SAFC Lives: Nigel Swain, Sales Performance Manager

Nigel Swain

Nigel Swain

SAFC Lives presents personnel profiles where we talk to the people who make SAFC tick to find out more about their personalities, position, what drives them, and what they enjoy doing when they are not playing a critical role in the ongoing growth of SAFC.

In this edition, we talk with Nigel Swain, Sales Performance Manager for SAFC and BioReliance.

SAFC Live: Hello. Please start us off with a background of your position and an idea of your day-to-day duties?

Swain: My title is Sales Performance Manager, with duties split between SAFC (70%) and BioReliance (30%). The job comes with two core responsibilities: one is monitoring and analysis of all sales data that gives us ‘leading’ performance metrics and the other is developing the competencies in the sales and service teams to improve these metrics. On a daily basis, I am focused on looking into the science behind our sales. This entails constant review of conversion rates and metrics, and then working to make those figures tangible to the sales staff. We do this by applying the metrics to coaching and training; they are used to highlight where a team is experiencing success, where improvements can be made and where ‘best practice’ can be shared.

Unlike most positions within the company, I do not have a specific office I report to. I am on the road frequently, moving between Asia Pacific (APAC), North America and Europe. I stay mobile so that I can respond to the individual sales teams in their own office locations, or meet them on the road.

This role is unique, not just because of my location, but also because of the structure. I basically have three different internal customers that I work with; the Life Science Critical Raw Materials and Contract Manufacturing Services teams for SAFC and the BioReliance Life Science sales team.

SAFC Live: Tell us about your time with SAFC. What brought you here, how long have you been here and how has your role developed?

Swain: My path with the company has also been unusual. Shortly after the acquisition of JRH Biosciences in 2005, I was part of a sales consultancy team, supporting both SAFC and Sigma Aldrich, until mid 2011 when I was asked me to come ‘in-house’. Having worked with the SAFC sales operation for many years, I gladly accepted the offer.

Prior to working with SAFC (and now, BioReliance), my career has taken me many places. Back in 1975, I was working with the British military in an intelligence role. From there, I moved into lobbying and after a successful expansion of our accounts I was promoted to board director for global business development. That position started me on a sales career and employment in an international sales performance consultancy where I was focused on tactical sales and strategic analysis. After a lengthy consultancy career, initially in the UK for many years and then USA, my experience working internationally with clients like Rolls Royce and Samsung led me to develop an expertise in key account planning and execution.

SAFC Live: What has inspired you during your career with SAFC? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Swain: As a consultant, you are really a ‘mechanic’ – you never see the ‘journey’. As an employee in this role you have the privilege of supporting the SAFC strategy of customer intimacy and working daily towards the vision of a ‘best in class’ sales and service team in the industry. As we continue to refine the account management program, selling skills and overall sales process with a great group of people, it’s easy to become personally invested in what I’m doing in this ‘journey’.

Coming in house has only amplified that feeling of investment. The results, internally, externally and financially, are a driving factor. When you see your work impacting the bottom line, you want to do more to convert proposals to sales, retain customers, expand market reach and engage with customers to sell products and services from a solution point of view. I am driven to make this a world-class sales team.

Beyond that, I am also driven by the caliber of the people working within this company. This is inclusive of everyone, but can really be seen through the senior leadership; their vision and what this company is about resonates with me. SAFC employs exceptional people, from the senior leadership, to sales, to the scientists and beyond. Everyone I have met within this company has a great attitude, high work standards and a comprehensive understanding of the technical aspects of their role and the contribution they are responsible for making.

SAFC Live: How do you think SAFC solves problems for customers?

Swain: There are many aspects to this. Perhaps the most important is that SAFC takes the time to understand our customers, their business and the market. We learn what the customer needs; this allows us to tailor value added solutions on a long-term basis instead of just selling them what they want for the moment. SAFC also offers both innovation and expertise in a wide range of cutting edge technologies like the CHOZN Platform, ADCs, HPAPIs, etc.

Two other essential aspects are the stability of the company and the people. Parent company, Sigma-Aldrich, is number two on the NASDAQ and has been around since 1934. As the company has continued to expand, they have remained dedicated to quality of service and quality of staff. For instance, sales people at SAFC have an average tenure of eight to nine years. That is unheard of in the sales profession where standard staff turnover can be as short as a year. Our customers know they can rely on us; they know they can build a relationship with someone that will be there as partners in the future. Our people cannot be replicated by our competitors.

SAFC Live: Outside of work, what are your passions?

Swain: Family is my main passion. I have four children, three that are grown, and one still growing. I like to spend time with them whenever I can.

Personally, I am an amateur artist and amateur musician. I like to work mostly with acrylics and water painting – landscapes and animals mainly. I tend to do portraits of dogs – particularly my own if I can get them to sit still!

I find that my creative projects transpire into my professional work. I take what I do in my personal time and use it to develop professional relationship building skills. Above and beyond any systems or metrics, people will buy from people they like, so it is important to have something personal to offer beyond just a product or service.


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