Those of us who have been sales professionals in the life sciences industry for the past ten years know how drastically the role has changed in that short amount of time. Before digital marketing and online ordering centers, the role of the salesperson was to inform potential clients about their products and how these products were needed to improve their work operations with the hopes of booking an order.
The advent of the internet brought about some interesting changes to the role that the salesperson and potential buyer plays in a sale. Life science clients can get valuable product information on the seller’s site, and compare competitor’s products on Amazon, VWR International, and many other reputable sites before they commit to purchasing from any salesperson. The buyer is also able to easily find reviews on products, fine-tuning their purchasing process and accessing the most recommended product by other life science industry professionals. This can be problematic for companies that don’t have a significant presence online, but it can also be incredibly helpful for the life science organizations because they can have peace of mind with their purchases. Companies and sales departments must adapt to the changes, and quickly, to compete with large online retailers because technology will only become more prevalent in our lives and the convenience of these tools will continue to be attractive for buyers.
Prior to the internet, the salesperson was more critical during the entire sales process, from product education, through closing the sale, then handing off to customer service for post sales activities. Because so much product information is available online, buyers are more self-educated about products, and in many cases, can purchase the products directly online without any salesperson contact. These days, a salesperson in the life sciences industry needs to be more of an account manager, answering questions and concerns of their clients long after the initial sale took place. Getting the client onboard is only the first part of the sale, keeping the lifetime value of a client as long as possible is much more difficult.
Since life science buyers have access to so much relevant product information online, the salesperson must be seen as a knowledgeable partner, not just about the products they’re selling, but about the industry in general. They should be well-equipped with an understanding of the industry and be able to talk to the buyer at length about the entire product portfolio and how they can build a long-term business relationship with the buyer. For this reason, salespeople should start to be trained with more in-depth knowledge about their company’s long-term value to the customer and preferably have a background in the life sciences industry, which is much different than even ten years ago.