Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New site is so close....

How to Sell to Scientists has outgrown Blogger and, it seems I have outgrown the lab too.  Thank you for all the emails and tweets since I started. With your help the new site is going to be even better.

Yep, we're moving out and just now putting the finishing touches on our new website HowtoSelltoScientists.com.

Its my first attempt at coding with Wordpress and so far its amazingly versatile. I really wanted to have the ability to do some deep coding and design work, and I think its going to pay off in the near future.

Here's a screen shot of the homepage


J Rusty

P.S. This is also the unofficial birth announcement of Red Funnel Consulting, a collaboration between one scientist (moi) and one business guy (Mark).  I hope we can be of service to you all in the near future. Its been real lab.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Manuscript Accepted

"Manuscript Accepted"-  the two most joyful words a scientist can hear or read.

I just read them today. Here's the manuscript online at the Journal of Biological Chemistry

Insulin-deficient diabetes mellitus in mice does not alter liver heparan sulfate



P.S.  I just noticed there is an ad for the Shimadzu Nano-Spec on my article at JBC!  Oh the irony......

A scientist's thoughts on lead generation - power of observation

In a previous post, I talked about the concept of Key Influencers (Part 1).  

Key Influencers are the individual scientists that can and will push your products far beyond the original purchase to labmates, colleagues, and beyond. Over the next few weeks, we will show you some tricks to identify Key Influencers and provide some ways to warm them to your products.

The Cold Lab Visit

Walking into a random lab to push your products is intimidating. I know this because I get intimidated when I walk into an unfamiliar lab. Everyone either gives you the stink-eye or they refuse to look up or there's no one in sight or someone asks you brusquely, "Who are you looking for?"  This happened to me this week when I went to borrow a reagent from a friend that knew I was coming. Freaked me out!

Through timing and observation, you can turn this uncomfortable cold call into a Key Influencer discovery mission.

Visiting Times

Key Influencers are the scientists that come in early (before 8am) or stay late (after 5pm).  They are serious about their science and getting experiments done, so they work when there are fewer distractions and care little for work schedules. I’ve know scientists that literally had a cot in the lab.  Furthermore, scientists have journal clubs, lab meetings, and talks to attend during the day (10-4pm) and, Key Influencers will be at these meetings (hint : these are the meetings where they will push your products). Time your visit for success.

‘Chance favors the prepared mind’ - Louis Pasteur

To find a Key Influencer observe the following as you pass through the lab.

  • Personal Bench Areas and Open Freezers - Look for a bench with tons of reagents, pipets, and equipment labeled in the same hand writing.  Key Influencers will have products stuck in every nook and cranny. If you can see an actual name or initials on these products – REMEMBER IT! 
Here's an example of what you are looking for!

  • Desk Area – Look for shelves or desktops with lots of hand-labeled binders.  By lots, I mean 10-30 notebooks.  If the writing looks old or the labels are peeling off, that’s not it.  You want fresh labels and recent dates (past 3yrs).  Again you are looking for a name.

  • Scientists - Key Influencers are typically in the 30's to 40's age range. Practice identifying people of this age group. Again observe and file it away.

RED FLAG WARNING - If a scientist is working at their bench (gloves on, pipet in hand) – WALK AWAY!  Don’t leave some fliers.  Don’t bother them.  Just observe the above and leave with the knowledge that you have identified your target.

Let’s review; personal bench (products and bottles labeled), desk (10-30 binders names or initials), and scientists (30ish).  You now have an idea who is using products and directing purchasing.  Identify them, help them, and you will succeed.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A scientist's thoughts on lead generation

I've really enjoyed Mark Walker's last two articles on sales and marketing working together.  To be honest, I thought sales reps just wandered through labs passing out candy and, marketers bought ads and put ipod drawings in booths at conferences.  As a focused bench scientist, I had never considered that side of the life science industry.  Oh to be naive!

Please consider this is an open letter from a scientist to your company.  Ask me anything you want about me for lead generation information gathering. Let's work together.

Im hoping this article will generate some dialogue between your world and mine. There are thousands of struggling scientists that need you to give us the best products for our research.

What do you want to know about a scientist?

I'm guessing the most important question is.....

