The best strategy to use is divide and conquer. Simplify the running system as much as possible. If you have a malfunctioning computer system, strip off accessories and applications until you have a minimal operating system. Plug it directly into the wall by removing the surge protector it also goes bad.
If the stripped computer with a new operating system does not work, it is time to tear it down or start looking at hardware components such as RAM memory and hard drives. Alternatively, get a new computer. How much is your time worth? When working with HPLC systems, I found that the biggest problems were 1 solvents especially water and 2 bad columns.
First, start with only the basic components needed to get a chromatogram. Make fresh solvents with HPLC water and no buffers or salts added. If you have one, use a fresh chromatography column and shoot a mixture of clean standards. If this system does not work, start checking components one at a time, from the data system toward the pumps. It is just like eating an elephant: start at one end or the other, one bite at a time. I tried to get the companies to provide our service technicians with fresh columns and solvents as part of the service kit to be billed as part of the service call.
I never succeeded, but, after all, the company gets paid for the service time that is billed on the meter. Bidding contracts are prepared by purchasing agents working with researchers who need new equipment. These contracts describe exactly the equipment needed and when bids must be submitted. The contracts are submitted to a number of companies that supply this type of equipment, and open bids are posted in purchasing departments for inspection by prospective bidders.
They offer the best discount that they can legally provide. The assumption is made that all the systems being offered are similar enough that price alone can be used to choose among them. The wisdom of this assumption can be judge from a story concerning the space program. One of the Apollo astronauts was asked what he thought about as he lay on his couch waiting to be shot into space.
He said all that he could think about were the million and one parts that made up the rocket beneath Buying and Selling Laboratory Instruments: A Practical Consulting Guide. When everything is on the line, you want the highest quality, not the cheapest product you can buy. This can be a dangerous procedure because it tends to eliminate newer technology with better features that may enhance your research results. Thing change with time, and sometimes change is good. If at all possible, include in your bidding process intangibles such as service contracts, application support and training, and warranties.
They do not have your technical expertise, and they will need your help in evaluating the bids when they come in. Their tendency is to see only the bottom line. They have favorite vendors, and they can sometimes get favored treatment and quantity discounting from vendors who supply large amounts of equipment to your account.
This can be useful to you in getting a good price. However, it is important to realize that there is no such thing as a free lunch. There is a limit to ethical legal discounting. Often a baker would throw in a 13th doughnut to sweeten the deal for a regular customer. When submitting bids, always check your posted bids to make sure that all of the companies you are interested in are on the bid submittal list. Bids are not truly competitive if some of the interested vendors are left off the bid list. The government negotiates a single GSA price for all of the equipment their laboratories purchase and circulates GSA price lists to all of their laboratories.
Manufacturers gain immediate access to all government instrument buyers by qualifying for inclusion on the GSA price lists. The process is generally much easier and more rapid if laboratories conform to GSA purchasing and buy off the list. The GSA states that their price must be the best price that the vendor offers to anyone. If the price you are offered is lower than the GSA price, an excellent reason must be given. You may not receive that price, since you do not buy in the volume that the government buys, but at least you will be able to evaluate your purchase to see if it is a good deal.
The government does not encourage circulation of their price lists to nongovernment laboratories, but their availability does create cooperation among government and civilian researchers. Other countries have different bidding systems and purchasing agreements. The French bidding system is said to welcome bidding, but it does not settle for the best price.
The French average the bids and take the price closest to the average. They feel that this practice provides a representative price while eliminating shoddy or overpriced merchandise. GSA discounting levels may not bind foreign suppliers, but they have shipping costs to factor into their pricing and service and support considerations must be factored into their bottom-line price, so they generally are not able to compete with this discounting level. Bundling similar bids from a number of researchers can be advantageous. You must remember that a camel is a horse designed by a committee.
A forward commitment for future purchases from the same manufacturer can sometimes gain you favored consumer discounts, but realize that people and situations within companies change over time. Few manufacturers are willing to put such relationships on paper. Regular delivery of these items can be arranged, and these deliveries can be adjusted as requirements change, usually with a provision that an annual purchase level must be exceeded or part of the discount will be back-billed. They are advantageous to the buyer because he or she does not have to rebid these items and avoids additional paperwork.
They can become a problem if a major technological change occurs, so make sure to build in cancellation or volume adjustment arrangements in writing the agreement. Instrument success comes from three main factors, as shown in Figure 6. The instrument is correctly set up and in working condition Service. The buyer needs to be convinced that the instrument he or she is considering will do the job.
Journal articles and technical meetings help convince the buyer that your type of instrument can solve the problem, but with new instrument technology, the buyer must be further convinced. With established technology, this often can be supplemented with user referrals and testimonials. The dropoff instrument demonstration is the most dangerous of all demonstrations and the one most likely to fail. The customer does not own the instrument, does not know how to use it, and is often reluctant to turn it on for fear of breaking it.
The customer does not know how to adapt the instrument to solve his or her problem unless he or she is already using similar equipment. Analytical equipment is not usually designed for transport, and components may have been knocked out of alignment. The dropoff demonstration works best with very simple instruments that have a limited number of features and components that can go wrong. I did demonstrations for over 20 years from an instrument strapped to a folding cart that slid into the back of my station wagon and locked in place. Most demonstrations worked very well because I was familiar with the instrument and kept it serviced between demonstrations.
