Practical Perspectives

Selling to Pharma

Selling to BioPharma Companies. What Your Clients Want You to Know.

If you run a company that sells to pharma and biotech companies, or if you’re the person responsible for sales or marketing in a life science “supplier” company, you know you’re competing in a crowded market where buyers and influencers have increasingly tight budgets and limited time to learn about, understand and evaluate what you sell. I understand your challenges, because I’ve been doing it, with success, for a very long time. During a career that started over 20 years ago, I’ve served as the buyer of services and solutions in positions that ranged from brand manager to VP of Marketing, and I’ve sold those services on the supplier side in leadership roles that ranged from VP of Marketing to CEO.

Today, one of our companies frequently works on the client side helping life science companies work with external suppliers as they design and deliver practical innovation (Corvus Solutions), while another company helps suppliers better engage with the life science community as what we believe is the first agency for suppliers (Health Accelerators). Some of our clients on the life science side were frustrated by what they were seeing from many of the people who call on them, and they first suggested this series because they were tired of “having their time wasted” by supplier sales reps, something that we truly hated to hear, but that we understood. Some of those same life science clients also gave us the inspiration and encouragement to start Health Accelerators so that suppliers might do a better job when approaching them. Having a presence in each of these worlds puts me in a unique position from which I am often able to see both sides of the table when it comes to understanding what works, and what doesn’t, in terms of what the life science community wants, values, and buys. My hope is that this series serves both suppliers and clients equally well, because each “side” needs – and should value – the other.

As you read this series, please understand that I don’t pretend to have all the answers, or even all of the questions. There are things I don’t know, and areas into which others have better insight and greater knowledge. So, I invite and welcome comments and alternative ideas both in public comments and private messages. I can say that what I’ll write here has been proven to work, in my experience. I may not be the smartest person in the world, but I have a lot of scars and a few medals, and both of those might have value if you’re trying to be successful at selling to life science companies. I certainly hope so, and hope that your clients benefit from this as much as those doing the selling (that’s how it should really work, by the way!).

Some topics I plan to cover include:

  • Over-Investing in Your Sales Force (a common mistake of supplier companies)
  • Under-Investing in Sales Support (Another common mistake we see)
  • How Does Your Customer Really See You? (understanding current positioning)
  • Where Do You Fit? Where Can You Win? (aspirational positioning)
  • What Makes You Special? (unique value/selling proposition)
  • Strategy 101 (creating a plan that the team will embrace)
  • Get Your Story Straight (creating a simple, memorable sales story)
  • Pray and Spray is a Bad Approach to Marketing (fewer tactics, more planning)
  • The Value-Conscious Marketer (how to, when you don’t have your clients’ budgets)
  • How Do We Know It’s Working? (metrics & measurement)

If I’ve missed a topic or two that you are particularly interested in, please suggest them for inclusion in the series. And if you have written about some of these areas, feel free to point me to those articles (I may also link to them, if you don’t mind).  I have no idea how long I’ll keep this up once the initial series is complete. I’m also collaborating on a separate series for our pharma clients and friends on how to “do” innovation and partnering that will be published over the same time frame as this series, and we think that will run for a full year. It will be a busy season as we enter the cool days of autumn! But my commitment to those who asked for this series is to put out at an article about every other week until we’ve covered at least the topics noted, so here goes. I hope you enjoy the series, and find it useful. Thanks in advance for reading it, and please feel free to comment.

This is the first article in a series about successfully selling services and solutions to pharma and biotech companies, based on lessons learned in a long career as both the buyer and seller of these services. My hope is that you enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it, and even more importantly, I hope that both those buying and those selling benefit from whatever experience and insight I can offer.