Why get into scientific sales?
Science graduate? Don’t fancy spending every waking hour of your life stuck in a dingy laboratory amongst persons of questionable social grace and with no access to natural light? Well then, a graduate job in scientific sales might be right for you!
What do scientific sales involve?
Basically, a career in scientific sales is exactly as it sounds. Companies are interested in candidates who can draw upon a technical education in the scientific sector in order to promote their products. A career in technical sales, as opposed to general sales, will utilise your scientific knowledge and skills in order to increase revenue for your company.
The kind of salary you can earn in these careers can vary according to which specific area of science you are experienced in and how specialised the product is that you will be expected to sell.
For instance, there are scientific sales jobs out there that involve selling laboratory glassware, which may not necessarily require as much technical expertise as selling pharmaceuticals into the medical industry or selling engineered catalysts into industrial chemical plants.
Generally, there will be some element of commission involved. As with any sales role, you will be given incentives on top of your basic wage for increasing sales figures and boosting revenue for your company. The specific knowledge that is required for these careers means that basic salaries for scientific sales executives can be quite attractive.
However you may come across positions which are heavily, if not entirely, commission based (the logic being that if you cannot reach at least a minimum threshold of sales then you are not doing the job properly). Consequently, it’s advisable to put in a lot of research before applying for positions.
A strong academic background is pretty much essential for this area of sales. After all, it is much easier to train a scientist in sales techniques than it is to teach a non-technical salesman about the complexities of chemistry, biology or physics!
What other skills do I need for a scientific sales career?
Scientific sales careers are not just about selling. Additionally, you will usually be expected to offer some additional level of technical support and advice to your customers in order to add value to the material you are selling. There is usually an element of account management involved too!
Although the product you will be selling is technical, the people you are selling to may not necessarily be that technically informed. In some scientific sales roles, you may be selling chemicals to a laboratory full of graduate scientists, but there are many cases where a technically engineered product is being sold into an entirely non-technical industry.
In the case of the former, the skill of the scientific salesperson is to stand up to the tough scientific questioning of the laboratory manager. However, with the latter you may be called upon to act as an authority on the quality of your materials, which will involve pitching with a certain level of coherence and confidence – and this can only be enabled by having a strong scientific background.
Written by Rob Little
Regional Scientific Sales Manager