It is important that both the support specialist and the buyer mutually agree upon the goals of the demonstration. When I was new to the game, I did a demonstration in which the customer wanted to see the separation of four different types of compounds, one of them at the advertised sensitivity limits of the instrument and another that required considerable sample preparation to be run. Demonstrations should be done on a single class of compounds, at a reasonable sensitivity range, and in pure solvents and water.
Buffers are often added in published HPLC procedures to sharpen separations, but they only complicate a demonstration and must be washed out before shutting the system down. Customers trained in biological techniques love triple-distilled laboratory water. Volatile organics can codistilled with water, and triple-distilled water has killed many otherwise good demonstrations. I almost lost an order because the customer found the conditions in the literature and made up the mobile phases with buffered solvent before I arrived. The literature was incorrect, as it often is, because someone had probably mislabeled his solvent pumps and misreported his reaction conditions.
With another vendor, we offered tuition wavers for two users for a two-day slide presentation school. We designed these schools to make the user successful as soon as possible and to ensure user loyalty to the vendor to assist in further purchases. The value of these schools can be judged by successful publications by our users and by the repeat business they generated for the vendor. We awarded a diploma for completed attendance, and the company received irate telephone calls if the diploma arrived late.
I watched and helped instrument users run their own already installed instruments and provided advice on how to optimize their separations. Often I left my instrument operation protocol sheets with them as a reminder of the things I had taught them in the seminar and the consultation. These laboratories publish or make available collections of general methods that have been validated.
Usually if the buyer pays for the service, he or she retains exclusive rights to use and publish the developed method. Since my training was usually in a different technical discipline, I looked at their problems with different eyes and tended to see the forest rather than the trees. Sometimes I was able to offer simple suggestions that ended up leading to improved publishable separations.
This caused some customers to suggest that my name be added to their publications. If my name was listed on their papers, it would complicate my job when I went to call on their professional competitors, and publications were not important to the job I was hired to do. Instead, I collected the ideas, built systems where I saw trends, and published them as part of my training schools and the textbooks I eventually developed for these courses. A few grow to be well-attended forums for technical discussions, platforms for technical publications, and poster sessions for rapid dissemination of technical information.
These meetings are often accompanied by instrument exhibitions that provide multivendor exhibits of the latest and best hardware offerings. You are dealing with a con instead of a pro if the next time you see a sales representative is when you express an interest in making a new purchase. Good vendors should offer application support, possibly from an on-line library of methods papers. They should provide information on sample preparation that will ease and speed your analytical methods.
Their manuals should provide lists of recommended spare parts and maintenance tips for keeping your system up and running. Some instruments require few consumable items to achieve their results. A melting point apparatus may need disposable sample tubes, a microscope requires slide plates, and a autosampler may need sample vials with special caps required by the sampling system. Simple vacuum pumps for laboratory evacuations and primary stage vacuums for MS systems must have periodic pump oil inspections and replacements.
The prices of power managements systems such as power strips and surge protectors are often eliminated from purchase calculations. These relatively inexpensive items are critical for long-term successful operation. A vendor of battery-backed power security systems told me that my home city, Saint Louis, averages lightning days a year. Each nearby lightning strike degrades the operating capacity of one of these surge protection strips. The more complex the analytical system, the more expensive are the disposable items necessary for its operation.
Chromatography columns can be washed out, but they are usually said to have approximately a injection lifetime. Buffers and salts are added to mobile phases to control pH and to improve chromatography by sharpening chromatography peaks. They are a necessary nightmares for system operators because they corrode contact surfaces and plug check valves and tubing lines.
The cost of sample preparation before analysis is often ignored in calculating the cost of the instrument. Chromatography O. Real-world analytical samples are complex, and many impurities interfere with the target compounds for analysis, leading to failure of analysis and decreased sensitivity. Basically, this involves dissolving the sample, diluting it with a weaker solvent, and injecting the solution onto the disposable cartridge column. The natures of the weaker and stronger solvents depend on the cartridge media. By playing with the composition of the wash for the less retained impurities and for the composition of the sample eluting solvent, the window frames for the conditions to retain and then elute the sample can be adjusted.
On a octyldecylsilane C18 packing, the weaker solvent would be water, the stronger solvent might be acetonitrile, the weak retaining impurities would be more polar than the sample, and the strong retaining impurities would be more nonpolar. A sample in solution can be diluted, placed in the barrel, and either pushed with a syringe or pulled with vacuum onto the packing medium.
The sample on the column can be washed with dilute polar solution and then eluted with a stronger solvent. The more nonpolar impurities may be discarded with the cartridge see Figures 6. The literature contains reports on the use of these cartridges to purify samples for UV, infrared, nuclear magnetic resonance, and MS. If you know what you are doing and have the spare parts, you can often make the repairs yourself.
The more the instrument is available, the more it can be used to produce useful experiments and generate research papers, the life Buying and Selling Laboratory Instruments: A Practical Consulting Guide. Turnaround time for a spare or replacement part is also critical. I experienced a serious service problem with a major account.
