Outcomes Clients Want During a Crisis: How To Shift Your Sales and Marketing Message In the Short Term

a focused message Mar 19, 2020

Buyers don't buy products, they buy the outcomes products can deliver. (More on this.) Smart sales and marketing professionals always talk about outcomes they can deliver instead of the products they sell. Right now, there is one critical thing to realize: in this crisis, the desired outcomes just shifted.

Travel with me back to college. I think every course I took in business school talked about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The most basic needs are safety and then belonging. At the top of the pyramid are esteem and self actualization.

During normal times, the needs at the bottom of the pyramid are basically met, allowing decision makers to focus on the top of the pyramid. In personal terms, Maslow says we crave esteem and self actualization. In business terms, the corollary is that we want to improve our business. 

Thus, during normal times, most of our messaging is around the business outcomes we can deliver at the top of the pyramid:

  • Making businesses more successful
  • Driving new initiatives
  • Improving corporate culture
  • Streamlining processes
Here’s the challenge: the top of the pyramid is irrelevant if the needs at the bottom of the pyramid are not met. 

These are not normal times. During a crisis, everyone immediately shifts their focus to the bottom of the pyramid: safety and belonging.

In this present moment, buyers and clients are focused on needs at the bottom of the pyramid. This is true for themselves as individuals. This is also true for how buyers and clients look at their business.

In this present moment, the outcomes buyers and clients want are related to safety and belonging:


  • How do I keep our people safe?
  • How do we keep our revenue streams safe?
  • How can we keep our people employed?
  • How can we keep this ship afloat in the middle of this storm?
  • How can we operate in this environment? (What will the environment be in one week, one month, three months?)


  • I’m scared but I need to keep a face of confidence.
  • How do I lead with authenticity while keeping a positive attitude?
  • How do I process my feelings of anxiety?
  • What do I do with the pressure and guilt when I’m having to lay off employees that trusted my company as the source of income for their families?

Well-trained salespeople been taught to lead with outcomes they can deliver and problems they can solve. Most of these have been at the top of the pyramid, aimed at how to make your clients more successful.

Effective marketers focus the message around the outcomes your buyer’s want, creating content and campaigns around things at the top of the hierarchy of needs. 

Guess what? Right now, the world has changed.

In the short term, we need to refocus our talk tracks and messages around outcomes near the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy:
  • What are the outcomes you can deliver that address a buyer’s need for safety?
  • What are the outcomes you can deliver that address their need for belonging?

This shift is critical and we need to make it quickly.

Your normal message about outcomes at the top of the hierarchy of needs is just noise right now. If you want to be heard, you need to shift, in the short term, to the bottom of the pyramid. Talk about outcomes you can deliver around safety and belonging.

How can your company help with basic needs? Some of the ways you can help might lead to sales. Other ways might simply help protect and enhance the relationships you have with your clients.

Remember, buyers don’t buy products, they buy outcomes. If you are able to communicate and deliver based on their desired outcomes during this crisis, you have an opportunity to be relevant. 

Take this question to your team: What outcomes can we deliver to help our clients with their basic needs around safety and belonging?

If you’d like some help with this, message me know. I’d be happy to brainstorm this with you or your team.


by Darrell Amy

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