Admitting When You Blew It – A Key Differentiator in Life Sciences Professional Services

What differentiates your company from the competition so that a pharmaceutical sponsor chooses you?

I recently spoke with Jim (not his real name), a global head of preclinical safety at a major pharmaceutical company.  We discussed how vendors and CROs who sell to his group spend far too much time talking about their “great capabilities.” He lamented that vendors are reluctant to discuss “mistakes” or “problems” and how to fix them.

Can you imagine entitling a case study or podcast “When We Messed Up” and sending it to clients and prospects? Crazy talk, right? Or is it?

“Decision makers at pharmaceutical companies understand that [stuff] happens,” said Jim. “The real unknown is ‘how will the service provider deal with those problems or mistakes?’  So at the end of the day, the big question we need to answer before we make an investment with a provider is ‘how much do we TRUST them? ’”

Far too often we spend time selling experience, technology, process and our global footprint. However for vendors in life sciences (clinical research organizations, technology providers or consulting firms) these capabilities are the bare minimum to be considered for the job. What ultimately will win you the business are those table stakes combined with a differentiator.

As pharmaceutical companies shift more of their resources to preferred provider relationships, it just may be the service and technology providers with enough confidence to talk about their mistakes that will start rising to the top.

How did your organization attack an unexpected problem during a client engagement? How did you remedy the situation?  Market that story.

Something to ponder as we begin 2011.

2 Responses to Admitting When You Blew It – A Key Differentiator in Life Sciences Professional Services

  1. Shree Nath says:

    Thanks for sharing this perspective. I fully agree with “Jim”.

    We have seen this need in our own business, and as a vendor to the life sciences business, we advise clients on the challenges they should anticipate. We have also seen that the best clients are those who take a progressive stance toward technical and other risks that are invariable in relatively complex preclinical projects, especially those attempting to do what has not been done before. We try to mitigate the client’s risk by doing fixed price contracts since the onus is then on us as the provider to deliver right.

    Your idea of marketing potential challenges is an intriguing one. It means that both clients and vendors have to approach each other openly by first establishing trust, and then building on that foundation.

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