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Technical Sales: it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle.


Leave your stereotype of the smarmy, slick salesperson behind! Technical Sales is an honorable profession where relationships built on honesty, reliability, and follow-through are essential. In Technical Sales you have the freedom to plan your own schedule but need to be self-disciplined, organized, motivated and good at communicating with all different types of people. Contrary to what you might think, the best sales professionals are not extroverts, but ambiverts (mid-way on the extrovert-introvert scale)- it’s just as important to listen to your customer’s needs as it is to be outgoing and engaging.

NCBiotech’s first Jobs Network meeting of 2015 featured a panel of four successful Technical Sales professionals who gave us an insider view of this career path. All of the panelists had worked in research labs, but have very successfully made the transition to sales.

How were they drawn to sales? 

Curtis Alexander spoke eloquently of his lay-off from GSK. While trying to figure out what to do to support his family he scoffed at the idea of going into sales (he equated salespeople with subterfuge and deception) until a friend he admired- a salesperson- suggested it.

Carrie Browning thought she wanted to be a veterinarian but, while working in a research lab was open to a sales-related opportunity that came knocking. Years later, a Strengths Finder assessment confirmed that Sales was an ideal career fit for her!

Charles Cochran was doing work in a prominent research lab at NIEHS where he probably could’ve stayed for many years, but a contact of his suggested that he could do more. Charles seized the opportunity and got in touch with his inner extrovert.

Megan Gray was in a top notch research lab at Duke but yearned to know what other scientists were doing and wanted more connection with others. This led her to a career in sales with Promega. 

The panelists thoughtfully answered questions from the audience:

Do companies provide sales training?  Training is a lot more likely at the larger companies. At a smaller company, expect little or no training.

Do you need an advanced degree to be a Technical Salesperson? It helps to have technical skills and an understanding of science, but an advanced science degree is not required.

What are the most important skills or strengths needed to be successful?  All of the panelists agree that the most important skill is communication, followed by adaptability. It sounds as though there is a lot of learning involved as well- learning your product line, your competitor’s product line, etc.

What are your challenges? All agree that a Technical Sales job is actually more of lifestyle- you will have sales materials and equipment in your home and car, you may find yourself responding to requests at odd hours of the day, and travel may be involved. It would be easy for the job to overtake your life but you must set limits and maintain balance.

Advice for someone wanting to try Technical Sales?  Only consider reputable companies that sell a good product- you want to be able to stand behind what you sell.

There is no doubt that each of these panelists has a passion for technical sales and are glad they had open minds that led them to this job -um- lifestyle. 

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