The manufacturer I worked for had maintained a service man in the same city as their research laboratory who was respected by the customer for his ability and his prompt service. He was so well respected that the manufacturer promoted him out of the territory and then failed to replace him for nine months. Since we were in a very competitive sales situation, I realized that this changing service situation would endanger my ability to maintain sales control of the account. I pulled the literature out of my catalog case, stocked the bag with spare parts from my demonstration inventory, and carried it in the trunk of my car.
I then told the customer to order a new part and replace mine when the shipment came in.
The customer thanked me for getting his system up and running by referring me to three colleagues who were getting ready to order new systems. I kept my management informed on what I was doing. They were unhappy that we were losing the billing time for the service calls but were thrilled that I was exceeding my sales quota. I gained some very interesting information from this process. Most service problems are minor but very detrimental to the customer in the form of research downtime. I tracked these service calls and did everything I could to ensure that the problems were handled promptly.
I found that service people were only trained to repair electronic and mechanical problems. If the problem involved the method or the column chemistry, they were often unable to recognize it and spent much work time and billing time trying to solve it. I developed the concept of a column blank to simplify the problem to one of electronics and hardware so that the service person could treat it see Figure 7. The column blank is made from 5 feet of 0. The majority of problems in HPLC systems are due to column problems, and most of these are due to bad water or changes in the column surface characteristic due to accumulation of impurities.
The column blank, which bypassed the system column, completely removed column chemistry from consideration, provided enough back pressure to allow the system to operate, and was much less expensive than supplying a virgin column and standards for each service person to carry for diagnosis. The injection response with a column blank was almost instantaneous compared to injections through a column, again proving an aid to speed the diagnosis of hardware and electronic problems. This wastes time if the module is not at fault. It is better to approach this problem systematically.
Start at one end of the system. Next, I connected the detector to the strip chart and showed that it was producing a signal on the strip chart. Once the detector was tested, I moved to the next module, with a column blank in the system replacing the column. I shot standard through the injector and looked for peaks in the baseline. The last candidate for investigation was the pumping system see Figure 7.
The same technique will work with any modular system and also with any instrument that can be separated into isolated components. Start with the data output module and work toward the sample input. Try to diagnose electronic problems before you move to sample handling. The point is that service done regularly by an informed service professional increases the value of your instrument purchase by providing consistent operation that will impact your output of results. Your ability to understand your research systems and protocols will optimize the results you obtain from that service.
When an instrument stops working, the best response is to pull out the manual, look for diagnostics, simplify the system, run through the troubleshooting tips, and get the system back into operation. Instrument manuals are rapidly disappearing from the instrument environment. A good manual containing hardware diagrams, diagnostic tips, frequently asked questions FAQs about previously occurring problems, and systematic troubleshooting steps can be absolutely essential when things go wrong at in the morning.
Web sites do have the advantage, if there happens to be an on-line computer in the laboratory, of having the most current information on the instrument. This assumes, of course, that the manufacturer has bothered to update the contents of the web Help screens.
The completeness of the instrument manual is something that can be easily investigated before the instrument sale. Ask the sales representative to let you look at one before you bid or make a purchase. If he or she does not have one, it can be obtained from the manufacturer or borrowed from a recent customer. The care that a manufacturer has put into creating the printed manual or the web manual often indicates the care and quality of the instrument. It is very instructive to see if the manufacturer puts more effort and quality into the marketing literature than into the manual.
Get information on the curriculum or a school schedule outline. Obtain the name and phone number of someone who has recently attended the school from your sales representative, call this person, and get his or her impressions. If this person has had no experience with the service department, that is not necessarily bad; it may mean that the instrument is a quality system that keeps working. This may seem like a lot of trouble, but it will pay off in instrument performance quality on your research problems.
This information will lay the groundwork for a list of needed spare parts that should be kept available for routine service. Keep a list of needed spare parts, update it as items are drawn out and used up, and reorder as soon as possible. Nothing slows laboratory production more than having a wear item break down and lacking a replacement because someone failed to order it. None of these take more than 15 minutes to replace if you have the spare part and the correct tools. Lock up your tools!
Unlocked tools have a very high disappearance rate. You can keep equipment up and running more consistently by making someone in the laboratory responsible for checking in and out tools and spare parts. It is better to use a senior technician than a graduate or post-doctoral student; technicians are usually more responsible and have a lower turnover rate.
It is the occasional problem that is most frustrating. Disconnect accessories and get down to basics; once you have checked the basic system, you can start adding back accessories one at a time until the problem recurs. If possible, make sure that all the components are plugged into a common power strip or surge protector. Ground loops from components on separate power sources can lead to glitches ranging from static problems to baseline drifting, spikes, or shocks.
On chromatography systems, this might be a stable injection standard solution that can be injected through a column or a column blank to check system performance. Run your diagnostics when a system is new. Record the results in the manual and check against this performance when problems occur. This technique not only works for chromatography columns but can also be used to check detector lamp performance.
Technicians usually have a set of extreme settings and a minimal standard that must be met before they recommend replacing a lamp or a detector. Find out what they are. I once asked a service representative that question about an MS detector. Some of the most annoying problems to diagnose are static discharges that often occur during the winter months in very dry atmospheric conditions. They can stand your hair on end and produce nasty shocks.
