha.lalloo (at) / 020 7766 0683.

New call from EPSRC Impact Acceleration account – 8th September deadline

The Impact Acceleration Award (IAA) provides funding to take EPSRC supported research one step further towards exploitation by Industry. 

Within Cambridge University, funding is available for three schemes:

Knowledge Transfer Fellowships and Postgraduate Placements - enabling researchers to spend time in companies to pass on the knowledge they have developed, and to bring industry knowledge into the University.

Follow on Fund Projects - addressing specific technical barriers to commercialisation identified during the research stage

Partnership Development Awards - funding a small research project that could lead to a major collaboration with industrial partners.

The final round of IAA funding will soon be open for applications. Expressions of Interest should be submitted to the Research Strategy Office by 8 September with a final submission date of 29th September 2014.  Note that some Departments ask to review your proposal before submission to the RSO.

In Engineering please contact Chris Pearson ( or Alexandra Bolton (, who will be happy to provide support and advice.

Funding is also available for technology roadmapping and industry workshops, bringing together researchers and industry to develop collaborative research proposals.

Full information can be found at


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