A lot of small life science companies, including those manufacturing products or offering services but especially small distributors, are unsatisfied by their penetration of the pharma / biotech markets. While academic labs are often quite open and accessible, access to labs in industry is extremely restricted. Because of this, it is very important to have an engagement strategy and make good use of your “ins” if you plan on increasing your sales to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology research markets. The best plan for your company will differ based on your company’s positioning, but I’ll quickly go over a few general strategies including some which are useful for all companies.
If you manufacture a research tool and do not have an outside sales force, you will likely be selling to industry via a distributor, at least in part. The easiest way to obtain better market penetration in pharma / biotech is to work with a distributor who has strong sales in those sectors (of course, the same guidelines should apply for selecting any distributor). Trying to sell directly to pharma in this circumstance would effectively be akin to reinventing the wheel. Don’t know what distributors have good penetration in those segments? Ask them. If they are interested in distributing your product, they’ll want to make themselves look good and will likely offer a reasonable metric from which you can gauge their pharma / biotech market penetration.
If you are selling to pharma / biotech companies directly, you likely either offer a high-value, high-complexity product or service or you are a distribution company. The precise strategies for the two would be different, but on the more generalized level appropriate for this discussion they appear quite similar. In either situation, perhaps the best way to get an “in” is to hire a sales representative with contacts to researchers, lab managers, or purchasing managers in industry. In this manner, you can utilize (and perhaps internalize) the rolodex of your new reps who have more extensive industry contacts.
Regardless of your company’s positioning, your sales to industry can benefit from good CRM practices and fully leveraging high-quality lead generation techniques. Draw potential customers in pharma and biotech to your product through advertisements, search engine optimization, and / or face-to-face at conferences and capture their information through requests for more information about your products, demonstration requests, special offers, etc. Once you have the information, you have your “in”. When industry prospects are converted to customers, manage these high-value relationships to allow you to maintain your access to their research facilities.
Many pharma and biotech companies purchase through procurement agencies such as VWR or Fisher. Be sure to maintain a good relationship with these companies. While they have been known to ask for something in exchange for nothing, they also try to steer the purchasing decisions of scientists to products which offer profits for Fisher and value for the customer. It’s not always possible, but getting your products a preferred status within their purchasing departments can be a significant boon to sales.
Pharma and biotech companies are notoriously difficult for salespeople to gain access to and marketing and selling to their scientists can be difficult. If you would like to improve your access to these markets, be sure to execute a plan which allows you to both create and capitalize on opportunities to get an “in” within biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.