Some of these problems can be avoided by plugging all components into the same power strip. I have had customers who had to wear a grounding strap on their wrist in order to be able to touch a recording integrator that we sold for their chromatography system. It is important to know that the MOS chips that clamp off lightning surges in surge protectors wear out in time and the surge protector needs to be replaced. Most of these strips have a light indicating that they are still working. If you have a large number of yearly lightning strikes in your locale, you might want to accelerate your replacement time.
It can be upgraded with newer, more powerful detectors and data processing systems. It can be automated into a dedicated handsoff analyzer for routine nondemanding analysis. It can be set aside as a practice instrument for training new researchers or technicians. It can be donated to a worthy university researcher as a research and teaching instrument for a tax donation. It can be sold to an instrument reseller.
Finally, it can be used as a boat anchor or for metals recovery. Most clinical labs use an estimate of injections as a typical lifetime of a C18 analytical column. For a single-shift-per-day operation, a column might last for about a year before a replacement column is needed. The customer I was talking to at a major midwestern medical research clinic said he typically got a four-year lifetime for his C18 columns.
By the way, a column cleanup HPLC might provide an occupation for an obsolete dedicated system. When I asked the customer to share his method for extending his column lifetime, he said it was very simple. He found that he ran four dedicated methods, each more demanding that the one before it. He would apply a new column to the most demanding separation. When injection of standards showed that the separation was failing, he would wash the column out with six-column volumes about 20 mL of a strong solvent and move it to the next most demanding separation.
When this separation also failed, he would wash out the column again and move to the next separation. After the column failed on all four separations, he would have a technician give it a full wash with all of my washout techniques to see if any activity could be restored. If not, the column would be partially emptied from the exit end to provide clean packing material for guard columns or for repairing the tops of columns whose bed had been dissolved or degraded.
Using these techniques, he could get four analytical application passes and some good repacking material from every column, the equivalent of using all of the pig except the squeal. Every instrument system, like an HPLC column, has a lifetime. Sometimes existing systems can be upgraded with newer software, faster computers, and more advanced detectors to stay current with the state of the art. At this point, the temptation is to give up and cast the system off in some form to recycling.
An isocratic dedicated HPLC system requires only a single pump. There are often many jobs that a system can do in the laboratory if it is used as a dedicated analyzer. Look at the jobs and projects that are being considered for implementation by various research groups that will not need the full power of a state-of-the-art instrument.
I know of a former HPLC dual-pump gradient system that was separated and converted into a protein separation system and a protein analysis system see Figure 8. One pumping system was used to run a protein size separation column and the HPLC detector into a fraction collector. Instrumental analysis courses tend to be very theoretical, and generally their laboratories use simple, obsolete equipment. Freeing state-of-the-art systems and trusting them to inexperienced operators is just not done. Obsolete instruments can be freed to serve this training function and provide almost the same experience that newer ones provide.
However, giving a new technician an old instrument, a manual, and some samples to analyze is seldom very effective. I ran into a similar problem when I was selling instruments. An unused instrument taking up lab space quickly became a negative force preventing new orders from the account. To avoid this situation, I arranged to get into the laboratory as soon as the instrument was installed to make sure that the customer turned it on and began using it. This turned out to be a problem. The principal investigator, his senior technician, or a postdoctoral student had purchased the instrument.
The day-to-day operator seldom had enough status to be selected for the training. Even worse was the case of an instrument purchased for a newly hired technician; unless this person came from another laboratory with the same instrument, he or she seldom had the required training and was forced to use the new system and its manual to teach himself to use the instrument.
I went home, sat at my computer, and thought about the problem for a while. The laboratory system was already hooked up and checked out by the service technician; at worst, the only thing this person would have to do was add an analytical column. I created a one-page Isocratic Protocol and a one-page Gradient Protocol, printed them out, and gave them to the laboratory director. He then asked me how to make up the gradient solutions, and wanted to know if he needed to degas the solvent and how to prepare samples for injection.
Back at home, I created a Sample and Solvent Protocol and took it back to the laboratory. I expected that they would place the protocols in the system manual see Figure B-4 in Appendix B for a copy of the original isocratic HPLC run protocol. The next time I came in, the Isocratic and Gradient Protocols were taped to the wall, protected by plastic sheets, and treated as though they were carved in stone.
This technique proved very effective throughout my territory and throughout my career in getting systems used and in promoting new sales. He wrote these so that my students would know how to run our instrument. I created both of them in one evening, and they are a little rough. But they work! You will need to check local regulations for tax-deductible donations to such institutions to see if the goodwill generated would justify the time and effort involved in setting up a donation. Technical magazines and Chemical and Engineering News often contain ads from instrument resellers or of instruments for sale.
Consider advertising, but also consider who bears the cost of shipping and reinstallation. There are three things to consider in reselling instruments: 1.
Be sure that the data on the computers will not be needed at a later time. Cost-per-test analytical laboratories may need these data as a defense in later lawsuits. Hard drives need to be reformatted before disposal, with data overwritten with zeros to protect them. The rationale is that the equipment in these elephant burial grounds might be needed at some future date.
This is very irresponsible and simply shifts the problem to someone else at a later time. Check to see if your company has worked out a relationship with a company or a school that does metal recovery from electronics and computers. Again, check the magazines that contain information on instrument resellers; they may provide references to metal recovery companies. Besides the iron, steel, and aluminum in instrument cases, there are a variety of more expensive metals such as titanium, gold, and silver that help defray the cost of disposal. This was not a very environmentally responsible solution, but it seemed to serve its purpose fairly well.
