The Psychology Of Sales and why panic is bad for your health

The old Chinese curse goes: May you live in interesting times…

We are certainly living in interesting times. I write this article on the ides of March, March 15th 2020.

‘Beware the ides of March’ quoted Shakespeare in Julius Caesar, 1601.

I think it’s more relevant to say ‘Beware the panic in the supermarkets’.

This particular blog is going to offer a simple plan for not stock piling and have some useful tips for salespeople and people in my Buccaneer Team, Business Coaching programme. So, get a nice piping hot cup of tea, a couple of ginger snaps and let’s have a little chat.

We’ve all seen ‘The General Public’ get their collective knickers in a twist over the Covid-19 pandemic with the panic buying of toilet paper and other long-life supplies has caused chaos in supermarkets. In the USA, people are fighting and attacking each other with broken wine bottles.

Surely this is not how civilised people behave and indeed, it is not how civilised people behave.

It is because everyone that is currently engaging in panic buying is, quite simply, behaving like an animal and not like a rational human being. Please don’t get offended by me calling you an animal because you are an animal.

Let me explain. We humans are animals, in the kingdom of Animalia, the phylum of Chordata, class of Mammalia, order of Primates, species of Homo Sapiens.

Ahhh Homo Sapiens. In Latin it means Wise Human. Hmmm.

Perhaps we should be reclassified as Homo Timentes or Homo Stultus?

Look, I know we are worried about how the virus will affect the vulnerable in our society and indeed, we should be concerned. This crisis is unlike anything seen in our generation. I am in no way underplaying the seriousness of the situation. However, I want to put a little perspective in place to try and avoid the panic consuming some people at the moment. Be careful, act appropriately, but don’t panic! We are definitely going to see some difficult times ahead. However, does that mean the able bodied, those least at risk, should appropriate the supplies in supermarkets so that the most at risk, the medically vulnerable and the elderly can’t access the supplies?

If you have stockpiled, consider this:

Did you need to get as much as you did?
Did you rationally plan for what you needed?
How long a period did you plan how much you were stockpiling for?
Did you take into consideration that you might have been literally taking the food and supplies out of the mouths of others, more vulnerable than you?
Do you realise that your actions may have put people into real danger for no good reason?
How do you feel having read this and realised what your thoughtless behaviour has done?
Lastly, will you help a vulnerable person by donating some of your stockpiled supplies to an elderly neighbour?

I am not stockpiling. I don’t think we need to. The people that might need to stockpile are the vulnerable and elderly and, from what I’ve seen, these are NOT the people stockpiling.

Whatever happened to the Dunkirk Spirit in this country?

Winston Churchill said in 1940 after the Dunkirk evacuation and just before the commencement of The Battle of Britain:

‘In casting up this dread balance sheet, contemplating our dangers with a disillusioned eye, I see great reason for intense vigilance and exertion, but none whatsoever for panic or despair…..Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say ‘This was their finest hour’.

So why are we behaving so irrationally?

The answer is to look at some of our hard wired animal instincts – namely fight or flight and herd behaviour.

In Fight Or Flight, humans, when faced with danger have two options to run away from the danger (Flight) or to confront and face the danger (Fight). I’ve written in detail about how this affects us in my book, Cellular Attitude and also in The Psychology Of Sales, so I won’t go into great detail but I will mention the key elements.

Firstly, when we go into Fight Or Flight, our focus of attention becomes extremely narrow, our logic processes and empathy emotions are turned off, our ability to think clearly is muddled. We have tunnel vision and our immune systems ramp up their ability to deal with illness for a short period of time. Our muscle power and reflex speed is increased.  However, if we stay in Fight Or Flight for any time longer than around 20 minutes, we start to degrade our long term health, rational processes and mental health.

We are designed to enter Fight Or Flight for survival purposes, it’s supposed to be for a maximum of twenty minutes. Not weeks, months or years! Can you see how Panic can cause some serious health issues?

In the beginning of this panic a few people, probably scared and, in my personal opinion, over-reacting, decided that they should stockpile toilet rolls. An illogical thing to do, when you consider that a single roll of toilet paper should last an adult at least a week and that is if that roll is used for every visit in that week.

A large pack of 24 rolls would last an adult five and a half months. It would last a family of four, 6 weeks. People have been buying hundreds of rolls. I’ve seen people purchasing three packs of 48 rolls. That is the equivalent of a family of four adults having enough toilet paper for over eight months! The same thing is happening on all the supplies that people are hoarding.

Do they really think that the country is going to run out of toilet paper for 8 months?

