What Customers Really Want

In April, I had a chance to preview a recent study conducted by BioInformatics, LLC, a market research firm in Arlington, Virginia. The study was called, “Improving Sales Rep Performance … Life Scientists’ Perspectives”. I was intrigued with the findings as they relate to sales force effectiveness in the life science industry and you may be as well. The analysts gathered data from researchers in the life sciences about their perceptions of effective sales people and what they wanted from them. These researchers gave very clear responses about what they want from sales people, which we can use in hiring, training and marketing program design.

What Customers Want

  1. demonstrations
  2. training
  3. troubleshooting
  4. advice
  5. individual pricing

What these customers want is pretty straightforward: they want demonstrations, training, troubleshooting, advice, and individualized pricing. So what’s a sales person to do about this when he or she needs to grow existing business, launch new products and fight off the competition?

Finding Mutual Benefit

Often a good solution is to look for mutual benefit … providing what customers want will give sales people access and enable them to do the other work to help increase sales of the full portfolio. Below are some specific suggestions:

  • give a demonstration or seminar showcasing a new technique, and along with it showcase established products. Use “giveaway reminders” for older products that are difficult to include in technical conversations.
  • troubleshoot customers’ problems; bring in an expert by phone or in person if needed. While you are engaged, asked questions about the direction of their research, other products they are using, problems they have encountered.
  • connect with your technical service department to find out what your customers are calling about and the advice that is being given. Help to spread the word among your contacts.
  • give excellent advice: understand the work your customers are doing and the problems they have; understand all the available products and services and be able to fit the best solution to each person’s specific need.
  • use pricing discussions to find out how much customers buy in various categories and why they have chosen a particular approach. Find out what competitors are established in the lab. Ask for information and uncover opportunity during the process.
  • assign someone other than a sales person to do the quotation paperwork, and have the sales person focus on handling the customer interface. Don’t send customers to a website or a customer service agent for pricing; keep the salesperson in the chain of communication.

The Role of Managers

How can managers help sales people stay on the path of meeting these customer needs? First, we need to make sure we hire the kind of people who can be trained to give demonstrations, troubleshoot problems, and give valuable advice on product selection. Next, we can use our creativity to find ways to develop demonstrations and training seminars for products. Putting together a kit with all the needed materials goes a long way toward helping people implement. Next, we need to train people to understand both the technical background and the communication skills needed to deliver the information. Train them also on the connections between new and existing products; show them how it all fits together.

And as you send them out to implement, don’t forget to ask everyone to report regularly on their success. If each sales person reports to their manager, and then each manager summarizes and reports in turn to their director at the end of every week, it becomes very clear to everyone what the organization wants to see. Out of this process will come the success stories that provide fine-tuning to the strategy and encouragement to those who are struggling.

Zig Ziglar is famous for saying that the more you give people what they really want, the more they will give you what you really want. In order to give customers what they really want, we need to develop a plan, train the people and then implement the plan!

If we can help with you with this in your organization, just let us know.

good selling,

Technical Sales Consultants LLC

© 2007 Technical Sales Consultants, LLC

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