Selling Relief: How to Build Credibility During a Disaster

October 30, 2012 | 
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Now that most of the U.S. has weathered Hurricane Sandy, businesses are figuring out how quickly they can get back on the grid and fully operational. Losing a day or two out of the workweek has cost the nation in excess of $58 billion. More than 15,000 flights have been canceled, countless deals have been put on hold and approximately 7.5 million people are without power in 15 states and Washington D.C.

So how do you even begin selling at a time like this? The first step any reputable sales organization must take is to acknowledge what’s going on—and make concessions so that its customers feel that they’re dealing with human beings rather than with a faceless corporation.

Google, for example, had to scrap it’s big launch of the Nexus smartphone and tablet in New York City.

This morning, banks such as Wells Fargo and Barclay’s sent out emails detailing late fee forgiveness, ATM withdrawal fee accommodations and other special plans for those affected by the storm. For an industry battered over the past couple of years in the court of public opinion as much as some of Sandy’s victims have been over the past 48-72 hours, it was the right move.

Mark Hunter, who writes the Sales Hunter blog, suggest that another tactic companies should try is to actively target a different part of the country to avoid stumbling upon someone who’s dealing with more important issues than making a buying decision while surveying the devastation left by a monster hurricane. “The rule I tell salespeople is to back off and go prospect in another area of the country,” he writes. “Yes, it’s hard to determine exactly when to back off and when to proceed, but as long as you have other prospects you can be reaching out to, then put your focus on those people.”

A word of additional caution from Hunter: “If you want to be seen as a village idiot, then go ahead and make prospecting calls to somebody who is in the midst of a crisis and see what kind of a response you get.”

In this time of people sticking with their cell phone numbers when they move, you may not always be able to segment correctly. So if you accidentally reach someone who is in the midst of cleaning up, remember that you’re dealing with someone who may need some solace and information. Using a drip marketing campaign? Include a link to a helpful blog post with links to local resources. Since you’re really building a relationship versus just closing a deal, offer genuine compassion and help. You’ll go a long way toward earning credibility with your prospective or existing client. And being seen as the trusted source of comfort during uncertainty is priceless marketing that pays for itself next time you have to reach out to that same client with a prospecting call.

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