- Phil Venables
Selling into a Crisis (Rights and Wrongs)
It can be irritating to receive e-mails from vendors during a time of crisis, like now, with the spin that their products can help. It is wrong, however, to be angered by this unless the e-mails are egregiously over-blown or in some way inappropriate. Remember, most of everyone is in business to sell products or services and, especially now, they are going to need that revenue. So how can vendors of all shapes and sizes sell into these types of situations:
Sell to the need - not the situation. In times of any crisis people are managing and adapting to it 24x7. They know their problems all too well and so will most likely react negatively when being “educated” to what their situation is. Rather, most people will be tuned to the problem they have and any matter of fact messaging about what your product does will be picked up. For example, most people have been busily expanding their remote working/collaboration capabilities and capacity and will likely be ripe to hear about anything that can help them with that - you don’t need to mention it’s because of Covid-19, or any other crisis.
Support your existing customers and make genuine offers of help. Many businesses are doing extraordinary things to support their customers. A lot of companies are actively networking with others in particular sectors and across supply chains and so, if you have a great solution with great support then word will get out.
Amplify learning. In times of crisis people innovate in the use of products/services, in fact they may stretch the hell out of them to get what they need. Therefore, figure out a way of sharing such innovation with your wider customer base - with permission or suitably anonymized. This will help people, and will likely drive new sales or an increase in deployments at existing customers over time.
Seek feedback. This is a prerequisite of 2 and 3: ask your customers what else they need and seek to be maximally flexible especially in eliminating bureaucracy, for example: if your customer needs another 5000 users deployed on your product/service then enable it - figure out the contract/payment details later, they will come through.
Start planning your products for the new normal. The stretching of your products/services now are, in essence, your customers defining your product roadmaps for the next 24 months. Listen to it. A lot of things won’t return to the way they were after this crisis, just like other crises have been jolts to create new modes of working or entirely new business models.
Support hardship. There are plenty of small businesses, medical facilities, not-for-profits, and other entities that might need your products/services. If you can, then set them up with some capability. Do this for altruism - it might pay off later (brand, future sales, adjacent benefits) but it might not.
Look after your employees. You can’t do 1 through 6 if your employees, your contractors or supply chain, aren’t feeling protected.
Bottom line : it is a time for us all to be even better vendors and even better customers - and even better people, we’re in this together.