Ethical sales professionals are continually challenged to bring a high degree of empathy and integrity to the selling process. However, in the midst of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the stakes are even higher.

Authenticity is Key
Millions of people across the country and around the globe have faced illness, death and economic hardship in recent months. Now, more than ever, whether it’s in our personal relationships or professional networks, no one has patience for false sincerity. In other words, if a salesperson lacks empathy for a customer’s situation, the relationship will suffer, and repeat business and referrals will not happen.

I’d like to suggest a sales approach which offers a win-win to both seller and customer: a soft sell.

Hard Sell vs. Soft Sell
To help contrast the distinctions between these two sales approaches, here’s my top 5 ethical, soft selling practices, which will allow you to achieve sales success during the age of COVID-19.

1. Have Empathy. Truly understand the buyer’s needs and intent. A salesperson should not be self-centered and only be concerned with selling by any means.

2. Be Honest. Provide full disclosure of your product offering, including possible limitations regarding the buyer’s requirements. Don’t take a hard sell approach of partial truths, omissions or hiding product defects.

3. Be a Problem-Solver. Give truthful answers to a buyer’s questions and be forthright. Find solutions to a customer’s problems by softly probing the customer’s needs and pain points. A salesperson should not hard sell his or her product or service with no regard for the customer’s real needs and problems.

4. Act as a Consultant. Be a true partner in the sales process and help your customer achieve his or her goals by fulfilling their needs. A salesperson should not manipulate the buyer through fear, false scarcity, luring by bait and switch, slandering the competitor, or other dubious selling techniques.

5. Have Sales Integrity. A soft selling approach still needs to be persuasive (but not manipulative). Your sales goal, as always, is to make the sale! It is your code of ethics, your honest actions, and your soft, caring manner that will save the day. A salesperson needs to sell ethically, satisfying the customer by providing the right product or service.

Sometimes, the best course may be to walk away from an immediate sale to pave the way for future sales. Doing so can help you build a long-term, friendly, mutually-beneficial relationship. That’s how you earn repeat business and customer referral.

In sum, an ethical salesperson needs to have empathy and be cognizant of the customer’s emotions. A soft sell approach is better than a hard sell. So, why is it especially important during a pandemic or any other crisis? Because your customers are under significant stress. Overly aggressive, hard sales tactics might give you a very short temporary win, but you risk losing the more beneficial – and profitable – long-term customer relationship.

As the sages say, you might win the battle, but you’ll definitely lose the war.

Ethics is Smart Business