During a crisis like this, the last thing anyone needs is to be subjected to hard-sell tactics, phony friendliness, and constant pressure to buy. Under normal circumstances, that crap is disgusting; during a crisis, it's positively despicable.

However, there is an entirely different, and more modern way to think about selling: which is that the salesperson acts as a consultant who helps the customer to make the best decision possible--even if it's to buy something else from someone else.

Think of it this way. The "hard sell" is all about making your quarterly numbers no matter who gets screwed. The "relationship sell" is all about building a network of people who trust you to do the right thing.

Defined that way, it's pretty clear that relationship selling is not just ethical during a crisis, it's absolutely crucial.

In a business world where it's "all hands on deck," salespeople (and people who sell as part of their job) must stand up and do their part, not just to keep their own business afloat but, more important, to ensure that their customers survive as well.

Unfortunately, not everyone understands the difference between high-pressure selling and relationship selling, so here's an explicit list of what not to do, and what to do instead.

Eliminate the Following Sales Tactics

  1. Always Be Closing. Your goal is to help your customers make the best decision not to selfishly pursue a sale at all costs.
  2. Don't Take No for an Answer. It's cruel and, yes, evil to try to wear down a customer when they're struggling with a crisis.
  3. Limited Time Offers. Creating a false perception of scarcity to close a sale is beyond repulsive during times like this.
  4. Assumptive Closes. Using small commitments to make it socially difficult for a customer to say no. Ditto on other trick closes.
  5. Sales Pitches. This should be obvious, but should you launch into a sales pitch, you will identify yourself as a total a-hole.

Employ the Following Sales Tactics

  1. Listen Actively. From the start, make the interactive about the customer. This means your mouth should be moving less than 33 percent of the time and when it's not moving, you're thinking about what the customer is saying and not figuring out what you're going to say next.
  2. Clarify Problems. In a crisis, people (including your customers) often act and react impulsively. As a consultant, your job is to help the customer better understand that challenges that they face and correctly prioritize those challenges. Important: if the clear priority is NOT your offering, your job is now to use your contacts and experience help your customer define and solve the real problem. In other words, you stop selling your product and focus on how you can help the customer in other ways.
  3. Define Solutions. As a consultant, your job is to help your customers better define how they overcome whatever difficulties they're facing. This may or may not involve what you're selling. Note: if the customer's real problem involves something where you can't add value, tell them so and end the "business" part of the conversation. Don't waste the customer's time, especially now.
  4. Offer Creative Financing. Assuming you and your customer have decided, collectively, that they need to buy from you, you definitely want to be able to offer them the widest variety possible of ways to buy. Everyone's cash flow now is weird, so flexibility on your part will be appreciated... and remembered.
  5. Flawlessly Follow-Through. During normal times, failure to follow-through flawlessly can be a relationship-killer. Paradoxically, during a crisis, your customers will probably be willing to cut you considerable slack. (A late delivery, for instance.) Nevertheless, this is the time when you must absolutely provide the best possible service and follow-through, not because you'll get dinged (you won't) but because that's how you can help your customers the most... by taking worries of their shoulders and putting them on your own.

Note: I assuming that everyone realizes that nobody should be making face-to-face, in-person sales calls during lockdown. And when lockdown is over, let's deep six the glad-handing, ok? It was always annoying anyway.