Selling Energy Blog

How to Research Prospects, Part 2


Yesterday, I wrote about some online research techniques. If you want to get even more specific with your research, talk to people within the company. Jeffrey Gitomer mentions that one of the best ways to get information about a company is to talk to the sales department because sales people love to talk. Set up a casual meeting, buy them a beer, and get all sorts of inside information about how the company thinks its fortunes are going, who really wears the pants in the family, whether or not they've recently had a very successful or a failed launch of something else, what their priorities and goals are, and so forth. 

You can also talk to the sales team about other people in the company. Very few people in large companies operate as solo players, and you have to understand how each person fits into the team and who else is going to be part of the decision-making process. 

Once you know who the other players are, you can go home and use your research skills to find out more information about them. Look them up on Google and visit their social media profiles (particularly LinkedIn and Twitter). You can learn so much about people’s personalities and values and what they’re famous for inside and outside of the organization by looking at their social media pages. How do they self-style themselves? The persona they put out to the marketplace can give you insight into how you might approach them during your first meeting.

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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | research | Read more

How to Research Prospects, Part 1


Before you meet with a new prospect, the one thing you absolutely must do is background research. I’ve written several blogs on research techniques, and the topic is important enough (and vast enough) to warrant further discussion. Today and tomorrow, we’ll be exploring some methods of research to help you hit the ball out of the park during your first meeting.

One of the best places to start your research is with a simple Google search. Look up the company on Google and sift through the first few pages of results. If you click on the “News” tab, you’ll find their blog posts, press releases, news stories, etc. All of this information can be useful for building your knowledge of the company, and can also be used as fodder for discussion in your first meeting.

In your research, you may come across the company’s annual reports. I'd encourage you to be cautious about taking the annual report as an indication of what they're thinking about top-of-mind today because the annual report is by definition a retrospective document. A lot of things change, and considering how long it takes to edit, publish, and circulate an annual report, the contents could be very much old news. 

In addition to reading everything about the prospect’s company, you should also look up their competitors. Why? Because they may already be using your services or something close to your services and you could use that as a little bit of a competitive edge. You can add some excitement into the conversation by showing your prospect that they’ll be falling behind the competition if they don’t use your product or service.

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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | research | Read more

The Hard Thing About Hard Things


If you run a business or are involved in one, there will always be times when the going gets tough.  If you’re in charge, it can be a weight on your shoulders, and sometimes navigating your problems seems impossible.  What should you prioritize first?  How should you instruct and motivate your employees?  What if you have to resort to layoffs or restructuring your company? 

If you find yourselves in this situation, you’re not alone.  Look no further than Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things.  Horowitz was a co-founder of LoudCloud in 1999, one of the first cloud service providers, but due to several misfortunes the business quickly hit the skids.  To say the least he had to learn quick, but he has plenty of advice for others who find themselves struggling: 

  • Prioritizing the Three P’s in your office: “the people, the product and the profits – in that order”
  • Not attacking problems on your own and telling it like it is – be straightforward with your employees and encourage everyone to offer solutions
  • Running your company – hiring the right people, promoting good behavior and minimizing politics
  • Working on yourself and streamlining your vision
  • And if it comes to it: dealing with layoffs or firing employees 

Of course, avoiding dire straits is ideal.  However, if you find yourself in an unlucky spot consider this book some hard-won advice and a survival guide you should have on your nightstand.

Here is the summary from Amazon: 

“Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley's most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, offers essential advice on building and running a startup—practical wisdom for managing the toughest problems business school doesn’t cover, based on his popular Ben’s Blog.

“While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one. Ben Horowitz analyzes the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies. A lifelong rap fanatic, he amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs, telling it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, from cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in.

“Filled with his trademark humor and straight talk, The Hard Thing About Hard Things is invaluable for veteran entrepreneurs as well as those aspiring to their own new ventures, drawing from Horowitz's personal and often humbling experiences.”

