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Selling Localization Services into the Life Sciences Market

As a Business Development Manager in the Localization industry, what do you need to know and how do you approach the task of selling your company’s services into the broad field of life sciences? At first glance, particularly for a new recruit to the industry or to the field of sales, the paths to take to achieve some level of success could seem at best daunting and challenging, at worst complicated and difficult to know where to start.

With almost twenty years in the localization industry, the last ten of which focusing on the life sciences market, I do remember those initial fears, and subsequent successes after a little encouragement to get started. I wanted to share with you some tips and guidelines for how to get started or develop your skillset.

Understanding the life sciences market

If your role in our industry is to sell, no-one is going to expect to you be an outright expert in the field you are targeting (unless you previously worked for a life sciences company). A little knowledge and a lot of appreciation and genuine interest in your target subject will go a long way. Taking the time to read up on your prospect’s company is a given, before any contact is made. Have you taken the time to read up on your prospect, the individual you wish to contact?

Let’s take a step back for a moment. How do you know if the company is a suitable one for targeting a potential sale? The answer to that lies partly in whether your company could deliver the services they may need, how much they need them and are willing to pay for them. Assuming you have deduced whether the company itself is a suitable prospect for your business, how much do you understand about what they do? Do you need to research them in some depth? Do you need to confirm some of the terminology they use to describe their business and products’ functionality? This can be one of the more daunting aspects of targeting life sciences companies, if you don’t have a background in the field yourself. All that medical and pharmaceutical jargon, their processes, the regulatory side, how the products work… mind-boggling, right?

Matching your company’s services and experience to prospective clients

This sounds obvious, but how much success do you think you may have targeting one company in pharmacy, compared to another in diagnostics, when your business’s track record is 80% pharma and CRO-related? That’s not to say a new market type should be avoided; one success in a new field could lead to many more of course.

But if you are about to get started selling in these fields, why not make it a little easier on yourself? A proven track record in a specific field will have a far bigger impact on your prospect than listing all the “great and wonderful things” your company can offer.  Because everyone offers that. Letting them know in brief terms that you do understand the short turnaround times required by pharmaceutical companies, the regulatory requirements, QRD template specifications and so forth will credit you in their eyes, as someone worth talking to further. The prospect is not interested in what you do, they are interested in what they do. They have some challenges and they will want to know that you understand these and if you are able to help them. If you can help them to do their job more easily, at less cost and better than someone else, then they may just be willing to talk to you.

A few pointers include:

  • Showing them you understand the language demands of QRD templates and other such requirements for pharmaceutical companies who must have their documentation approved by the European regulatory bodies
  • Proving your company has successfully helped similar companies with tight deadlines for multi-language projects
  • Offering to have translation teams available to work over the weekend if necessary, as some 5-day windows for translation may fall over these days of the week
  • Demonstrating the presence of in-house training for production teams who work on pharmacy-related projects
  • Having contacts at regulatory consultancies and experts in the fields linked to product approval and registration, which may help your potential new client

So, what about your prospect?

How do you find and make the first contact with that key person who could open all sorts of interesting doors for you? Research on the company is one thing; research on the person you want to speak with is just as important. I am not suggesting professional stalking by any means – there are lines not to be crossed! The plethora of social media tools available out there, free to use and open to anyone, provide as much information as each individual is prepared to give away. Being able to see their job title, previous work history, contacts they know. None of this information was easily available ten years ago when I first started selling. It is how you use it that is important, and perhaps more so, how not to over-use it.

Do they know people you know? Bingo if so, a “warm introduction” is on the cards. That does not necessarily lead to an immediate positive outcome business-wise, but it’s a good place to start. A phrase I keep in mind at all times with new prospects is “friends first”. It means to have a genuine appreciation of the other person and a genuine interest in what they do. Knowing a little about what is going on at their company, news items, mergers and acquisitions, new people at C-Level, and how their competitors fare, is always valuable knowledge to have to hand.

Tips for succeeding at selling language services into the life sciences market:

  • Aim to match your company’s expertise with your target clients’ business for a more positive outcome.
  • Use social media respectfully, with consideration of others’ rights to return an invitation to connect or not.
  • Tailor your messages to potential new clients, so they see you are genuinely interested in helping them, rather than winning a sale.
  • Know your subjects. Appreciation of another’s business will go a long way to build trust and confidence.
  • Regularly read publications and online resources for the industry, and join forums specific to markets you are targeting.
  • Keep up to date with industry developments, events, trade shows and conferences. Events companies are a good reference point for further investigation, such as Digital Health World Congress, BioPartner, European Biotechnology.
  • Have your company references in similar fields available to use; they will demonstrate you know what you are doing if and when they award you the business.
  • Make a long-term friend of your new client. It will reap rewards for them and for you, if you always put them first.