"Do I have money to spend?"

Yes, I have an AHA grant that gives me $60K a year to spend on reagents and services.

Lets take it one step further though.  As a long time researcher (17 years), what is my influence with other scientists?  Consider the following...

1. In my immediate lab there are 12 scientists that ask me for help on experiments.  Three of them have grants of their own.  One is a career Research Scientist with "lots" of money (he just bought a new mass spectrometer and HPLC).

2. My PI (principle investigator) is a seasoned vet with multiple grants and is constantly invited to speak at meetings.  He knows 100s of other PIs. However, I can definitively say he does not have time to talk to you about your products.

3. In my "area" there are two others labs totaling 3 PIs, 4 Research Scientists, 17 postdocs, 16 graduate students (weird), and 12 technicians.  We are all friendly and regularly talk to one another about experiments.

4. I use and regularly interact with 3 large on-campus services that buy a ton of products (IHC, Microscopy, and Animal Facilities).

In my mind, that influence is a lot more important than my grant money. A scientist like myself can push your products to 100s of others.  You just have to learn how to identify me.

Hint - Dont ask me if I have money to spend!

In my next article, I will write about some ways to train yourself or your sales staff to get this information from scientists and find Key Influencers = leads.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lead Management (Part 2)– Sales and Marketing Playing Nice

In a previous post (Part 1 here), I suggested ways Sales and Marketing can work together on a more effective way to score and prioritize incoming leads. Its a great place to start building trust between the two groups and it pays off in converting more leads. Continuing on those thoughts...

Who Qualifies Leads?

Make sure everyone know what they are expected to do and when. Having a highly scored lead fall through the cracks is like losing money. If the online lead needs to be further qualified, who does it? Will inside sales qualify the leads further and set up appointments for Field Sales or is the Field Representative expected to? In the life science marketplace, it is not as common to separate these activities. Researchers in the lab don’t respond well to phone interruptions. In other industries, its standard practice. Qualification is a different mindset than closing, and you will be more effective if separating the two, if your customers will accept it.

Is There any Value to Low Priority Leads?

Where do the low priority leads end up? First, are these really low priority leads or are they not being qualified effectively? If your lead form doesn’t ask the right qualification questions, it is probably harder to figure this out. If they truly are prospects that are not ready to purchase, start a conversation with them. Let them know how you can help them, not by focusing on products you can sell (they told you they aren’t ready) but by telling them about information resources you either have on your site or can link to. Start by becoming a trusted and valuable source of information and there is a better chance they will want to do business with you.

I’m a fan of letting field sales access all leads, including low priority, especially when you are still testing your process. However, make it clear what you want them to do with them. Some may want to contact these leads to avoid dealing with more tense selling situations. Many will want to follow up on any potential lead, especially if your qualification process is not trusted by the field or not effective. Let your sales team see the entire lead management process, where they fit, and why they will be more effective focusing on higher scored leads.

Feedback Loop

Set a timeline to review results with an eye toward revisions and sharing best practices. While it’s great to share stories about the sale won in a specific case, it’s critical to measure each step of the lead process and review what’s working and what is not. Facts are friendly and numbers should drive lead management decisions.

CRM systems are critical components to this process. There are many choices currently (way beyond the scope of this post) so that even small companies can use these tools. If your systems do not enable your organization to track leads and conversion easily and report results, you need to do some more work. If you have it but sales and marketing are not using it, well, you know you have some work to do.

Customer Expectations

I called my bank last week and gave my account number to the nice, automated voice prompt and endured a couple more menu options to talk to someone. Frustratingly, when I got to that live person, I had to repeat it the account information. Sure, maybe it’s an extra precaution, but if so, tell me that. I expected them to have my information at their fingertips, so we could immediately resolve the issue.

Few customers, especially in the B2B space, have time to chit-chat or even repeat themselves. They expect your company and its representatives to know about their account and interests when you contact them, especially when they have volunteered the information.

A successful lead management process will reinforce both sales and marketing buy-in to working together and will have an impact on sales. Even more importantly, it will help you shine in your customer’s eyes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Scientists want to see what they are buying

In lab meeting yesterday and we had a 10 min conversation about a kit that came in the blue and purple box (some thought it was yellow). A few hours later, my labmate Jon starts laughing and points to the old Promega Wizard Prep box on top of the freezer. Classic!

