Intelligent Negotiating

The purpose of this blog is to help you understand the techniques for negotiate pricing with scientific suppliers. As you look to buy supplies or equipment for the lab, there are plenty of opportunities to overspend. Be careful! So how do you make the most of your money?
There are three concepts/processes you should understand to help you along the way:
  1. How suppliers and sales reps operate
  2. How and when to ask for a discount
  3. Industry pricing and the term “List Price”

List Price

Don't Pay This Price
In simple terms, List Price is the price of an item listed publicly on a supplier’s website. It is helpful to know if the List Price is a “fair” price, and if you have room to negotiate. We performed a case study, go to here, where you can see data showing how much wiggle room there is to negotiate pricing from the big suppliers. Generally, for the suppliers who sell anything and everything (Fisher, VWR, MilliporeSigma, etc.), you should try to NEVER pay list price.
Please take note that the price you should pay can be up to 80% off List Price. Shopping at scientific suppliers is nothing like Amazon where a market dictates pricing based on quality, reviews, and lots of competition between sellers. You have to be much more diligent with scientific shopping.
For companies that sell a specific line of products (Abcam, NEB, Teknova, etc.), paying List Price is acceptable most of the time.

How suppliers and sales reps operate

There are three branches of a supplier that you’ll interact with: Customer service, technical support, and sales reps. Suppliers hire sales reps to visit labs, call scientists, and email you to buy their supplies. A few points you should know:
  • It is their job to get you to buy from them.
  • Their income is based on two things, 1) how much you buy from them and 2) how close to List Price you pay…the closer to List Price, the more money they make.
  • Some have a science background, many don’t.
Most sales rep are in the “field” visiting scientists. Therefore they can be very unresponsive. Set your expectations accordingly when asking them for help. You can call customer service, but rarely can customer service help you with pricing. You should only call customer service when you need an order update or there’s a problem with the order, but not for pricing info or discount quotes.
The process for getting a quote is usually not fast. Your request first goes to the sales rep, who is possibly out in the field. Then, the sales rep might not have the authority to grant a particular discount, so they have to go to their manager for approval. This takes time, so if you need the items ASAP you might not be able to wait for a quote.

How and when to ask for a discount

The best times to request a quote are:
  1. when buying new and used equipment
  2. bulk quantities (five +)
  3. with a set shipping schedule (aka “standing order”)
  4. when your current price is List Price
Some tactics that help:
  • Use data. “We’ve spent $10,050 with your company this year, at what point do we qualify for the next tier of discounts?”
  • Use the competition. “SupplierX has quoted us this price, but we’d much prefer to buy from you. Can you beat or match their price?”
  • Sample request. “We’re interested in trying a new item in the lab – is it possible to get a discount or free sample?”
  • Be nice. Sales reps are people too. Kindness can get you lower pricing.
  • Don’t take no for an answer. If they provide a quote with a small discount and you think you can do better, don’t be afraid to ask for a larger discount – the worst they can say is no.
No matter the price, never ignore these three factors which can significantly increase the backend cost of the item:
  1. Shipping cost
  2. Timeline to deliver (delays mean your lab is paying your salary to wait)
  3. Product quality. Keep in mind…you get what you pay for. Low cost products are probably low quality. If you’re experiment fails because of low quality supplies, what is the cost of that lost experiment? Was it worth saving $50?
Happy spending!

Glossary of useful terms

  • List price – the public price of an item on a supplier website before applying lab discounts or promo codes
  • P.O. – Purchase Order. A document stating what you intend to buy.
  • Quote – a documented price that is not List Price
  • Sales Representative (sales rep) – contact person at a vendor/manufacturer. They responsible for managing your labs account and pricing, and can help out with order issues. They are assigned to regions of the country, state, or city.
  • Standing PO/order – An order for a fixed quantity of items with a recurring shipping schedule.
  • Supplier– a company that sells goods and services to your lab. They may or may not be a Manufacturer.

HIRING — Support Virtual Lab Manager

Support Virtual Lab Manager at a growing life science company

If you have experience with lab management, purchasing, basic accounting, or customer service, apply!

ABOUT HAPPILABS

HappiLabs is a small business with a startup mentality in Chicago that provides a service to scientists called the Virtual Lab Manager. We support scientists in various ways, virtually, which includes acting as an outsourced purchasing department (some might say a Personal Shopper) for biotech companies and scientific research labs.