Such a buyer can negotiate a fair price for the instruments and supplies that will be needed to operate the system. Every salesperson should be in your laboratory to help you solve your analytical problems. Most instruments and systems are purchased at list price and are more elaborate than the needs of any possible research project. In the worst case, the instrument simply fails to serve the purpose for which it was purchased and sits on the shelf or laboratory bench as a glaring warning for the next purchase. You can remember the exact price of the suit that was slightly too tight, but you probably have no idea of the cost of the car that ran like a top until the wheels practically fell off.
The salesperson decides on the system and options to be sold, sets the price, and tries to manipulate the sales process to ensure that the buyer purchases the product offered at the listed price. The salesperson has a target product to move, usually the deal of the day, and the sale is based on a high-speed description of a string of desirable features possessed by the target item. The salesperson stresses the urgency of the discount, which exists only until the end of the day or week or month. Any further purchase discount has to be approved by the manager, and usually involves removing options at a lower price or adding low-priced options at the same price.
Pricing games often involve bait-and-switch changes to a less desirable, less capable model. What has any of this to do with buying laboratory systems? Salespeople with exactly the same type of sales training, experience, and motivational techniques are often used to sell laboratory equipment. The sales techniques may not be quite as blatant, but the intent is the same. It has all the latest bells and whistles. This man made a sales career out of carrying around instruments, no matter how heavy, and selling them using this technique. Once you bought the system it was yours.
You might be able to get a service technician to visit by calling the number in the instrument manual. The next time you saw the salesman was when he walked in with another instrument on his hip. They usually start with the top-of-the-line systems and equipment they offer at full list price and sell their way down to less expensive systems if the customer objects to the price.
They may face unexpected costs when they need help to change the method or when the manufacturer cannot supply timely service. Hardware-only buying decisions are the single greatest source of unusable laboratory white elephants. They were sold this system with the assurance that the laboratory could put the detector out on bid during the next bidding season to create a usable analysis instrument.
Once you buy, you may see these salespeople again if their company tells them that you have responded to a reply card in a technical magazine or on a routine follow-up visit to your company to ferret out new sales possibilities. The system must be installed, and the customer must begin to use it in his or her research. The salesperson should know how to use the instrument on simple problems that the laboratory personnel can repeat to gain familiarity. Nothing is more detrimental to a future sale than an installed instrument that everyone is reluctant to use.
Instrument service may be required if problems occur during startup and in continuing operation. His or her role is to become a valued account resource for solving problems by providing state-of the-art systems, application support, and advice. Most of them know that complex computer-controlled systems require operating and data processing software. They also know that consumables are needed to carry out their analysis, such as solvents, volatile gases, separation columns, reagents, and sample containers.
Generally, they have already budgeted for these items. Less obvious are the service and support options. If the instrument breaks during operation, somebody will have to repair it. When deciding whether to purchase an instrument, it makes sense to buy from a company that can provide in-house service or at least train your service people. The same applies to application support. If you buy an instrument from a company that cannot show you how to use it to solve your problem, you are the application support.
Suddenly, your new instrument has become a research project instead of a research solution. If you buy from a company that offers a training school for operator and application development laboratories, you have purchased a research solution. But service and support come at a cost. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If you want the new instrument to be truly useful, you must build the cost of service, training, and support into the buying decision. Price becomes a factor in this relationship only if customers do not feel that they are getting value for their money. And someone has to pay to maintain the sales consultant and make him or her available when this person is needed again.
Laboratories with trained personnel familiar with similar types of instrumentation can often afford to worry only about hardware and service. The world is full of orphaned instruments whose manufacturer is no longer in business when the system breaks down and needs replacement parts or service. The customer will obtain an instruments to help solve his or her research problems, leading to publications and training for the laboratory personnel.
A clinical laboratory will obtain an instrument to carry out analyses to solve problems and generate revenue. People do not buy drills because they want drills; they buy drills because they want holes. If a laboratory instrument fails to work correctly, no one achieves his or her goals and customers do not get what they intended to purchase.
When this happens, the relationship is broken dramatically, affecting future instrument purchase. Single-instrument sales without a prospect of future purchases are expensive and stressful. Each sales experience is time-consuming and expensive. Both the customer and the manufacturer need to ensure an effective and productive buying relationship that leads to customer satisfaction.
Nothing sours a relationship more than a problem that is allowed to fester. Find out how he or she has helped other people in your institution or on his or her referral list. Find out if this person makes sure that the customers were successful in using their new purchases. Most buyers feel that they consider all their needs for the purchase, and the amount of money available, and make the most logical decision based on these facts. Almost everyone to whom I explained emotional buying had the same reaction.
I have made very logical sales presentations, and no one bought. I have made bright, emotional, pictorial presentations and made sales. The salesman was the same; only the approach changed. Salespeople are taught to sell to the ears and to provide pictorial emotional reinforcements through the eyes. If cars were purchased logically, they would all be black and no one would be attracted to that new-car odor. We buy because we like the way they look and smell.