Science products have complicated names often with made-up words in them. For example, on one page of the Bio-rad website I found iProof High Fidelity DNA Polymerase and iTaq DNA Polymerase.  What the heck is iProof? I've used Taq, but iTaq?  Luckily for me, I knew I used the kit with one red and one green tube that came in the green box with a yellow sticker on it.

 Notice how Bio-Rad uses large images of the kit with the components displayed clearly on their product display pages.

This same principle should be applied to all your marketing tactics including product webpages, front covers of product literature, and (gasp) the hated email blast.  

I encourage you to take a look at your materials today and see if you can figure out what products you are selling without reading a word. Its a lot easier to sell something to someone that has already bought it!

Related articles in this series include ABCO and Your Website is Your Face.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lead Management – Sales and Marketing Playing Nice

by Mark Walker

My two young daughters frequently squabble. From what I hear, that is pretty normal stuff. When pressed, they admit they can generally tolerate each other and are glad they are in the same family.

Similarly, there is a “natural tension” in the Marketing and Sales relationship in most companies. Ideally, they have similar strategic goals but the tactics and day-to-day priorities can differ a bit. Toss in a little additional end-of-quarter pressure for good measure and you have the ingredients for some friction.

One area for head-butting is lead management. Sales complains that there are not enough leads or they are not qualified. Marketing complains that their hard-fought battle to attract leads is wasted or not followed up on effectively. Both groups have their points.

Marketing dollars are moving more and more to online activities, in no small part due to the fact that it is more easily measured. Marketing sweats blood to get more leads and higher quality leads. Sales loves more quality leads. So what’s the problem? Nothing that a little more alignment and communication won’t fix.

Over the next week, I’ll cover some high payoff areas to help manage incoming online leads and get sales and marketing talking the same language.

Scoreboard, baby
Unless you have unlimited resources, you need to make some decisions about leads. Not every lead is equally valuable. Score your leads by agreeing on what criteria and priority and then rank them. The criteria might be slightly varied for different products or target markets but try to keep it as straightforward as possible to gain agreement.

Use a simple, reproducible rating system (A,B,C,D) that takes into account key criteria (some ideas listed below). Agreement between sales and marketing is critical because it dictates what resources and efforts will be employed in the next steps.

Try this exercise today. Grab the last 100 leads you received and try to rank them yourself. If it is difficult or confusing to get the report or prioritize them, you have a good idea of how difficult this process might be.

Develop Rating System Content
Your rating system should be aligned with your market goals and objectives. Does everyone know what those are? Here are some common areas for discussion:
  • Target customer – You may be surprised that marketing and sales have different ideas about what the target customer looks like. Flush out the areas of disagreement and come to a consensus. There is a right answer to this.
  • Lead Source – This relates to where your key customers are online and how compelling your call to action is.
  • Product (s) – Short sales cycle or long sales cycle will impact the selling time frame. Understand what customers need for each to move the decision process toward a conclusion.
  • Buying influence – Is the requestor responsible for purchase or just collecting information? Researchers may not have final purchase authority but they can be the key influencer in the purchase decision.
  • Anticipated purchase timing – Match your effort with the customers anticipated needs. If they want to buy in the next 30 days, they will need time to review information and evaluate competitors, so plan ahead.
  • Current customer or new prospect – You are already ahead of the game with a current customer. They have purchased from you already and have a relationship with the company. However, their expectations for service and discounting may be higher.
Mind the Gaps
This process might identify some gaps in your information gathering. Are you missing information from your leads you need to make better decisions. That’s a pretty nice insight in itself. Don’t let these deficiencies delay the process of making decisions. You will never have perfect information but improve where possible.

Are all the questions you ask on your lead form necessary? If not, get rid of them, quickly. Unnecessary questions take time and reduce the chances for a completed lead. What questions would be helpful to sales? Ask the sales team and add it. Are the questions consistent across all sources so you can compare effectively? If you have differences, at least have a valid, measurable reason for it.

