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Career spotlight: senior inside sales representative
Through our series of blogs highlighting people who have found careers at Takara Bio, we hope to show you what it's like to be a team member contributing to the advancement of "good science." We perform and enable good science, and this mission to provide top-quality products and services informs everything we do.
Here, we've interviewed Pat Burke, a Senior Inside Sales Representative, about his career path. Inside sales reps typically work alongside a team of other inside sales colleagues in a shared office environment—making their job different from the face-to-face sales model pursued by outside sales reps at their clients’ business locations or in the field. Our inside sales team works with customers from all over the US and Canada to provide solutions for their scientific needs.
How long have you been with Takara Bio and what drew you to work here?
I started with Takara Bio in July 2018. I was looking for a position in which I could have a lot of interaction with a lot of researchers doing a lot of good science. I was also looking for a company with a broad portfolio of quality products. The attraction for me was and still is the breadth of molecular biology I’m involved in. There are a lot of clever people with a lot of clever ideas, and I get to help them.
Tell us about your career journey—how did you get here?
I earned my Ph.D. in the Department of Genetics and Development at Columbia University. The academic atmosphere was the greatest. I was exposed to such a wide variety of work being done by world-class researchers and I wanted to learn all of it. Which, to a large extent, is why I left research and why I am where I am today: I saw my career trajectory as becoming more and more narrowly focused. That conflicted with the breadth of my interests and desire to learn about so many different areas.
The sorts of things I did in my graduate work are done in high school labs now, but it was all cutting edge at the time. For example, I spent three years sequencing ~10kb of cDNA, which now could be accomplished in a day! It can look archaic from one perspective but all the molecular biology I was doing is foundational to all the molecular biology being done today. For instance, the technology I used to make in vitro transcripts as hybridization probes is essentially the same as the technology being used to make the RNA in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
I moved to Madison, WI for a post-doc, which I chose because the lab was great and Madison had a lot of potential for biotech. At the time, I was pretty certain I wasn’t going to stay in research, so I wanted to make sure I had options. I’ve held several positions in sales, marketing, and technical support with companies of various sizes from start-ups to global corporations.
Why do scientists make good salespeople and what advice do you have for scientists considering a transition?
Scientists make good salespeople to scientists because we understand their motivations. We also share a common language and experience. Obviously, we need to understand the same terms and have a common understanding of the technologies. I realize customers aren’t really interested in making a library for RNA Seq, for instance. The technical details may be fascinating but ultimately, they’re interested in answering questions the transcriptome data hold. Perhaps that’s the final experiment before a person’s dissertation is written and that is the real goal. To be able to genuinely say “I’ve been there” is very powerful.
If a person is considering transitioning from the lab to sales, I’d suggest they ask themselves if they have the patience to really try to understand a customer’s needs and to work with people over an extended time. Sure, I may be contacting people with something I want to sell right now but for me sales isn’t about selling what I want to sell as much as it is selling what the customer needs and wants to buy. It’s about building a relationship where we can both succeed. It’s difficult and time consuming. It takes patience and practice.
That’s great advice. Do you have a sales story that illustrates this?
In March 2020, I saw an inquiry fielded by the Technical Support team from an account that was not a current customer at the time. The question was about reverse transcription and PCR. It’s difficult to explain but it seemed like the person was not asking the right question and, as a result, was left thinking we couldn’t help, but I was pretty sure we could. I was also got a sense that the question wasn’t simple curiosity; it felt like they were interested in SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics. I called right away (instead of sending an email!) and convinced the receptionist to connect me to the person who had just spoken with Technical Support. I spoke with her and took the time to learn exactly what she was looking for. I was right—she wanted to do SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics and we could help her! As a bonus, the account has been a very significant source of revenue and we have supplied them reagents for many, many tests.
It’s been great to hear about your career, Pat—what do you like to do when you’re not working?
Lately I’ve been studying the science of cooking and learning French. I complete at least one crossword puzzle per day. I also take time to relax; during the pandemic I’ve learned I can simply lie in my hammock and read.
I love crossword puzzles too!
Stay tuned for more career spotlights!
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