We have a mission: to improve the happiness of scientists and the quality of their research.

By helping scientists do their job, we are helping all the people on the planet who benefit from inventions, creations, and knowledge that scientists create.

Purchasing and Customer Service ScientistYou will work out of our Chicago office where you’ll support our Virtual Lab Managers (who are PhDs or long-time lab managers) as they manage labs across the country. You will be interacting with suppliers, freight companies, accountants and scientists.

You will be trained to be one of the best lab managers in the world.

EXPERIENCE

A strong candidate will have one of these backgrounds:

  • Lab manager or tech experience in a lab
  • Logistics or customer service experience (does not need to be in the sciences)
  • Purchaser or bookkeeper
  • Minimum Bachelor’s degree

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Utilize various apps and software for managing labs
  • Communicate with suppliers (sales reps, technical help & customer service) to obtain pricing and technical info, place orders, retrieve order updates, and solve logistics and supply chain problems
  • Keep detailed accounting records
  • Report progress and solve problems at team meetings

TIMEFRAME

Looking to start now, preferably in Chicago.

COMPENSATION

  • Full-time, salary
  • $35-55k, depending on experience
  • Medical and Dental health benefits
  • A t-shirt, free coffee and snacks at the office

SKILLS AND TRAITS YOU SHOULD HAVE

We want a long-term commitment, someone who will help a small company grow into a large one.

  • Tech savvy (very good with a computer, its keyboard and multiple monitors)
  • Proactive mentality – help without being asked to help, and an ability to predict problems
  • Knowledge of hardware or mechanical engineering, and/or chemistry, and/or molecular biology
  • A passion for science and desire to make a difference in the world.
  • Confident presence on the phone. We frequently call suppliers

===== APPLY NOW! ======

CLICK this link –> HAPPILABS JOB APPLICATION (VIA A GOOGLE FORM)

It will not hurt to connect with Tom on LinkedIn.

We’re hiring a Virtual Lab Manager

Virtual Lab Manager at a growing life science company

If you have experience with lab management, purchasing, or customer service in the sciences, apply!

ABOUT HAPPILABS

HappiLabs is a small business with a startup mentality in Chicago that provides a service to scientists called the Virtual Lab Manager. We support scientists in various ways, virtually, which includes acting as an outsourced purchasing department (some might say a Personal Shopper) for biotech companies and scientific research labs.

We have a mission: to improve the happiness of scientists and the quality of their research.

By helping scientists do their job, we are helping all the people on the planet who benefit from inventions, creations, and knowledge that scientists create.

Purchasing and Customer Service ScientistYou will co-manage a minimum of two labs. We are “virtual” so your job consists of sitting in our offices and communicating with scientists, in other parts of the world, about what they need to run their experiments.

You will be trained to be one of the best lab managers in the world.

EXPERIENCE

A strong candidate will have one of these backgrounds:

  • Lab manager or postdoc (or superb grad student) who has managed people, experiments, and budgets
  • Purchasing agent
  • Sales rep in the life science industry (but this is NOT a sales job)

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Communicate with engineers & scientists to understand their needs and experiments
  • Communicate with suppliers (sales reps, technical help & customer service) to obtain pricing and technical info, place orders, retrieve order updates, and solve logistics and supply chain problems
  • Keep accounting records organized
  • Report progress and solve problems at team meetings

TIMEFRAME

Looking to start now, preferably in Chicago.

COMPENSATION

  • Full-time, salary
  • $50-70k, depending on experience
  • Medical and Dental health benefits
  • A t-shirt, free coffee and snacks at the office

SKILLS AND TRAITS YOU SHOULD HAVE

We want a long-term commitment, someone who will help a small company grow into a large one.

  • Tech savvy (very good with a computer, its keyboard and multiple monitors)
  • Proactive mentality – help without being asked to help, and an ability to predict problems
  • Knowledge of hardware or mechanical engineering, and/or chemistry, and/or molecular biology
  • A passion for science and desire to make a difference in the world.
  • Confident presence on the phone. We frequently call suppliers

===== APPLY NOW! ======

CLICK this link –> HAPPILABS JOB APPLICATION (VIA A GOOGLE FORM)

It will not hurt to connect with Tom on LinkedIn.

