Scientific sales consultants work in a specialist area of B2B (business-to-business) sales, which involves selling scientific products, such as industrial adhesives, pharmaceuticals and chemicals.
The main factors which distinguish scientific sales consultants from regular sales professionals are: detailed product knowledge, understanding of the science behind the product, and the expertise to understand customer requirements with regards to product modifications.
If you enter this profession, you’ll be conducting research and identifying potential clients, contacting prospective customers, arranging meetings and presenting the products that you’re selling in a convincing and persuasive manner.
You’ll be using your expertise to understand your customers’ requirements, and then incorporating your scientific knowledge into your sales pitch. This will involve demonstrating the effectiveness of your product and explaining how it will provide an ideal solution to your clients’ problems.
The scientific sales profession is not just about persuading people to buy your products, smashing your targets and then rolling around in piles of cash. You will also have to carry out administrative tasks, track your sales activity, write reports, negotiate contracts and get involved with marketing tasks from time to time.
Some scientific sales consultants may even be required to provide support to their clients once they have purchased the product.
Salary & benefits
Entry-level scientific sales consultants tend to earn a basic salary of somewhere between £18,000 and £30,000 per annum, while consultants with more than five years’ experience can expect to earn around £35,000 to £80,000.
The basic salary offered by most employers tends to be supplemented by target-driven commission and bonus schemes.
Furthermore, you are likely to be given a company car or a transport allowance, as most scientific sales consultants need to travel around the country to meet with clients and customers.
Working hours are usually irregular, since the job involves a mixture of office and field work. Weekend or holiday work is rare, but you might be required to work late hours on a daily basis.
Frequent travel is also required, especially for consultants who are responsible for managing sales activity across a large region.
If your role involves selling complex scientific solutions which require specialist knowledge, you will most likely need a degree in a relevant subject, such as biology, biotechnology, chemical engineering, maths, physics or chemistry.
If the products you’re selling are scientific, but not particularly complex, you may be able to enter this profession without a degree. However, you’ll have to develop a sound understanding of how the product works before getting out there and pitching to prospective customers.
Most employers will also require you to have a full, valid driving licence. If you are given the opportunity to travel abroad on sales assignments, you will understandably need a passport. Fluency in at least one foreign language will also be a great asset.
Training & progression
Training and development is often facilitated through bespoke graduate development programmes, which tend to last between one and two years.
You’ll primarily be training ‘on-the-job’, but you may also take part in formal training sessions focusing on business management, presentation skills and technical demonstrations. Trainee sales consultants usually start off by shadowing experienced colleagues.
A typical career path involves gaining scientific sales experience for a specific product or market, followed by progression into managerial roles, or moving laterally into different technical functions, such as research and development and product development.