Selling an idea

How do you sell an idea?

I guess it depends on what a person wants to “buy”, in other words what ideas they are open to. But what if I don’t know what this is?

According to the Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer (2005), there are 12.5 reasons why customers buy. Essentially, it’s to do with the seller, or the product, or both.

Is it the same in academia? What parallels can I draw from this? The seller can be the presenter in a talk (or the authors on a manuscript), and the product is the idea.

All of my manuscripts have had well-respected, more senior co-authors. I have never yet tried to write a journal article with co-authors who are all more junior than I am. You can tell a lot from a journal article from just the author list, especially when at least one of the authors is well known in the field. Credibility, reputation and likability probably all go hand-in-hand.

The product also has to be perceived to be useful and valuable for a person to buy it (note that it needs only be perceived). But a person can believe an idea to be true if it is neither. For a person to “buy in” to an idea, to support it and to propagate it, it does have to be perceived as both useful nor valuable.

I guess there’s more truth in that little book than I initially supposed. I didn’t know the author, but I perceived the information to be both useful and valuable, so I persisted in looking inside. By thinking a little more about the ideas presented in there, I “bought” the ideas, and am propagating them here.

Can it be applied at more than the abstract level? I’m not sure… I guess I’ll find out.


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