An Analysis of Women-owned Scientific Suppliers

Summary

When a lab hires HappiLabs to be their virtual lab manager and do their lab shopping, we want to make sure we buy from suppliers who fit the values of the lab. Recently, one of our customers asked, “Who are the female owned suppliers? We’d like to buy from them.” Therefore, we hired Dr. Vidhya Sivakumaran (above photo), a cardiovascular–focused postdoc from Loyola University, to do research on the topic. This is an informal study assessing the population of women-owned suppliers of scientific supplies, services, equipment, and reagents.

happilabs shops for women-owned scientific suppliers
The 70 companies that were surveyed for this analysis

Methods

  1. We selected 70 suppliers with whom HappiLabs has purchased from over the past 6 months
  2. Scanned their website to identify the sex of ownership
  3. If it wasn’t clear, we confirmed website findings with a phone call or email

Note: If we missed any women-owned business beyond the 70, please notify us: hello at happilabs.org

Discussion

It is well know that most industries are male-dominated. However, this is slowly changing and with this many labs are looking to buy and work with women-run scientific suppliers when it comes to purchasing pipette tips, chemicals, antibodies, centrifuges, etc. It was our hypothesis that there are few women-run businesses. Based on our research, this is true. However, science is doing better than the Fortune 500.

Lab shopping for female owned science businesses
92.9% male vs 7.1% female owned scientific suppliers

From the sample we looked at, 5 out of 70 or 7.1% of science suppliers are owned and/or run by women: DotScientific, Chemglass Life Science, Gilson, Macherey-Nagel, and Science Exchange. This is slightly higher than the 4.8% of fortune 500 companies run by females (Catalyst.org). Yay science!

happy labs shopping for women-owned scientific suppliers

We did find out through the course of our study that women-owned businesses out-survive male-owned businesses in several industries and areas, such as education and restaurant establishments (Kalnins et al, Journal of Business Venturing, 2014).

We also observed that only 16.9% of corporate board seats were held by women in 2013, with little progress in narrowing the gender gap (Huffington Post). Michelle Rowley, a tech entrepreneur and founder of Code Scouts (a non-science business), knows this feeling all too well. She was quoted in Entrepreneur magazine as saying, “that is a weird dynamic – being the only woman in the room – and they are all staring at you because they have to. I thought, I wonder how the dynamics would change if we could get more women involved.”

How does HappiLabs want to help? HappiLabs is interested in supporting women-run companies by making it easier for scientists to purchase supplies and services from them. We also plan to reach out and possibly work with several groups that promote women in science, such as AWIS Chicago, the Field Museum Women in Science, Women in Bio, and the Chicago Collaboration for Women in STEM.

Please share this post with other scientists who might be interested in knowing about women-owned scientific suppliers. And sign up to receive our monthly newsletter with updates about tips and suggestions for being a conscious shopper (and user) of scientific supplies:

 

9-year, $180M contract–Looking to partner with a supplier who is owned by a minority, female, veteran, or persons with disability

virtual lab manager for scientists

Hello world. As part of our mission to improve the happiness of scientists and the quality of their research, we are looking to partner with companies who represent the under-represented.

The state of Illinois has posted a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a 9-year contract estimated to be worth $180M for providing scientists (and future scientists) with lab supplies, equipment, software, and support.

HappiLabs is submitting a proposal.

Based on past records, there is very little competition for the same suppliers who win these bids every year, mainly ThermoFisher (valued at $112B!!!) and VWR ($6.5B). We are a small, family-run business, and as young and small as we are, we will do our best to break the status quo, win some of this bid, and bring new and innovative value to scientists of Illinois. To do that, we are looking for strategic partners who stand for more than just profits for their shareholders.

The RFP establishes a goal of 20% for contracting with businesses that have been certified as “owned and controlled by persons who are minorities, female, or persons with disabilities (BEP certified vendor). 30 ILCS 575.” And a goal of 3% for businesses owned and controlled by qualified veterans and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. The state of Illinois calls this the Business Enterprise Program (BEP). You can read more about it here.

At HappiLabs, we are a diverse group with 14 employees that are 54% female, 31% minority, and 5 PhDs. We are focused on helping scientists, and any human is welcome. Are there suppliers out there who can help us promote diversity in the sciences?

If you are BEP certified, or want to be, please contact us ASAP. Help us help the scientists of the world.