Ditching the Lab Coat for a Salesperson’s Bag?


What? A bunch of chemists, bio-chemists and pharmacists signing up for a course in sales and marketing? They don’t have the “personality profile.” They don’t qualify! Chemists have a better chance of becoming a Rhodes Scholar than a Road Scholar! They’ll never make it in sales!

But they have signed up for this 36-hour elective. So, will they want to learn old-school selling tactics that all “high-mileage road scholars” have mastered; or will they prefer a contemporary approach grounded in empirical research? Ok. So what’s the difference?

Old-School Sales
Many from the old school see the customer as someone they persuade to buy what they sell. Simplifying that model, the salesperson is two parts personality and one part product knowledge. The job is to carry a bag, get a foot in the door, give an opening benefit, handle objections, and ABC-always be closing. And if you really want to go high tech try “solutions selling.” Ask them a few questions, give them a solution and voila! Besides, selling is selling. You are either born a salesperson or you are not. Selling is like riding a bicycle-something you can only learn by doing.”

Simplified? Maybe. But hey, some people have made a good living this way!

Another Approach
Contrastingly, there are those salespeople for whom that old playbook no longer works. Because today’s buyers are smarter and much better informed they no longer need a salesperson to tell them about a company’s products or to place an order. By some estimates over 70% of all buying decisions have already been made before the buyer contacts a salesperson. Knowing this, the contemporary sales strategist seeks to engage customers early in the buying cycle: before they have pinpointed a problem or contemplated a solution, and offer provocative insights as to what the customer should do. Their job is helping customers arrive at a better solution than they would on their own. And some make really big bucks!

So back to the applied pharmacology group. Given their science background doubtless they’ll prefer an approach that’s grounded in empirical research and requires critical thinking, sophisticated analytics and accurate forecasting. No problem. Their lecturer will introduce an appropriate model. But the question remains; why did they sign up for this sales course? Did someone tell them that today’s top salespeople have a lot of fun and make a bag of money? And will the smell of big bucks make some of them  ditch their lab coat for a salesperson’s bag?


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