Career area: Sales and marketing – EMBL Fellows' Career Service

EMBL Careers

A life science careers blog for early career researchers

This blog aims to inspire early career researchers exploring different career options. We provide interview-based profiles of life scientists working in diverse science-related careers and articles on a broad range of career-related topics, with new content added on a regular basis.

Career area: Sales and marketing

When hiring for sales and marketing roles for scientific products, companies often look to hire scientists. This is because their familiarity with the needs and challenges of scientists, their ability to communicate and their network are highly valuable in these positions. Employers include companies who produce products aimed at scientists (e.g. reagents, labware, instrumentation, scientific services), as well as pharma, biotech and medical device companies.

Roles and responsibilities

The job titles and the tasks associated with sales / marketing positions have a large variety. Possible tasks may include a subset of the following activities:

Sales roles

  • Identifying potential new customers, and engaging with relevant staff within the company / institute / organization. 
  • Listening to and understanding the potential customer’s needs and challenges, then communicating the prospective value of relevant products; coordinate activities that will promote a sale – demos, calls with / visits of product specialists to answer specific technical questions, deliver trainings, etc; negotiate contracts and close deal.
  • Account management: maintaining relationships with existing clients, identify potential new requirements and any issues with purchased products
  • (for technical sales roles) developing and applying expertise in a specific product range, promoting this to potential customers
  • Understanding the market and advising on the commercial potential of new products in the development pipeline 
  • Business development: identifying potential long-term partnerships or licensing opportunities

Marketing roles

  • Collating and assessing information on the market for products – trends, competitors, customer segments, current sales figures, market potential for new products etc. 
  • Deciding on the “positioning” of products and associated brands i.e. understanding what the primary needs of the customers are, the unique / best features of the product, and which messages are most important to convey.
  • Planning promotions / campaigns like product launches, exhibition stands, advertising and materials (brochures) for the company’s products. Running social media accounts. Coordination of any outsourced work (e.g. work with a design or advertising agency).

Knowledge and skills

In our careers & skills survey, 9 sales and marketing professionals told us the competencies they use most in their daily work  The most frequently selected competencies were:

  • Delivering presentations (selected by 67% of respondents)
  • Effective communication   (selected by 56% of respondents and ranked top for success in the role)
  • Broad scientific knowledge  (selected by 56% of respondents)
  • Vision  (selected by 56% of respondents)

Career entry and progression

It is often possible to enter junior sales and marketing roles with no commercial experience. In particular, ‘inside-sales’ roles are one potential entry-level role – these are office based, primarily communicating with customers by phone. Other junior sales roles include ‘sales representative roles’: these tend to be focussed on specific customers (usually in a specific ‘territory’), and building up a customer base in that area. Depending on the company, role and location, the customers may all be rather spread out requiring a lot of travelling– but sometimes they are localised in the region in which you live, requiring no overnight trips. 

Sales and marketing roles are closely related, and there is often the possibility to switch between these two roles. Career progression may also include managing teams of sales reps / marketing professionals and eventually more senior management positions, moving into product management, or other commercial roles. 

Example job titles 

  • (Direct / Key) Account manager
  • Sales representative
  • Technical marketing scientist 
  • Technical sales specialist
  • Inside sales specialist
  • Market development manager
  • Scientific manager sales and marketing
  • Sales and business development manager

Note: there is large variety between companies ; some roles may require experience in a more junior role first.

Why consider this career area?

In our careers and skills survey, scientists working in sales and marketing told us that they appreciate that their work:

  • is intellectually stimulating
  • involves collaboration/ working closely in a team

Sources / further information

Further internal resources

For EMBL fellows

Within EMBL, further internal resources (e.g. recorded career seminars) can also be found on our career exploration intranet pages.

Informational interviews

For all career areas, we highly recommend first learning more about the careers using the resources above, then conducting informational interviews to gain further insights directly from former PhDs working in career areas that interest you.

Last update: November 2022

EU flag and text, co-funded by the European Union
The EMBL Fellows' Career Service incorporates the EMBL Interdisciplinary Postdoc (EIPOD) career development programme. EI3POD and EIPOD4 have received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreements 664726 (2015-2020) and 847543 (2019-present) respectively.