Part 2 …
In the second part, there are some additional ideas where marketing and sales can come together to improve the lead management process. Read Part 2 Here

Monday, March 15, 2010

ABCO - Always Be Closing Online

ABCO: Always Be Closing Online. Its the age old advice you hear in sales your whole career.  The same applies to your website design as well.

Your website is your store front. The individual product pages are your sales staff.  I'm not suggesting you place a big ol' BUY NOW button on every product page, but it should be really damn obvious how to buy the product when a scientist is ready to buy.  Nothing is more frustrating than having to search for the button.

Notice how Bio-Rad places the ordering call to action buttons directly next the two product sizes and how the green 'Add to Cart' button stands out.

I encourage you to take a look at your website today no matter your position in the company and think about how the product pages are closing sales for you.  Tiny increases in online sales produce large increases in revenue due to the realized costs of sales staff both in person and call centers. 

Friday, March 12, 2010

How to find scientists discussing specific products

The internet provides an opportunity never before imagined to target scientists working on specific experiments and procedures that need your product.

Today, I will show you how to find those scientists online and how to target them for low cost/high ROI with laser-like focus.

Let's say you are the product manager for Shimadzu's new Biospec Nano that directly competes with the wildly popular Nanodrop, now owned by Mega-Corporation ThermoFisher. You are tasked with the job of taking market share from the Nanodrop.

Of course, you should do all the obvious things like advertise in Science, list it on Biocompare, and haul the machine around to ASCB and AACR with a team of trained sales professionals to talk to scientists. Thats great, but Nanodrop is right there with you with the full marketing might of a $10 billion dollar company behind them.  In my opinion, you will lose that battle.  Nanodrop was first to market and scientists love it making the BiospecNano a vitamin (nice to have) and not a pain pill (required).

How do I know scientists love the NanoDrop?  I did a sentiment search (for more on this click here).

In this case, I searched for the Nanodrop on ScientistSolutions.com, an online discussion forum. Discussion forums are a very different Social Media Animal than quick conversation websites like Facebook or Twitter or opinion sites like ScienceBlogs and Nature Networks.  You'll have take my word on it today, but look for a comparison article soon.

Here's what I found - The word Nanodrop is mentioned in 40 different discussion threads.  One thread went on for 3 pages with at least 100 scientists from all over the world raving about the Nanodrop.

Actual Quotes -

"The Nanodrop works great, it saves a lot of time and reagents. " - Shareef, United States 

"...At its price point (~$8,000) and ease of use (no consumables), there is nothing out there that compares."  - Ivan, United States 

If you think outside the box, this is a perfect place to begin a low cost/high ROI assault on Nanodrop if you are Shimadzu. 

Your game plan is simple  - Steal all this free press for the Biospec Nano.


ScientistSolutions.com sells "keywords" (its in their media packet, which for some reason you have to call to get, thats dumb). So, every time the word Nanodrop appears on this site it could be a link to the Shimadzu version of the product and not the "real Nanodrop" owned by ThermoFisher.  

Yesterday, I called them up and asked to "buy" the word Nanodrop.  $100 a month.  That's laughably cheap!  They even agreed to tag the word for a month to show me how many clicks it gets.  Even if I only get 10 clicks that result in one sale, that's still cheap.  $100 to cockblock ThermoFisher AND make a sale of a $8000 instrument per month, that is low cost/high ROI!

Next, repeat the process described above on the other major life science discussion forums.

Here's a short list. There are thousands of scientists discussing untold numbers of products on these three sites alone.


Of course if you work for Nanodrop, you may want to play defense by securing the word and advertising space for yourself.

Full Disclosure - The author of this blog is a former employee of ScientistSolutions.com and has financial interest in the company.  He doesn't think this changes a single thing in the blog above since he gives three other scientific discussion boards to call as well. Yes, he had a blast calling his former company and acting like he wanted to buy something. No they didn't catch on! 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Invitrogen Head of Sales on How to Sell to Scientists

How To Sell To Scientists is happy to welcome Mark Walker former Director of Sales at Invitrogen and VP of G&S Discovery to our team.  

Mark will be bringing you a lifetime of experience in selling to scientists in every facet of the business from academia to biotech to forensics specialists. 

