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Life Science Sales Reps: A Guide to Best Practices in 2012

Report # 12-002
Publication Date Apr 2012
Page Count 202
Publisher BioInformatics LLC

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Over 200 pages of analysis based on a 37-question survey taken by 1,069 scientists. Train your sales team with this invaluable primary market research. 

In Life Science Sales Reps: A Guide to Best Practices in 2012, we explore the role of life science supplier sales reps and identify ways that sales teams can have a positive impact on scientists’ relationships with supplier companies. We surveyed over 1,000 scientists around the world to find out how much (or little) they rely on their sales reps when purchasing specific instruments and consumables. Are scientists depending on their sales reps for product information more or less than they did five years ago? Are they using mobile devices to browse catalogs? How can a sales rep be most useful when a lab is considering buying (or switching to) a new product? What purchasing channels are laboratories using, and which ones do they prefer? The answers to these questions and more are detailed in this study so that suppliers can adjust their practices to align with the way labs prefer to do business.

Going beyond strategy, this report also serves as a tactical guide for individual sales reps. Extensive product lines and evolving technologies demand that sales reps invest significant amounts of time staying abreast of what’s new. By finding out how labs want (and don’t want) to be served, reps can allocate their most valuable resource—time—more efficiently and provide optimal service as defined by the scientists themselves. In Life Science Sales Reps: A Guide to Best Practices in 2012, scientists weigh in on acceptable response times for questions and concerns, preferences for types of outreach (i.e., email, text, video chat, telephone or face-to-face) and services that are considered value-added (e.g., forwarding lab requests to R&D, apprising labs of green options, inviting scientists to participate in focus groups). Additionally, scientists indicate whether or not they would be willing to follow supplier reps on twitter or read supplier reps’ blogs, and if so, what type of content would entice them to do so.

This study also explores ways that sales reps can alienate their customers by contacting the lab too much (or too little), not understanding the products well and lacking of familiarity with the lab’s area of research, to name a few of the issues.

We also benchmark satisfaction with lab suppliers on multiple attributes to highlight the companies that are getting it right and the ones that could stand to improve.

Designed for CEOs, presidents, general managers, vice presidents of sales, sales directors, sales managers and sales reps alike, Life Science Sales Reps: A Guide to Best Practices in 2012 can be used by any stakeholder to inform sales strategies and tactical plans that will help to achieve—and exceed—sales goals.


  • Role in the selection of consumable products used in lab
  • Role in the selection of instrumentation used in lab
  • Number of years experience

How Scientists Learn About Consumables

  • Top ways respondents learn about new consumable products
  • Frequency of consulting with a sales rep before making purchasing decision for:
    • Antibodies
    • Cell biology products
    • Cell culture media and reagents
    • Genomic analysis kits and reagents
    • Molecular biology products
    • Nucleic acid purification and separation products
    • Protein expression and analysis
    • Protein purification and separation products
  • Consulting with sales reps: Today versus 5 years ago
  • What sales reps can provide to foster brand switching, product adoption
  • Free samples: How many it takes to influence purchasing decisions
  • Mobile devices in accessing a supplier's online catalog: Current & future usage; levels of interest
  • The right time for sales reps to reach out
  • Current purchasing channels
  • Preferred purchasing channels
  • Getting back to them: The longest acceptable length of time between question and answer
  • Preferences: Single versus multiple points of contact

How Scientists Learn About Instrumentation

  • Top ways respondents learn about new instrumentation
  • Frequency of consulting with a sales rep before making purchasing decision for:
    • Flow cytometer-based cell analysis instruments
    • Cell biology instruments, microscope-based
    • General lab equipment
    • High-throughput screening and analysis systems
    • High-throughput sequencing platforms
    • Instrumentation for genomic analysis
    • Instrumentation for protein analysis and purification
    • Consulting with sales reps: Today versus 5 years ago
  • Helping labs evaluate instrumentation
  • Current purchasing channels
  • Preferred purchasing channels
  • Negotiating service contracts
  • Getting back to them: The longest acceptable length of time between question and answer
  • Preferences: Single versus multiple points of contact
  • Length of time sales reps should follow up after purchase
  • Preferred methods of follow-up
  • Level of willingness to speak with another scientist interested in an instrument that their lab recently purchased (plus free text explanations)

Experience and Satisfaction with Sales Reps

  • Sales rep helpfulness: Today versus 5 years ago
  • Satisfaction with the following (by supplier)
    • Comparing/contrasting their company's products to competitors' products
    • Discussing a product's usefulness to research
    • Displaying a good understanding of research needs and goals
    • Ensuring inquiries to the company are addressed in timely and satisfactory manner
    • Explaining/showing how to use a product
    • Identifying products that might be of help
    • Telling where to find critical product information on their company's website
    • Troubleshooting a product that is not working properly
    • Guaranteeing next-day delivery on rush orders
    • Helping get products on to the procurement department's approved product list
    • Assisting with lab budgeting with respect to product orders we expect to place
    • Obtaining shipping/delivery estimate information
    • Offering attractive discounts or special promotions
    • Providing product pricing information
    • Resolving problems with order
    • Setting up/assisting in online product orders or re-orders
  • Overall Satisfaction with technical assistance, purchasing assistance (by supplier)
  • Negative experiences by supplier
    • Too frequent contact
    • Inadequate product knowledge
    • Too little contact
    • Too aggressive when trying to make a sale
    • Does not understand my research needs
    • Personnel turnover
    • Slow response to inquiries
    • Does not appreciate my lab's budgetary constraints
  • Other types of support

Collateral and Use of Technology

  • Sales reps and Twitter
  • Sales reps and blogging
  •  Information expected to be on hand during a sales rep visit (catalogs, pricing, protocols, demo videos, etc.)
  • Information expected to be left behind after a visit
  • Favorite promotional items
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