The pharmaceutical sales industry is no stranger to controversy. In fact, an overwhelming 89 percent of sales reps agree that the pharmaceutical sales industry is facing the toughest controversies today — namely, opioid addiction and legalization of medical marijuana — according to a new report, “Selling Controversial Products: Rising Above the Negativity to Find Positive Impacts,” by our team at MedReps.

Most companies go through periods in which their reputations are less-than-pristine. All it takes is one controversy — big or small — to catch public attention and send qualified sales candidates running. Sales recruiters are then left taking over damage control while still trying to hire top talent.

While taking on that challenge is difficult, it isn’t impossible. With the right attitude and skills, sales recruiters can rise above controversies and hire the best talent for their teams.

Be Prepared for Candidates’ Questions

When you’re in the midst of controversy, top sales talent isn’t going to accept a job offer without questions — and they won’t be easy ones. You need to be prepared for anything coming your way throughout the recruiting process.

Educate yourself on what you can and cannot talk about before meeting with candidates. The more knowledgeable you are, the more you’ll be able to discuss a topic without sounding scripted.

Prepare yourself by staying informed of information the public is receiving. Use social listening to know what people are saying about your company or product, and find out if that information is accurate. Keeping up with public opinion will help you provide relevant product and company information during the recruiting process.

Combine Recruiting and PR Skills

As a sales recruiter, you’re not technically in the PR/marketing department. However, having the same skill set and viewpoint as a PR representative gives you the power to approach controversies like a pro.

PR reps are known for being approachable, relationship-building machines. They’re not afraid to meet conflict face to face, admit company mistakes, and resolve issues eloquently. Just like the public wants honesty and transparency from company representatives, sales reps want the same from sales recruiters.

Don’t attempt to “spin” your messages when chatting with candidates. In other words, be honest and genuine in your communications to ease any worries sales pros have during interviews. If you’ve had negative customer or even employee reviews, acknowledge them and explain what the company is doing to resolve the issues.

Shine a Light on the Positives

Even those selling controversial products can find the positives in their careers. Fifty percent of those selling controversial products believe medical marijuana legalization will positively impact their jobs, and 38 percent say the same about new legislation addressing the opioid crisis.

Once you’ve opened up and answered questions about any negativity, take time to show candidates the positives. Remember, your company’s mission, vision, and values remain strong as customers continue being positively impacted by your product.

Show candidates just how your team is achieving positive results by creating a company culture video. In your video, ask current employees to help candidates imagine a day in their role. What are they most passionate about? What do they love about their customers? What do customers say to them? What is the most rewarding part of their job?

Once you have the video together, begin sharing it on your career site and social media. The more candidates see how current employees continue thriving in your company, the more confident they’ll be in your future.

Turn to Social Media

Social media can be your worst enemy. Thanks to disgruntled customers and unhappy former employees, unflattering details can spread faster than ever. When social media is pushing the negative, fight back by educating the public.

Ask company leaders for updated research and product information to share on social media. Encourage other sales recruiters and sales reps to share posts and spread the accurate information. You’ll not only be educating the public, but also showing applicants your company is confident in its product.

Karyn Mullins is president of Connect with Karyn on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Master the art of closing deals and making placements. Take our Recruiter Certification Program today. We're SHRM certified. Learn at your own pace during this 12-week program. Access over 20 courses. Great for those who want to break into recruiting, or recruiters who want to further their career.
Like this article? We also offer tons of free eBooks on career and recruiting topics - check out Get a Better Job the Right Way and Why It Matters Who Does Your Recruiting.
in Recruiting]