Unexpected Big Idea

Delegates at GSSI Aalen 2013

Delegates at GSSI Aalen 2013

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Global Sales Science Institute conference.

It was the second time that I’d been to the annual GSSI conference. I thought that I knew what to expect because I’d been to last year’s conference in Aalen in Germany. I wasn’t expecting this year’s conference to change my plans so significantly.

A couple of weeks before the conference, I had come across and been very impressed with a superb new book “From Selling to Co-Creating“. I was therefore hugely pleased to be introduced to Dr Javier Marcos, one of the co-authors who was at the conference and who led some of the sessions. Javier is Senior Lecturer in Sales Performance at Cranfield School of Management.

It was during one of Javier’s sessions that the seeds of the big idea were sown. Javier’s session was called “University‐Company Collaborative Partnerships: Co‐creating Research in Sales“.

The most significant conclusion from the session for me was that sales academics and practitioners live and work in different worlds. They have different priorities and use different vocabularies. Their performance is measured and rewarded very differently and this leads to very different agendas and priorities. And yet ultimately, they have the same goals; to create and win opportunities to deliver superior customer value.

Connecting Sales Academics and Practitioners

I came away from the conference on the Friday and my thoughts were spinning through the following weekend. What might I be able to do to bridge the gap between sales academics and practitioners?

My initial conclusion was to start a blog that made the papers published by academics more accessible to sales people. I thought that it should be possible to summarise the essence of the paper in a short blog post, perhaps accompanied with a brief podcast interview with the academic author. The end of the blog post or podcast would be an invitation to look at the original paper.

I began to think about how hard it might be to get salespeople to read this material, to engage with the academic work. I wondered how the academics would feel about such a gross simplification of their rigorous research.

And then the very big idea occurred.

A Community of Sales Academics and Practitioners

Might it be possible to assemble and carefully develop an online community of sales academics and practitioners? Might it be appropriate for me to invest the time and effort and to provide the technical infrastructure to make this happen?

Could such a community be assembled and would it work? There are clearly many challenges to overcome. The people who I hope will be involved in this community already have insufficient time for existing responsibilities.

And yet, if the quality of the engagement is sufficiently high, of course people will invest the time required. If sales practitioners become more competitive and win more business with happier customers, of course they will participate. If sales academics find that their engagement in the community leads to to better, more focused and relevant research that is cited more frequently and leads to improved performance “in the real world”, why would they not be involved?

Of course, the biggest challenge is whether the quality of the community is sufficiently high to attract and retain the very high calibre of people whose involvement is pivotal in shaping the community.

As I have reflected on the implications of this big idea, my conclusion is clear. I shall try to make this happen.

So here we go, a first post to outline the idea. I plan to share this posting with a small number of key people and get their reactions.

It will be great to hear your observations on this idea as a comment below. Thanks.