Updated on 19 February 2014
In essence, apart from possessing the fundamental scientific and technical knowledge of the product or service in question, an effective salesperson needs to be able to use logical reasoning and credible arguments deftly and tactfully while presenting his pitch to the customer. Prior knowledge of the customer's profile and mindset, especially about his buying behavior will be a huge advantage.
Let me illustrate my points with a hypothetical example, as follows. A sales executive, who is trying to sell a diagnostic kit to a medical professional that detects a biomarker for a debilitating or fatal disease, needs to:
• Know the basic facts about the disease
• Be aware of the key facts about the biomarker
• Understand the science and technology that is used (with reference to the diagnostic kit), to detect the biomarker, as well as the protocol
• Be knowledgeable about the addressable market and the competitive landscape around the product
• Articulate clearly the value proposition to the customer, in the face of possible competing technologies
• Face and respond calmly and convincingly to the customer's objections, doubts and skepticism
• Leverage the key nuances of the selling process while simultaneously juggling scientific elements of the product along with rational persuasion techniques keeping the need, mindset and buying behavior of the customer in mind, all in real-time
Skill sets required to succeed
These are by no means simple tasks. They require tremendous intellectual prowess and mental energy from the salesperson, which are often underestimated. The point therefore, that I am trying to emphasize is that technical selling in the life-sciences offers opportunities to promote innovative concepts in novel ways that are far from boring, routine or mundane. Each sale offers the sales professional the chance to draw upon and deftly blend his reservoir of scientific and technical knowledge, business acumen, persuasive and influencing abilities to present his ‘pitch'.
Behind the scenes, this calls for extensive planning, analytical and strategic thinking and the ability to ‘connect a variety of dots', apart from competencies such as interpersonal sensitivity, assertiveness, verbal clarity and the ‘gift of the gab'. The ultimate aim for the salesperson is to arrive at the right positioning of his sales pitch to the prospect or customer that will result in a favorable outcome.
Career growth opportunities
A high-performing salesperson can grow into the marketing domain with relatively higher confidence than someone who enters the marketing arena directly, without prior sales experience. Having experienced the rough-and-tough edges of the market first-hand is an invaluable asset that a salesperson-turned-marketing professional can rely on. Career growth in sales and marketing in the life-sciences, like other fields, revolves around factors such as increased number of products or services, expansion into new territories or geographies and may also encompass alternative channels of selling or marketing. Such growth can be plotted graphically with relative clarity, as individual performance in the sales arena is both measurable and quantifiable.
A junior sales executive has the potential to rise to the ranks of a national, regional or even a global leader in sales and marketing depending on the canvas of the organization and his own talent and performance. Another dimension that enhances their opportunities for deriving additional income is related to various motivation theories, (specifically the Expectancy theory by Victor Vroom) - sales incentives. While salespeople, like other employees earn a fixed portion of their total remuneration as salary (which is linked to efforts and is guaranteed), they also get a chance to earn variable incentives based on their performance. In essence, the higher is the sales linked to an individual's efforts, the higher is the incentive he can earn.