Once the power of social media got involved, it was only a matter of time until ‘The General Public’ entered the other basic instinct of ‘Herd Behaviour’. Following others.

As someone that doesn’t follow orders very well, questions everything and believes in individual responsibility, I try and avoid herd behaviour.

It’s been postulated that crowd intelligence surpasses individual intelligence (James Surowiecki, The Wisdom Of Crowds) yet this fails when Imitation and Emotionality take place, which is why a collective hysteria has gripped the world. Add to that they fact that individually we exhibit strong moral prohibition against harming people, once we are part of a crowd and ‘mob mentality’ occurs, we are likely to commit looting, vandalism and even physical brutality. A diminished sense of personal responsibility for collective actions occurs.

There really is no need to stockpile food and goods in the fashion that we’ve seen over the past few days.

I doubt that ‘The Stockpilers’ have planned how much of anything they need. Have they considered how much food and supplies they need?

How long do they think there will be shortages? Have they worked it out? Or have they panicked and just bought everything they can carry?

Is that efficient or effective let alone morally acceptable? I doubt it.

I’ve created a simple formula to help people work out what they should buy from the shops:

Adam Caplan’s formula for buying the right amount from the supermarket during the Covid-19 crisis. (Please note this is my opinion and NOT based on scientific fact, just for clarity)

  1. How many people in your household?
  2. How much emergency supplies and food do you need to live on for a week, in extremis: List the food and supplies (different for everyone, include rice/pasta, toilet roll, baby supplies, etc) required for 1 week for 1 person (half the amount for young children)
  3. How many weeks do you SERIOUSLY think you will be unable to buy this supply for?

People MULTIPLED BY Food MULTIPLED BY Weeks of ZERO supply = What’s needed (LESS what you ALREADY HAVE)

When you have calculated this amount order it from the online supermarket to get delivered in a week or so.

There. No more panic in the supermarket, no empty shelves and the vulnerable and elderly can shop as normal.

Sensible. So, let’s see how the sensible approach helps your business.

One of the key elements of my sales training programme, The Psychology Of Sales is the importance of understanding why people behave the way they do. There’s no profit if you panic in sales or in your business. If you take a moment now to look at your sales job or your entire business if you are in a senior position. Do you plan ahead or are you reacting and panicking like the person stockpiling?

Have you considered what your sales team or business needs, or are you running around like a headless chicken?

Do you plan your day before the day starts or do you just aim to be as busy as possible? How effective do you think you are being when you do this?

Simple planning will help your sales and business grow and develop.

In my Buccaneer Team programme, the very first thing we do is get you, as the business person to identify what you and your business requires.

In sales terms, what do you need for breakeven? What do you need to achieve your desired profit?

What activities make the most profit and how do you get more clients in?

Some businesses are being affected quite drastically by the current crisis and it’s probably a really good time to revisit your business plan and sales plan.

Plan how you are going to ride out the crisis. Take stock NOW and work out what you need to do to survive. Make the changes you need to make.

In exactly the same vein as the formula above, use this formula for your business. If you are in a sales role, you also should make it your business to know this information.

  1. What is your weekly break-even? (How much money do you need to bring in each week to keep everything ticking over?)
  2. How much money do you think you will you bring in each week during the crisis?
  3. How many weeks do you think that this crisis will affect your business?


Money expected in during the crisis each week MINUS break-even

If this is a POSITIVE VALUE, you are OK, no need to panic.

If this is a MINUS amount, a shortfall, DO NOT PANIC. Consider this, then calculate:

Shortfall of weekly revenue MULTIPLED by weeks of the crisis. This will give you the amount of total shortfall you will need to make up.

Work out:

Money in bank/ available MINUS total shortfall. If this is a MINUS amount, still DO NOT PANIC, the next stage in your planning is this:

Can I make changes to my business to reduce the money required to break-even. If you can, make those changes and recalculate.

If you cannot make changes to your business, then you will need to get more sales in IMMEDIATELY.


I am offering any business that is struggling a completely free Buccaneer Team consulting session that is designed to help answer this question and provide businesses with advice during these difficult times. I am also offering some online resources to help your business through this tough time. I am also offering sales teams and business owners extended free access to my online training programme The Psychology Of Sales.

The coaching session or the sales training programme can be delivered online and is completely free and without obligation.

Get in touch with me via the contact page or call the office for more information.

Simple, sensible and for the duration of the crisis our first coaching sessions are free to all new clients.

Get in touch and take the worry off your shoulders, and of course, be safe in these troubling times!


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