We buy and then acquire a long list of features to justify our purchase decisions to our spouses and bosses. Laboratory instruments are sold with the same rationale. It is important to listen to what the salesperson is saying when you are buying instruments. A good salesperson asks for a buying decision. He or she asks you what you like best about the instrument or systems you now own while guiding you to make a decision to buy.
Is this manipulative? It can be, but it does not have to be. Because the decisions customers make appear to arise from their subconscious, I appeal to them emotionally through their feelings and their senses of touch, smell, and hearing. But if I use their eyes in making the decision, it will be only through colors and pictures.
We take things that we want to understand and separate them into their component parts. The usual next step is to use synthetic reasoning to reassemble the components into their original form to understand how and why they go together in that particular way. They are used to tear apart the original structures, isolate their components, and study them. Instruments are then used to recombine the components into their original form or into new compounds.
We contact the manufacturer of that instrument or the competitors to determine the cost range for these instruments and the variables that these instruments can control or affect. A research proposal is assembled and submitted to a funding organization. When approval is obtained, we use the same information to prepare a bid proposal to submit to manufacturers of the required equipment.
Often we make a decision to buy in order to keep up with other prestigious investigaters. Knowing this to be true, a potential buyer will look for the best and latest improvements in the form of increased sensitivity, increased sample capacity, increased speed of operation, and decreased separation or analysis times. Generally, this means getting more instrument for your research dollar. New investigators often lack this understanding and are often sold more capability than they need at a higher instrument price. It is very easy for all but the simplest instruments to turn into a research project rather than a research solution.
It is easy for a research laboratory to struggle to get an analytical instrument up and running and lose focus on the purpose of the project. Instruments for a cost-per-test laboratory are usually purchased for a dedicated analysis, and can often be much simpler and less expensive. The usual cost-per-test instrument must be rugged because it may be run on three shifts a day to generate the maximum number of tests. Most people believe that when they decide to buy an instrument, they already know what they need.
Usually at this point there is very little need for a major selling close. A nonprofessional salesperson tries to force customers to buy what the salesperson wants them to buy, whether they need it or not. Because customers sense that they are being steered toward something that may not solve their problem, they resist the sales process and the salesperson feels the need to use manipulative power closes. She reminds me of a little girl I saw quiet recently. I was trying to help her family get life insurance when we were interrupted, just like we are tonight. Because of the interruption, we never got the policy signed.
Last week, I opened the newspaper and I almost cried. That young couple was killed in a car accident, and I think all the time about that poor little girl. It is not the action a professional salesperson should consider if he or she has the best interests of the customer in mind. It occurs because the salesperson failed to do the job. There is obviously a better way. A true sale is built on questions of two types. The second type of question is the closed question, used to guide the customer to the decision.
If the process is combined with the knowledge gained by the salesperson using open questions in the information-gathering process, it can lead, step by step, to an emotional decision to buy based on the logic of the customer-supplied information. I have been told that genius is seeing something that everyone has seen and thinking things that no one else has thought. I sought the application information immediately because I could often get it from a third party—for instance, a graduate student or a colleague—even if I had not yet found the decision maker. The decision maker is next in importance; it is usually a waste of time to make a presentation to someone who cannot buy.
Once I know what the application is and who will make the decision, I need to know how much money is available for the purchase. Surprising, when I have established trust and explained why I need to know how much money we have to work with, most of my customers are not reluctant to disclose their instrument budget.
I also need to know how soon the money will be available. Grants, fellowships, and awards almost always have release timing, and a purchase cannot be made before this time. The customer can put together system requirements and proposals beforehand, but a purchase order cannot be issued until the money is available. Once the money issues are dealt with, the customer and I both need to verify the next step in the sales process. One should never leave a customer without knowing what needs to be done next.
Many sales founder because the next meeting had not been set up. Do not put in the effort and time if you are not prepared to go all the way to a completed purchase. These persons consist primarily of students and other researchers involved in the application for which the instrument is being purchased; gurus, bosses, and colleagues who advise and consult in the buying process; and approvers of the money release. Generally, there is someone in the company whom the principal investigator PI goes to for advice about the instrument selection.
This may be a department chair, a senior graduate student, a postdoctoral student, or another investigator doing similar research. Find these persons early and convert them; they can provide invaluable assistance in pushing the purchase through the purchasing bureaucracy.
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I have already mentioned that students and technicians often do the research and recommend the actual system that is purchased by a PI. The PI in most places is usually so busy guiding research, writing grants for new sources of income, and reporting to higher authorities that he or she often delegates much of the purchase decision to others. Many instruments are so expensive that they have become multiuser core instruments whose cost is shared by the department or other investigators. All of these people must be consulted during the planning process to determine who the decision makers are.
Generally, the one with the most money involved dictates many of the rules controlling the purchase. Although PIs seek grant money for their own research, they are not completely autonomous in making the decision to spend it. New investigators may have received departmental or university startup money in setting up a laboratory, but its use must be approved by the source. The sales interview is a very valuable tool. I did not always use it early in my career. It is important to keep notes on where you are in the process and add information as you proceed.
Where possible, you, the customer, should try to work with professional salepeople in making your purchases. It will save you time, help control your blood pressure, and ensure that you obtain the equipment you need. Freddy started out in direct marketing sales and moved up to instrument sales. This occurs because few organizations take the time to train new salespeople to become sales professionals. A very few of them last long enough to develop professional pride and come to understand that they succeed only when the customer succeeds.
