My Energy Job: Selling Energy Efficiency

February 6, 2011

Career, My Energy Job

Sometimes, I wish I could take a ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture of some of my past customers’ electric bills, frame them, and carry them around with me to new customer meetings. It would make my job a whole lot easier. But I guess some companies don’t want their financial business smeared around town – so touchy.

Selling a concept can be hard – there are no fancy widgets to wave around while wearing a headset on an infomercial like the ShamWow guy. Seriously, a headset? You’re standing behind a cardboard counter top rubbing a magical terrycloth on random household items… what on earth would be so important that you need immediate, mobile, hands-free communication during your 10-minutes in the spotlight? I digress. Like I said, selling a concept can be hard because you’re selling something intangible… invisible, even. It can be especially hard if you’re selling the concept of saving money by reducing the amount of consumption of electricity your facility consumes. I mean, come on, you can’t even see the electricity – let alone the idea of saving it.

I’ve met with oodles of customers in attempt to cure them of their addiction to electricity. Call me the Dr. Drew of power consumption – my customers are all checked in at Celebrity Energy Rehab. Some cannot admit they have a problem: “Well, our energy bills really aren’t breaking us right now.” Some think there is nothing they can do to stop: “Look, we’re already as efficient as we can get without making third shift work with the lights out.” Some just don’t want to put forth the effort: “We don’t have room in our budget for an equipment upgrade and I don’t have the time to try to convince corporate that they need to make room.” Oh, I’ve heard it all. (I assure you, I’ve heard it ALL. I even got a 30-minute lecture that somehow ended up in a wildly inappropriate description of what school principals do in their offices when they’re alone. Not sure how it got *there*, but it did.) Anyway, there are 9,000 excuses as to why a company won’t invest in energy efficiency upgrades that pay themselves off in a couple years or less. But there is one definitive, inarguable, undeniable retort to them all: it lowers the bottom line.

But how do you convince a person (plant manager, CFO, board of trustees, etc) that energy efficiency projects will lower the bottom line without causing a major upheaval in their operations? Show them pictures of new lighting technology? No – they just see new lights that don’t make everything look day-glow orange. Show them pictures of a new high-efficiency boiler? No – they just see a boiler with no rust and more knobs and valves. Throw a bunch of energy savings calculations in front of them to prove the reduction in cost? No – only an accountant or CFO would be interested in that and even then, they won’t say ‘yes’ based off of a few napkin calcs.

So how do we do this – sell energy efficiency? We do it through case studies. We make a pretty little package including photos of facilities, their energy costs before AND after their efficiency projects, their ROI, customer comments about the new technologies they’ve employed, information on how they financed their projects, and what they’ve been able to do with all the money they’re saving. We package all that up and we do a product demonstration with that. We show prospective customers what other companies have achieved. We, in a round about way, show them someone else’s electric bill – both before the project(s) and after. We sell them on the consistency of results for others. And we absolutely, under no circumstances, do so while wearing a dorky headset.

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2 Comments on “My Energy Job: Selling Energy Efficiency”

  1. Jamie Farrell Says:

    I’ve built my career selling intangibles and my technique has always been the same; turn the ‘need’ into a ‘want’ and alleviate the ‘fear’ associated with any product by asking open ended questions to show the consumer the positive attributes of the product – thus the consumer associates the positive outcomes they receive by the purchase vs. the negative fears.

    A great example is “a product to lose weight”. Everybody who is overweight NEEDS to lose weight for health purposes, but not everyone WANTS to and they are afraid to even start. To turn that “need” into a “want” and alleviate fear of starting, I would market or speak with a potential customer about their “long term goals and dreams”; I would then tie those dreams into how the weight loss product can get them there. Thus, losing weight is associated with something one wants vs. the “need to lose”.

    Reply

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  1. My Energy Job: The Importance of Relationship Building | Don't Hate Me Because I'm Efficient - March 15, 2011

    […] get or facilitate their customers to get free money. They trust me to be their sounding board and lead them in the right direction. And I always, ALWAYS, make them feel as if they are the only person I’m working with and […]

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