By Matt Heinz, President & Founder of Heinz Marketing

I’m not usually one for hot takes, but this might be one.

I’ve chosen the word “ethical” in this question intentionally because of its implied severity.  I could have asked “is it uncomfortable to sell right now” or “is it inappropriate to sell right now”.  And I think we’ve all seen examples of companies that clearly meet that bar in the past few days.

When people are dying, when the health of countless people worldwide is at stake, when companies are scrambling and facing something both completely unprecedented and disruptive – do we have an ethical obligation to take a pause on selling for a little while?

I hadn’t even thought to ask this question until I read Dave Brock’s great piece Buying During Difficult Times yesterday.

I agree with how he breaks down the difference between selling and buying.  The focus of your customers has narrowed dramatically.  Important projects will stall while mission-critical tactics are front-loaded.

This doesn’t mean you can’t help the prospect, it just means you have to do a much tighter, precise job at matching what you have with what they need, right now.

Technique and approach are key right now as well.  Don’t sell, offer. Share. Give.

This is good sales advice to build trust and credibility in all market conditions, and especially right now.

Pivot to focus more intently on what your customers want and need, which may have shifted dramatically in the last two weeks. Those carefully-crafted personas and buying journeys? They might need some significant adjustments – at least for the next few weeks and/or months.

Even if you’ve asked before, ask again now – how can I help?

I asked Dave last night if I was taking this too far.  Is it ethical to continue selling?  Does pitching the same thing the same way do too much long-term damage to your brand and pipeline to continue right now?

Frankly I’m in this situation myself as well.  I’d love to add more sales and bookings to our Q2.  But the last thing I want to do is put pressure on prospects to close, or look like I’m fishing for new business in this climate.

Dave’s answer:

The real answer is, “It depends.”  And basically it’s based on your intent.  If you are trying to help your customer achieve their goals, in many cases now, it’s survival, it would be wrong not to help.  There are some tests to that—i.e., you are the best in the world at solving the problem they think is most critical for them to solve.  If it isn’t, you need to back away.

Sadly, too many are focused on their own self interest and success and not the customer’s.  I don’t know that it’s unethical, but it is unhelpful and the customer will see through this.  Pressing it, or pursuing many of the volume velocity strategies, make it unethical.

In other words, start with a foundation of empathy and clarity on what your customer critically needs to navigate their current challenges.  If you can help them, pursue it.

What do you think?