He has supervised large sales teams in the life science sales and helped Invitrogen along their meteoric rise. With G&S Discovery, Mark has incredible knowledge of marketing and selling to researchers and large research organizations. Most recently, he created and developed an online data service (NaviGRANT) that aggregated and presented life science grant information to help companies understand what their research customers are working on and employ more appropriate messaging. 

For a first glimpse at what Mark brings to the table please read his recent article about training your sales force on your website.

Welcome to the team Mark!

Monday, March 8, 2010

How to find scientists discussing your company online

Are you ready to engage scientists online, but need to know where to find them? Do you want to know what scientists are saying about your company/product/service/congress?

In short your livelihood depends on it!

So how to find it?

Besides the obvious Google Search (time-consuming & unproductive) you need to focus your search on websites and applications where scientists are actually communicating.

Lets quickly test two common social media/online outlets by searching for "Santa Cruz Biotechnology" a large antibody supplier for the life sciences.

Twitter - I searched Santa Cruz Biotechnology returned 0, Santa Cruz = 1000s unrelated, and Santa Cruz antibodies = 0. Not very telling, except that Santa Cruz needs a twitter page.

ScienceBlogs.com - I searched Santa Cruz Biotechnology got nothing.

I searched Santa Cruz = Motherload!

Actual quote from a user comments

Positive - "This antibody was from SantaCruz. It has served me well..."

Not so positive.

"Dude- Santa Cruz antibodies are enough to turn an entire f**king carebear teaparty into a republican national convention. "

"Reading this sh*t, I'm now even more frightened than before about what's in that Santa Cruz vial."

"...all antibodies have an element of crapshoot about them, but SC's are crappier, or shootier, than others."

and yikes! "Ah, SantaCrap"

Need I go on?

Dr. BrownDawg

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Does Your Sales Team Know How to Use Your Website?

Let’s see a show of hands for how many companies have trained their sales representatives how to use their own companies’ website recently. C’mon, keep them up. Ok, there are a few but not many. Marketers are focused on developing, testing and tweaking their online presence and performance to satisfy their customers and attract prospective customers. There is no argument there but there might be a missed opportunity.

Your sales force is dealing with customer issues every day in the field and on the phone, answering questions about purchased products and potential product solutions. If your site is your digital face to customers, then the sales force is your eyes and ears and mouths. They need to work together or you run the risk of reproducing a badly dubbed Godzilla movie where the mouth doesn’t match the words.

Sales representatives are valuable and expensive interpreters of customer needs and translators of company offerings. You want them utilizing any tool at their disposal to help make your customers successful and close sales. So why don’t they know how to easily find a product on your website? Do they know how to download a product manual? Can they get a customer to an ordering page?

In sales management, I witnessed the sales force struggling with each of these issues, while in front of the customer. As you can imagine, it does not enhance their competence or your company’s reputation in the customer’s eyes. Stumbling through page clicks with the customer watching over their shoulder can be frustrating and produce comments like, "Why did they change this. Now its confusing?", "I don’t know why they have it this way," or "It's so hard to find things on this site." Ouch.

Instead imagine responses being something like, "Here, let me show you how to find that product on our site, its super easy" or "You will love this new tool we just added that lets you do xxxx." When you solve one researcher’s issue, there is a good chance you have gained an advocate for your site in that lab.

More time for training usually means less field time so its critical to make sure it’s worth it. Can you speed up the sales cycle by helping researchers find your products faster, easily understand how they can solve their problem and how to order them? When your sales team knows how to appropriately utilize the web presence to help them build relationships and close sales, that is a payoff.

Here are some basic tasks your sales team should know.

How To:

  • Search for a product via partial product name, full name, and catalog number
  • Search for a list of products related to an area of research (PCR polymerase, RNAi)
  • Find and download a specific product manual.
  • Find a product and order it. Set up a test account and have them go through the process.
  • Use the site’s scientific resources and tools and they can help research customers.
  • Contact a live resource if they cant answer a customer question.

There are many ways to educate your sales force, whether face-to-face or digitally. The key is to create a way for them to practice these tasks and to monitor their performance. They not only will be more comfortable but you might be able to identify some site navigation issues, without paying for an expensive consultant.