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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | books | Read more

Weekly Recap, February 18, 2018


  • Tuesday: Learn how it takes time, care and thorough research to write a successful one-page proposal.
  • Wednesday: Discover why it does not make sense to evaluate a prospect's investment with something as simple as simple payback period.
  • Thursday: Explore ways to reframe efficiency so that it can be measured with yardsticks that your prospect is already using to measure his or her own success.
  • Friday: Learn how "circling back" to every one of your customers to see if there any benefits, something beyond the obvious utility savings, is one of the most important parts of the sales cycle. 
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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | weekly recap | Read more

Feeling Overwhelmed?


I’m sure we’re all very familiar with the feeling of being overwhelmed. In many cases, this feeling is spurred by the sheer amount of work that we have on our plates. When we have a lot of work to do, it’s vital that we use our time as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately (and paradoxically), being overwhelmed inhibits our ability to be efficient and productive. If you follow this logic, it turns into a vicious cycle that ultimately leads to burnout (or even failure).

So what can we do to prevent ourselves from becoming overwhelmed in the first place? According to an article published on The Muse blog, the best way to handle feeling overwhelmed and overloaded is to either take action or take a break. Ambitious people have a tendency to say “Yes” to everything. It’s a great quality to have; however, there is a limit to how much any one individual can handle, and pushing that limit can have serious negative consequences. Know what your limit is and focus your efforts on the tasks that have the highest importance.

For more ideas about how to avoid becoming overwhelmed, read the full article here. 

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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | habits, productivity | Read more

Circling Back


One of the most important parts of the sales cycle remains overlooked.  It’s imperative that you “circle back” to every one of your customers and ask them how it went. 

Start with the basics.  “Are you happy with the installation?” Then, “Did we deliver everything that we promised when you first approved the project?“  

Lastly, “Is there any benefit you recognized that we didn't talk about, something beyond the obvious utility savings that you're getting in the wake of the installation?" 

The answer to that third question is gold.  They might tell you something that you don't know, and of course you could say, "I would love to share that with others who are considering working with us. Do you mind if I quote you on that?" 

If you get this kind of information you can use it for every additional sales call you make.  Think about drawing concentric circles on a map, each one around a successful installation.  From there you can find others who haven’t received those newfound benefits and contact them. 

By then you’ll already have the foundation for your pitch, but consider this new info as an extra arrow in your quiver.  It’s all thanks to circling back and finding different ways a customer’s needs can be met.

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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | habits, questioning | Read more

Wine, Cheese, and LEDs


They say repetition is the mother of learning.  You’ve probably heard me say more than once that one of the most valuable traits of an efficiency sales professional is the ability to reframe efficiency so that it can be measured with yardsticks that the prospect is already using to measure his or her own success. Here’s a great example of someone doing exactly that: 

One of our Efficiency Sales Professional Boot Camp graduates was trying to come up with a way to convince small retailers to invest in LED lighting retrofits. Before presenting the business owners with a compelling case about why the lighting retrofit would be a smart investment, she first asked herself, “What do these owners really care about?” She quickly realized, of course, that small retailers are very interested in increasing foot traffic.  After all, getting more customers to set foot in your store is the first step (pun intended) to boosting sales per square foot.

With this in mind, she came up with a creative campaign that would help her customers get more of their customers in their stores in the wake of the lighting upgrade. She targeted commercial areas that had concentrations of small retailers, walked into each of the stores and announced the following offer: “If you and nine of your neighbors on this street sign up for a full lighting retrofit, my boss and I will sponsor a ‘wine, cheese, and LEDs’ party.  We will even bring sidewalk sandwich boards and little easels with foam core posters on them proclaiming what a wonderful thing you and your neighbors did. We’ll celebrate the fact that you're saving all this energy... and we’ll drive traffic into your stores. This event will not only make more potential customers aware of your establishments, but also let the world know that you are a socially conscious business.” 

The campaign was dramatically successful. Most people in this industry would agree that small businesses represent a hard-to-reach audience, fraught with high transaction cost, language barriers, and the like.  However, the minute you start talking about what they care about (instead of chromaticity, color rendering, simple payback period, and so forth), the easier it will be to capture their attention and retain it long enough to motivate them to take action. 

