Are you really Selling?
For scientists emerging into the business world bringing the fruits of years of research into the market place can be a hard task especially if you want to make money from the products.
It is easy to get discussions going – years of practice of discussing research with colleagues and lay-people enable confident approaches to people who have previously shown interest in the work and who potentially could be important early adopters of the technology. But are those discussions useful within a sales cycle or do they simply add information into the product development process?
Are you enhancing the credibility of your product by having the CEO or CTO making those initial approaches? Or does it just emphasis the small company size? If you address that problem through employing a young enthusiastic business graduate does that give balance to the skill set that you have within the organisation or dilute the scientific understanding and correct product placement?
Where in all of this energy and effort is the requirement for professional sales experience – the industry contacts, the understanding of how to sell scientific products into a scientific market? The confidence and skills to assess buying signals rather than academic interest in the research and product development? Often a colleague with a sales title from any background but without years of industry experience and contacts is just another person on the same steep learning curve as the rest of the team.
Professional sales staff are expensive commodities, particularly ones with a good fit between your potential market and their contacts, so what if you can't afford that approach? How do you get traction to actually close deals, many of them, and increase revenue?
These are exactly the issues that SSC is dedicated to helping small scientific companies solve through a mixture of provision of extra resource and training so your scientific colleagues can take on real sales challenges and your young business colleagues can rapidly gain experience to confidently take your products into successful sales process and lift you out of the vortex of scientific discussion about the ideal product.
We are currently working with FinPro and Tekes in Finland to create a 3 year Vientirengas of Finnish Bio-IT companies to provide them that missing link. This will be a group of up to 5 companies that work together and with SSC to target new international markets and to bring an extra dimension to their marketing strategy and their sales success. Any companies with Computational Chemistry, Biology or informatics backgrounds and an interest in using cloud technology to further their innovations should contact us directly for further information.
We would be happy to hear from companies outside of Finland as well as we feel this model of co-operation and mentoring has benefits for all small innovative companies in this market area.
Commercialise with Confidence
I answered at the time that it was to do with failure to commercialise properly. That it wasn't to do with the correct skills in the Finnish population (they have some of the best academic qualifications in Bioinformatics and some of the leading research teams) and it wasn't to do with a lack of quality of the ideas – but a lack of exploitation.
I stand by my initial response and would like to expand on it.
Commercialisation is a skill that scientists are rarely exposed to, it is rarely taught in Science faculties. Some people wander into the business aspects of scientific endeavour though accidental exposure via business skills courses and business games events and some because they are aware of their suitability for such a career. However many scientists leave their education unaware that sales and marketing are possible careers and that pursuit of wealth is possible whilst retaining scientific integrity and take the natural career progression into the world of academic research or into teaching.
As a result when the opportunity to pursue a commercial opportunity comes along they are often unskilled in maximising the potential both in terms of financial gain but also dispersal of the technology to global market base that it could benefit.
The commercial world is proactive not reactive. It requires scientists to use different language to communicate in a different way to see their inventions from a different prospective. These are new skills which are mainly taught through Business School language of marketeers and totally inaccessible to the average scientist recently made CEO who needs a practical guide to “how do I make this work”.
There are also cultural issues. Scientists have their own combination of arrogance and shyness. They can be used to working in a single location surrounded by the same team for lengthy periods of time in their own language – linguistically and scientifically. They don't find it easy to change to having to cold call potential perspective customers and speak to them about the benefits of their technology in a language that feels and sounds unfamiliar. After all if the customers wanted this, they would look it up on the patents database or through citations? Surely they know who I am?
There are times when good salespeople are brought in to bridge the gap but this may not be the perfect solution if that sales person doesn't have deep enough an interest or understanding in the technology to be able to explain it with credibility to the equally intelligent and expert customers.
Another hurdle can be the lack of comfort with collaborations or partnerships to perfect a product or service. The wisdom of combination can be overshadowed by the fear of losing control by sharing equity. Global dominant products come from ensuring that all parts are of the same global excellence standard and the reward pie can be much bigger as a result and the collaboration experience can provide a cross-pollination of skills that benefits all parties.
I think that commercialisation of Bioinformatics in Finland (and other places) could benefit from more ambition to create global awareness of the IP and a greater confidence and ambition in the leading scientists brave enough to make the move into the commercial world.