They serve the customer and in the process become true salespersons. My sales training experience was a little unusual. I had received technical training before I began to sell and had used the types of instruments I was going to sell in the laboratory. I had little sales training before I started. The instrument company provided me with an unusually complete background.
I was taught, and practiced in seminars, to use listening skills and to ask open and closed questions to draw out customers and guide them to a buying decision. Finally, I was allowed to shadow a successful salesman as he made telephone appointments and sales calls for a short period of time. I went into existing accounts as a new salesman, and because of my laboratory experience, I entered as a technical colleague.
I asked customers what they liked and disliked about the instrument our company sold. I began to organize this body of information into selling systems.
Buying And Selling Laboratory Instruments: A Practical Consulting Guide
I later found that, as usual, we stand on the shoulders of giants. The original technique was invented some years ago by Pythagoras, who had developed the theorem for calculating the length of the sides of right-angle triangles. Pythagorus believed that all people fall into four categories and that different things motivate people in each category. Figure Someone who asks obviously uses a lot of questions; someone who tells makes statements. Next, ask yourself whether this person masks or shows emotions.
Someone with a good poker face and unreadable eyes tends to mask emotions; if the eyes and face are animated in conversation, emotions are displayed. A person who tells and masks is called a Driver. Telling and showing emotion places a person in the Expressive category. Someone who asks and shows emotion is an Amiable. Finally, a person who asks and masks is called an Analytical. To provide for these individuals, we have to add gradations to our two axes see Figure The X-axis is labeled with letters, the Y-axis with numbers. A person who tells most of the time but always masks would be labeled an A2 Driver.
Someone who always asks questions and shows emotions is considered a D4 Amiable. The next step is to label the diagram with hot buttons that apply to each category see Figure She wants to control people, time, money—all the situations of her life. The Expressive is motivated by recognition. The Amiable wants security. She tends to buy automated equipment that can be run unattended. She wants to trust you, and if there are any problems, she wants to hear them from you.
The Analytical wants peer respect or status. If he wins the Nobel Prize, he can be sure that all of his friends know who he is and respect him. The HBA technique takes about 30 seconds to apply. It lets you target the person before you. It is not limited to use by salespeople. My wife is a home care registered nurse. The two-hour sales presentation I attended that explained the tool was designed for technical service representatives so that they could better serve their customers.
One word of warning: this tool is often ineffective when you try to use it for self-analysis. Ask your friends or your spouse to help. Explain the tool and have them apply it to you. My wife assures me that I am an Expressive. At home in my rest mode, I tend to move more toward the Amiable side of my nature. This tool is obviously not limited to use by salespeople. Drivers do not like people who waste their time, and a salesperson who does so seldom gets a second appointment. Each will be labeled with its price, so you can decide which one you want.
Is that fair? Most salespersons have a standard presentation for all types of customer. They both lose. Each type has an individual approach. Expressives relate to success stories. They want to see the big picture and are turned off by details; things slip through the cracks. Expressives need a notational calendar and a priority-based schedule to get things done. You do not need to get to the point with Expressives.
They will listen to your story, decide to buy from you, and change their minds when the next salesperson with a story shows up.
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They require follow-up until the instrument is in the laboratory and up and running. Amiables are warm puppies; they want to be your friend. But make sure that they hear any bad news about your equipment from you. If the guru is also an Amiable, losing his or her trust can affect the whole account, whether it is a company or a university. The desk is always on the wall across from the door and is often turned sideways to the door. Do not rush into an immediate sales presentation.
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Talk instead about guns, dogs, and kids. Ask about his or her family. Demonstrate how your automated equipment will provide solutions and security. You will not have to worry about Amiables after they have placed the order. You are their friend, and they take care of their friends. The Analytical will drive an Expressive sales representative totally crazy. They always second-guess their decisions. Stay in touch and do not be surprised if they change their minds. They will have to be cultivated with more and more information.
Eventually, I found a better way. I would offer the Analyticals a variety of features, and they would argue with one of them. I would wait until, on a later call, they offered me the same feature as their idea and defended its importance. If the Analytical started to waver after the decision, I would restate how important that feature was to him. Let them own it! So, there you have four types of people with degrees of shading. That said, I usually recommend Macs because they generally result in fewer headaches for lawyers who do their own tech support.
And if your Mac breaks down, the nearest Apple Store is a pretty friendly place to get help. However, many complaints about Windows are overblown. If you are a long-time Windows user and you are perfectly happy with Windows, stick with it. There is no objectively compelling reason to use one or the other. Conversely, there is no compelling reason not to use one or the other. But whichever you choose, get decent hardware.
Not exactly, but close. If either of those use cases describes your need, Chrome OS has some real advantages. As a result, Chromebooks tend to be thin and light with all-day battery life, but inexpensive. Chrome OS is also very secure. Your data stored on a Chromebook is encrypted, and there are various safeguards against malware and other malicious hacking. On the other hand, most lawyers need access to local software—Microsoft Office if nothing else—making a Chromebook an inexpensive option for a second computer at best.
If you only want to have one computer, you should get a laptop or tablet with keyboard. If you buy a desktop you will also need something portable that you can take home, to court, to board meetings, etc. You need to be able to get work done and access your client files no matter where you are.