Ideally, your site would be so intuitive that customers and sales force both would be able to find what they needed fast and easy. In the meantime, help your sales force figure out how to leverage your website. Your customers will thank you.

Mark Walker

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is - Custom Site Search

Two days ago I wrote about how your website is your face. In the article, I mentioned that you can create a Google Custom Search Engine for free to help your customers find products on your websites.

Today I'm putting my money where my mouth is. The company I called out was Roche, a company who's products I use and respect. So this morning I built them a Custom Search Engine (CSE) to find products on their website. The link is here - Roche Product Engine.

Here's the process
  1. Log In to Google Account
  2. Find and open CSE Creator
  3. Fill out form
  4. Find the product domain URL for Roche products in separate window
  5. Paste URL into CSE window, read format tips, re-format URL to search entire domain roche-applied-science.com/*
  6. Accept Terms and Decide on Standard vs Business Terms (we pay you vs you pay us)
  7. Test Search Engine with product Im looking for this morning -
Search - "LightCycler FastStart DNA MasterPLUS SYBR Green I"

I get 35 or so hits only on Roche's site. Most of the results are in pdfs? That's frustrating! I want to order a product. Maybe that's why I can't find anything on Roche's website!
(Note: that in its exuberance Google will index anything on your site including handwritten Post-it notes on your desktop - kidding)

Ok how to fix that.... easy exclude pdf from the search by telling google to stop. You do this by adding a minus sign (-) infront of any term you want to exclude.

so... Search... LightCycler FastStart DNA MasterPLUS SYBR Green I -pdf

Bam! the first link is exactly the page for the product I want to buy

I encourage you to try it yourself. Click here to try my Roche Product Engine

I will try and make a video of this process later today. There are tons of options for customization, removing the ads, etc. That is another blog....

Bonus Cooking Tip of the Day - Wrap celery in aluminum foil in the fridge and it will keep for months! Who knew!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Your website is your face

"Your website is terrible, I mean I spent 30 min trying to find a product I know you sell, but couldn't.  I ended up buying it from Sigma instead. You guys need to do something about that, seriously!"

This is an exact quote that I overheard at vendor show at the University of California-San Diego last week (I immediately wrote it down.) The lady was visibly upset, but genuinely trying to help.  The rep was apologetic and sympathetic and back peddling.  He too thought their website sucked and even said he had complained about it repeatedly.  Clearly it wasn't the first time he had heard this complaint.

Never forget - Your website is your face!  People are more concerned about their face than any part of their body.  Its the first thing you see of someone else.  You can tell their mood, their hygienic habits, whether they are lying or not. We spend billions on products to make our faces better. 

Your website is your company's face. Its the first thing scientists see.

The culprit in the above transction - Roche.  I spent a few minutes navigating their site this weekend, and she is right, its a nightmare.  Its hard for me to believe that a company as large as Roche can't figure out how to produce a decent website.

In all seriousness, $50-100K likely buys them the best website money can buy. 

$25k and its functional. 

Google Site Search is free (plus a $100 for a programmer to install it on their website). 

Yes that was FREE! Never try to out google Google, why bother you have more important things to do like sell kits and antibodies and $500,000 Mass Spectrometers.

Sales staff - Its time to take action.  Complaining will not get you heard in a company as large as Roche, but action will. If your company's website is getting complaints, take action yourself today.    Remember money will always get the attention of the bean counters. If you aren't making your numbers point out that online sales and your crappy website are the cause. 

Do one of these today -

1. Find a great programmer, find an AB tester, find a user interface expert, find an SEO expert. Solicit their ideas and send a memo to your superiors (with four bullet points).  Email me or comment if you need some direction on this. Rehearse these bullet points and have them ready for the chance encounter with someone in your company that can make the change.

2. Solicit letters from your best customers (not PIs, they dont buy your product remember). Send them to your boss or post them by the water cooler late at night if you are scared to be seen.  If your company won't read them, send them to me and I will post them here anonymously for you. The internet gets the word out faster than you can imagine.

Take action and become indispensable! Your job depends on it.  

(yes, I know I took indispensable from Seth Godin)