How to Deal with Biotech Sales Representatives, Part 4:


This is the last in our series, and possibly the most fun: getting free stuff! In Part 1 we discussed the Types of Biotech Sales Representatives that may be calling on your lab, in Part 2 and 3 we covered how to get Lower Prices on Reagents and Equipment.

As always, be sure what you are negotiating or requesting is approved by your institution. Some groups have restrictions on gifts- but not all freebies are gifts!. Lab freebies are not only test samples and small handy thingies, they can include training, access to new protocols/techniques, science communication, etc.

In order to get more than your fair share of lab freebies, it is helpful to know why companies offer free samples. Here are some common reasons and ways you can take greater advantage of them:


  • Loyalty: Branded products that are useful improve your perception towards the company that gave them to you. Offer to help spread that loyalty- ask for freebies that you can give to others in your lab or collaborators. Just be sure to be a little specific, maybe by offering the lab’s name or location.
  • Reciprocity: A hidden neurobuyology (yes, that is spelled correctly) trigger that is activated when you receive a gift and makes you more apt to purchase. Similar to leveraging loyalty, offer to take a few extra freebies for fellow lab members that might be interested in the product.
  • We’re Sorry: Yes, everybody screws-up at some point and by you taking this gift you acknowledge that the company has made it right again. Here, it can pay to be a bit tougher. Don’t take the first offer; ask for something extra as the mistake cost you time and money.
  • Conversation Opener: Some lab freebies are great for reps to open up a conversation with you about a product or need. Take the small freebie, listen to the pitch and then offer to set-up a discussion with a larger group. A good rep will JUMP at this opportunity and you should at least be able to feed your lab a free meal.
  • Tester/Conversion: A product that the company hopes you will test and begin to purchase. The dirty secret that both the researchers and the company know is that most free products never get used. Take the product. Take extra. You might not actually use it, but you can always get a new hire to try it out so you at least know that it could be used in an emergency (if you e.g. run out of similar reagents).
  • Loaners: Companies offer equipment that is loaned to you for short periods of time. I classify this as a “freebie” as you are getting a piece of equipment for a few weeks at no charge. It can also come with reagents- for free. You can time this for surges of activity (e.g. you need to process a large number of samples, or need quick results) but you should have an authentic interest in an evaluation. To sweeten the deal, you can offer the sales rep opportunities to demo the instrument to other groups in your site.

This is by no means an extensive list of why life science companies give away material, but you should now have the vector. Lab freebies are a means for a company to begin a discussion with you, and sales representatives often have the best access to these.

Imagination and creativity can also get you sponsorship to a meeting, or hosting a meeting at your site, but this will usually need to be negotiated as part of a larger deal.

We hope you enjoyed this series and found it useful. Do let us know if you have other tricks you use to get lab freebies by leaving a comment below!