SAMPS was previously Association of Commercial Professionals for Life Sciences (ACP-LS)

Is Sheldon Cooper On Your Sales Team?

February 13, 2013

SheldonSheldon who?

If you have to ask, then you probably haven’t watched the American TV comedy, The Big Bang Theory. The main characters are Caltech science nerds, and Sheldon Cooper’s extreme intelligence is paired with an even more acute lack of social awareness and grace, so the idea of Sheldon being on your team as a tech support specialist or even a marketing resource at your life science company may send chills down your spine.

Then again, you might know Sheldon all too well, having suffered several near-disastrous experiences while bringing Sheldon out in the field to meet with your clients.

A little more about Sheldon—a strict adherence to routine and hygiene; an overtly intellectual personality; a tenuous understanding of irony, sarcasm and humor; and a near complete lack of humility or empathy, the former of which is demonstrated by the fact that he has no problem voicing to his peers his admiration for his superior intellect.

Palms getting sweaty yet? Experiencing a flashback?

Sheldon’s first visit to your client

Client: Welcome to BioFabuloso. It’s a pleasure to have you visit with us today.

Sheldon: I’m sure it’s a pleasure for you. It’s not every day that you get to a meet someone of superior intellect who can solve all of your scientific problems.

{Client looks shocked}

Sheldon: Oh, I’m sorry. I was told that many clients think that they are very smart, and that I should tone down any talk of my credentials.

Client: Are you kidding me? (To the salesperson) Why did you bring this pompous maniac with you?

Sales person: I am so sorry. Dr. Cooper is extremely knowledgeable and has always been able to help other clients. I had no idea he would speak to you this way. Sheldon, why don't we listen and get an understanding of the issues BioFabuloso is encountering.

Sheldon: Bazinga! Now you’re talking. After all I received my first doctorate at age 16. How about you?

Client: Get out of here!

Sheldon: I can see I upset you. I guess the trainers were right; clients don’t always know what they’re talking about.

Client: I’m calling Security!

Hopefully you’ve never experienced a situation this tragic, but I have on a few occasions. A number of scientific and operational resources that I’ve worked with have helped compromise more than one opportunity with a client.

Curing Sheldon with quality training

Although the fictional dialog above touched on the fact that Sheldon received some form of sales training, it clearly didn’t have the intended effect. So what can you do to improve the Sheldons in your organization and prevent future disasters?

In a November 2012 SAMPS webinar by Peggy O’Brien and Anne Haumacher titled Developing Commercial Leaders for Life Science Product and Service Providers, O’Brien and Hauchmacher described how development occurs in three ways: experiential (on-the-job); feedback and observation; and training. They explained that on-the-job training represents 70% of development; feedback and observation, 20%; and training, 10%.

Perhaps Sheldon could have role-played with a colleague prior to his client visit, or maybe he could have shadowed a high performer. One thing is for sure; as a result of incidents like the fictional story above, Sheldon’s company has to find a way to provide constructive feedback and more impactful instruction.

When real-world Sheldon situations arise, you can’t help but wonder if the employer simply ignored Sheldon’s shortcomings, and if so, why? Did they decide that his scientific acumen outweighed the risks caused by his personality? Maybe the employer had applied all three methods of training development, but it turned out that Sheldon just wasn’t a good fit for the position.

Here’s something else that might help you with your Sheldons. Check out Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style by Randy Olson. With chapters like “Don’t Be So Literal Minded” and “Don’t Be So Unlikeable,” it appears that Olson must have met a few Sheldons along the way.

And if all else fails, you can demand your Sheldon adheres to a little maxim that a mentor shared early in my commercial career, "you have two ears, two eyes, and one mouth, use them proportionally".  It works like a charm on Sheldons.

Craig Dobbs

As a Senior Manager for both Biopharmaceutical Business and Process Analytics at Waters, Craig Dobbs partners with industry experts to develop technology solutions that address process analytical needs in manufacturing, as well as in the development of biotherapies.
SAMPS, Sales And Marketing Professionals in Scientific research, is the first and only organization dedicated to sales and marketing professionals within the life sciences.

The association’s goal is to serve its members who work in commercial roles for life science products and services companies and associated businesses, globally.
SAMPS was previously named ACP-LS. We feel that SAMPS more clearly describes the membership, and will form a better foundation from which to expand this membership globally. 
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