Want to win at tech transfer? Learn how to inflict pain

Longer road trips or plane flights to meet with tech transfer clients and candidates afford me with time to really think about what differentiates exceptional from average practitioners and offices—where is the effort placed to return maximum benefit?  On a recent brain odyssey, I rested on a thought accompanied with a fitting headache—Winners in tech transfer are not only aware of their partners’ pain, but they actively exploit it to their advantage.

So, before you get all #anti-bully on my blog response section, let me define “pain” as something that irks a potential buyer or investor in your opportunity enough to justify their support to alleviate the situation. In other words, what persuades them to action by making the current-state feel wrong.

I have seen great examples of this technique used from faculty presentations to review boards to budding entrepreneurs under investment consideration. Each inflicted pain as part of their appeal, using the following steps:

  • Make the problem real and quantify it: This appeases the fact-finders in the audience by defining the issues and supporting them with objective material. The goal of this step is solely to lower the guard of the listener by demonstrating that you understand the space
  • Hurt” the audience: Do some research on the audience and find someone (or multiple listeners) that can feel the pain—either them or someone that they know. The goal is to move the group to a place of discomfort and create a champion for the cause. This is more of an art than a science and care must be taken to direct the feeling towards the problem, not the person(s)
  • Demonstrate why current alternatives add to the problem: Are the drugs causing side effects for users? Is the new heart valve too expensive to be accessible to grandma? Does that new software program just add to the noise, when the real solution is in this code? Take a 100% factual approach to pouring salt in the wound that is now exposed
  • Offer them a bandage: This is where you show the group your solution to their “pain”. If you did a good job they will think about it, but if you did a great job they will demand an “ownership” in ending the hurt

While there should be no substitute for the goal of a long-term relationship and development based on a mutual feeling of euphoria, change is the catalyst for new partnerships. From my observations, some of the strongest tech transfer relationships start with discomfort, tension, and pain.

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