Medical marijuana legalization and the opioid crisis are two controversies most companies want nothing to do with. That is, unless you’re in pharmaceutical sales.
According to 89 percent of sales reps in various fields surveyed by my team at MedReps in Selling Controversial Products: Rising Above the Negativity to Find Positive Impacts, pharmaceutical sales reps are dealing with the toughest two controversies to date.
You would think this would cause pharma sales reps to fear for their future or begin searching for work within a less controversial field, but we found this isn’t the case. Our report revealed the majority of sales reps believe these two controversial topics will positively impact their career.
The truth is, every company faces controversy. And like pharmaceutical sales representatives, all medical sales leaders need a firm belief in their products and mission and a strong determination in order to lead their team to goal-hitting quarters.
Here’s how you can support your medical sales team through even the toughest controversies:
Don’t put a spin on it
The worst thing you can do during a time of controversy is project a sense of chaos. Now, more than ever, your team needs a leader who isn’t just calm but gives others a feeling of comfort.
However, this shouldn’t be a false sense of comfort. As a medical sales leader, you’ll be in the center of all the negativity, and it’s natural to want to shield your team. But taking a traditional PR route and ‘spinning’ the message will only perpetuate the chaos and decrease team morale.
Unfortunately, a 2017 Kimble survey of 1,500 full-time U.S. employees found 46 percent of employees are not confident that the information from their employer regarding the overall health of the business is a fair representation of reality.
Put yourself in sales reps’ shoes. If you found out leaders were not being completely honest with you, especially about the products you’re selling, would you be willing to push through a challenging time and continue working for the company? Being open, transparent, and authentic with your team will help you recover from any controversial situation more quickly.
Tell employees what happened, how it happened, how they can inform and educate clients on the situation, and your plan moving forward.
Don’t let social media write your future
Social media is a digital megaphone — one that everyone has. This gives these platforms an immense power and hold over your company’s future. In fact, sales reps noted social media as their biggest obstacle when it comes to selling controversial products, according to our previously mentioned report.
Let’s face it, you can’t control what others write on social media. What you can control, however, is how you react. Rather than avoiding negative social content altogether, seek it out. The more you find, the more focused and intentional your social media campaign will be.
This also gives you the opportunity to understand the public’s, customers’, and even employees’ perceptions of your company, product, and situation.
Use these perceptions to your advantage. Post social media updates sharing accurate information surrounding your controversy and what your team is doing to resolve any issues. Post pictures and have your team share videos of the positive changes being made, whether to products or to the company overall. When your team shares their own posts, the public will be more likely to trust the content and open their minds to new information.
Pull up a chair for employees
An employee told their manager, who told their leader, who told you what’s going on with a specific product. You have a suggestion, so you tell the leader, who tells the manager, who tells the employee.
This communication strategy isn’t just a waste of time, it convolutes the message. Destroy the silos within your company by giving medical sales reps a direct seat at the leadership table. Encourage them to speak directly to whoever they need for the betterment of the company.
Invite representatives from every department and at all employment levels to leadership meetings. This gives employees the opportunity to let you know their expectations, ideas for resolutions, and feelings on the situation.
Now, you’ll be empowered to take decisive action. As you do, watch medical sales employee morale rise and positivity throughout the company improve.