Others have a desktop at the office and an ultralight laptop, Surface, or iPad Pro for everywhere else. There are also a multitude of laptop variations such as the Lenovo Yoga line. When deciding on your setup, consider where and how you need to be able to get work done. Here are a few common setups to consider:. Whatever you do, avoid the temptation to get a big, heavy laptop.
If you need desktop power, get a desktop computer. If you need portability, get a lightweight laptop. Instead of poring over spec sheets, you can use price as a rough proxy. Price is not perfect, but most computer have similar hardware at similar price points, so you should get what you need. And while specs change quickly, prices tend to stay fairly constant for a given tier i.
Here—with a fair amount of arbitrariness, I admit—is what I think you should spend on a computer you intend to keep for 3—4 years before you upgrade. Those really are minimums. That means the specs of its cheapest computers in each category are a good guide to the minimum you ought to get although keep in mind that Windows, as a rule, will use a bit more disk space and memory than OS X. If you are shopping for a desktop, use the base Mac mini as your reference point. I always buy a three- or four-year warranty on my laptops that includes accidental damage.
Laptops are meant to be portable, and I take mine everywhere. They have the scratches and dents to prove it, and sometimes a hard-enough whack will put even a ThinkPad out of commission. I think a three- or four-year warranty that includes accidental damage is a must for any laptop you intend to carry around. Desktops are a different story. Skip the parts warranty. However, depending on how often you find yourself calling tech support now whether that means Geek Squad or your niece , you might want a warranty that includes general support.
With these, you can just pick up the phone and call someone who can help you solve your problem. It depends. The prices are the same, and the shipping is free. If you want a fairly standard configuration, you may be able to find a better deal on Amazon or NewEgg. Retailers generally carry only one or two configurations: the cheapest one and the most expensive one. If you feel like you need to try out the keyboard first, by all means visit a store that carries the brand you want. That way, if you find what you want at the store at a reasonable price, you can just get it there and take it home the same day.
The Microsoft Surface Pro is the best Windows tablet, hands-down, and it may be the best Windows hardware, period. In fact, if you are considering a Windows laptop, you should probably try the Surface Pro with a Type Cover, first. ThinkPads are fast, rock-solid, and have the best keyboards you can get on a laptop. The ThinkPad X1 may be the best ultrathin Windows laptop you can buy. Lenovo also has some of the best customer support you will find outside of an Apple Store. The XPS 13 may be the best traditional laptop you can buy.
It is thin, light, and well constructed but not as thin and light as the ThinkPad X1. The hardware itself rivals the MacBook Pro for design and build quality. For Windows desktops, Dell is usually the best value. There is nothing wrong with Lenovo desktops. They just tend to be more expensive. Dell makes solid, reliable desktops at good prices. Add one to your order and your eyes will thank you. There are lots of other Windows computer manufacturers out there, but Microsoft, Lenovo, and Dell are the ones that have produced consistently high-quality machines for many years.
Mac diehards can certainly use Parallels or Fusion to run Windows apps on a Mac, but that is an imperfect solution, at best. While there are some advantages to dual monitors, a single monitor big enough to display two pages at a time is nearly as good. And cheaper. Randall posted some thoughts on dual monitors and productivity , as well. I suspect the reason is that two monitors encourages you to do productivity-killing things like leaving your email open on one monitor while you try to work on the other.
If they have an IPad, smart phone, yo-yo, are they also screwing around all day? Probably if that is what they do with their second monitor. They do tend to run above the minimum prices you discussed, but the long life, in my experience, offsets that increase. They also have video cards that support both my monitors without extra adapters! I think gaming PCs are another reasonable measuring stick for decent specs, though you can feel free to ignore the graphics card. Embedded graphics are fine for office work. Whether you need dual monitors depends on how you work.
I do appellate work. The way I write briefs requires dual monitors. I have two 27 inch monitors. The right monitor is equally divided between my brief in Word and the opposing brief in Acrobat. The left monitor is equally divided between my browser usually Chrome with my research service usually Lexis Advance open and the trial transcript in Acrobat.
I probably need to upgrade the external USB monitor. Having a higher-resolution USB monitor would make working with dual monitors on the road easier. It was laggy and often not worth it. There are now apps allowing a USB connection that reportedly work much better. Since my iPad is currently under-utilized, I may give one of those apps a try. The iPad is much smaller to pack than the 16 inch external monitor. I would agree with the above poster that 2 monitors really work great on appeals or cases with a lot of documents. On bigger cases, it is handy to have a casemap index on one screen and all your discovery on monitor two.
Sitting at it was a magical experience. It felt a bit like being on star fighter. Brilliant device. Good article. A few comments: 1. With Amazon Prime, there is no additional shipping charge; and the equipment comes right to your door. A lot of tasks can be handled on my smartphone Motorola Droid Maxx , e. For the other stuff I plan when I get around to it on getting a Chromebook, since most of my stuff is in the Cloud anyway. And since I am increasingly moving into the Cloud, even that becomes less significant.
My firm is phasing out PCs in favor of Macs. Macs are the best hardware out there, and they are stable and fast. But there are pluses and minuses to everything, and there are some downsides to using Macs that lawyers should know up-front. Mainly, almost everyone else in law uses PCs, and sometimes we receive files in discovery that are formatted for PC only.