Insights + tips

Selling In A Crisis Mistake #1: Being short-term

" The way that you behave in a crisis tells people who you really are. "

The way you’re behaving in sales *right now* tells your clients a huge amount about what your values are, and whether they should continue to trust you, or not.

As we’ve all been thrown into crisis and chaos, a lot of people are panicking about sales – should we still be selling? Are clients buying? What’s the best way to ‘sell’ online?

So I’ve put together a series of short videos to help you through this – the first one is below. I’ll be covering the mistakes people are making, and some ideas for things you can do instead.

Below is a transcript of the video, in case you prefer reading. I’ve edited it slightly for readability.

Selling through a crisis, well that’s suddenly become a big topic, hasn’t it?

You’re probably going to get sick of the words chaos, and crisis, and unprecedented over the next few weeks, but there’s no doubt that for many of us we have been thrown into chaos. Everything about most of our businesses has changed, and it’s changed very, very fast.

But of course, we need to continue to be able to sell, many of us, to keep our businesses going. So how do we do this? How do we navigate this world?

I can’t claim to have perfect answers, but I’ve got some ideas for you to help you get through the next weeks and months as we go through this chaotic period with ourselves and with our clients.

In my own mind, I’ve broken this group of ideas down into three main categories. The first is mistakes that people are making and mistakes to avoid in terms of selling through a crisis. The second really, is some of the ways that we need to start understanding our clients better, how to get into the world of our clients, how to understand the needs that our clients have and the problems that our clients are facing at the moment. And then the third category is some ways of behaving that we either need to start adopting or we need to get better at very quickly if we’re going to be able to sell through a crisis.

I’m going to try and keep these videos short and punchy so they don’t take up too much of your time, but they’ve got at least one interesting idea for you or at least one interesting technique that you’ll be able to use and think about straight away.

The first big mistake that I’m seeing people making at the moment, is really prioritising the short-term over the client relationship.

And there’s something quite important to understand at the moment, I think, which is that your clients are going to remember for a long time how you’re behaving today. The way that you behave in a crisis, that way that you’re behaving when your business is in chaos and when you’re worried and stressed, the way that you behave now is going to tell your clients a huge amount about who you are, about who you are as a person, about who you are as a business, about what your values are, and about how deep down you really, genuinely care about your clients.

I really understand the pressure. If you’re in survival mode, if you’ve got to get a sale this week or if you’ve got to still meet a target that was fabricated a few months ago, I really understand the pressure that you’re under.

But I really strongly urge you to step back, take a step back and think:

 If I were my own client, if I were my dream client, how would the way that I’m behaving at the moment come across to them? 

And what a lot of people seem to be doing is one of a few things. So the first is, a lot of people are stepping back from sales completely. They’re not communicating at all. They’re frightened that trying to make any kind of sale will give a bad impression of themselves at this moment.

Well that’s not necessarily what clients want. They don’t want you to sell to them, probably. They certainly don’t want any of their time to be wasted. But there may be something valuable that you have to offer them. There may be some information that you’re able to give them. There may be some hand-holding that you can do for them. Or indeed, they may just be craving some honesty, some authenticity.

So, what I’m doing now – talking to you honestly about the current situation. Some of your clients may be craving some of that. So being passive is not a great way to behave at the moment.

Conversely, being too aggressive, of course, is not a great way to behave at the moment. So clients are definitely not in the space of wanting to have heavy sales messages thrown at them right now. It comes across as needy, it comes across as panicky, and it’s very hard to get any value across to customers if you’re behaving in that way.

So there’s probably a middle ground. I think a lot of us, we’re going to really fall in love with brands as we go through this crisis, and we’re going to really fall out of love with brands as we go through this crisis.

Let me give you a couple of quick examples. As a speaker, obviously I travel a lot, I fly a lot, and most of my work has dried up, of course, and certainly all the international work has absolutely dried up. But I had an email from British Airways just over a week ago, and the email, I’m paraphrasing it, but the email was very clear. It said, “We understand what you’re going through. We get what you’re going through, and you can turn any of your flights with us into a voucher to be redeemed at any point to the same amount of money over the next 12 months.

And that was hugely reassuring for me, it took one big worry off my mind. I’m not going to lose that money. Fingers crossed, my clients are going to rebook for later in the year or this time next year, so I’m still going to be able to use those flights, and that was great.

Another example is a high street supermarket who I won’t name because they may not be the only one. But a friend of mine was telling me about his mother who is in the high-risk group, the highly vulnerable group identified by the government, and this high street supermarket has said to their customers, “If you’re in this group, get in touch with us, let us know and we will prioritise your online deliveries.” She had to wait online a bit, and she had to fulfil her order within a 90-minute window, but once she had done that, it was very simple to do, and her deliveries turned up 48 hours later. That’s a huge relief for someone who’s in a highly vulnerable group.

So that’s an example of a company not just throwing themselves at someone, not being totally passive either, not being heavy-selling, but really trying to understand the needs of their customers and giving them an experience that they’ll remember for a long time. So if you’re able to do that, that’s an approach to adopt.

And the very last thought I’d leave you with is, imagine that you are at this time next year. Imagine we’re sitting here in, whenever you’re watching this, March or April or May 2021, so you’re a year ahead. If you think about it from that perspective, look back and say:

 What was I doing in May 2020 that really enabled me now to say, ‘I’m really glad I did that’, and ‘my clients are really glad I did that for them’? 

So think about yourself a year in the future, and look back and say, “How did I behave in May or June, 2020 that really enabled me to keep my client relationships going, that really built trust and really built value with my clients?”

So avoid mistake number one. Don’t prioritise the short-term over your client relationships. I wish you luck with that and look forward to seeing you in the next video.

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