I encourage you to ask yourself this simple question before you make your next sales call: ”What does my prospect really care the most about?” The answer to that question will help you reframe your offerings so that they resonate with what your prospects are truly seeking. 

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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | prospecting | Read more

It’s Not That Simple


Simple Payback Period (SPP) is a metric that all too many prospects are tempted to use when deciding whether or not to fund an expense-reducing capital project. As many of you already know, I am not a big fan of SPP.  In most cases, it’s far too simple a tool to evaluate proposed projects accurately. Here’s an example where relying on SPP along would clearly steer you wrong: 

Assume a landlord realizes that he’s paying too much for utilities in his master-metered, gross-leased building.  He’s considering investing $1.00 per square foot in an expense-reducing capital project that is projected to produce $0.25 per square foot in utility savings.  One would be tempted to say that the arrangement would be a four-year payback, right?  Well, maybe not. It would be a four-year payback based on utility cost savings alone.  However, what if the landlord planned to have the building appraised the very next year for refinance or sale?  

Guess what? The extra $0.25 a square foot in utility savings would increase the landlord’s net operating income by that same amount.  Moreover, the bigger news would be that the appraiser could now justify adding an extra $2.50 per square foot to the property’s value.  Why?  Because $0.25 divided by an assumed cap rate of 10% increases the value of the building by $2.50 using the Direct Capitalization variety of the Income Approach to Appraisal. That bump in value equates to two and a half times the installation cost! 

That said, the fact that the higher appraised value doesn’t happen in the first year would place it outside the realm of the simple payback period calculation, which only focuses on cash flows that occur in Year 1.  

What if the landlord is laboring under the impression that the investment would have a four-year payback when in actuality, he would enjoy two and half times his money back as soon as one year’s set of books reflect the higher NOI and he has the building reappraised?  Focusing on the simple payback period and remaining blind to the most important part of the equation – the potential bump in appraised value – could lead a landlord to make the wrong decision. 

So what’s the moral of the story? Take a look at the bigger picture before you present a financial analysis to your prospect. Show them why it doesn’t make sense to evaluate their investment with something as simple as simple payback period.

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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | proposals | Read more

Your Proposal Might Not Be Perfect


My goal as an instructor is to make sure you're successful.  When you write a one-page proposal it might not be perfect; however, it isn’t the end of the world.  You're not obligated to stick to the format I recommend.  In fact, my format's a little different than the one Patrick Reilly shares in the book, The One Page Proposal.  Still, it's pretty close. 

When I take a look at a one-page proposal, I think of it as being divided into several sections: 

  1. Obviously, you want to put the goals up top. You want to make sure the title sings.  It's got to be the kind of headline that would make somebody pick up a newspaper and buy it.
  2. The subtitle should include 3-4 benefits that would be recognized immediately by someone reading it. For example: “greater tenant security, energy savings, less maintenance, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, etc.”
  3. The rationale for change should be compelling. Your proposal should push for a better situation: less vandalism, improved tenant comfort, better indoor air quality.  Whatever it is, make it clear that these problems will be fixed!
  4. The financial analysis is also key. If you were to fix these problems, what return would your prospect see over the lifetime of the investment?  Do the financials make sense?  How do rebates or incentives affect the numbers?
  5. The status encourages your prospect to pursue the project by telling them how many steps have already been completed. Make it clear that you’re progressing in the right direction.  For example, “We did a pilot.” “We analyzed the pricing and found it to be competitive.”  “We’ve checked out the specifications and made sure they met the rebate or incentive eligibility requirements.” 
  6. The action step is the bottom line, one that is surprisingly missing in so many proposals. The purpose of a one-page proposal is to elicit action; however, it has to be simple. In fact, the Status and Action Step sections are two of the most defining differences between an executive summary and a true one-page proposal.  

Writing a successful one-page proposal takes time, care and thorough research.  The more you practice writing them the better you become at communicating your value to your prospects.  Who doesn’t want to excel at that? 

So even if you’re struggling to start or find yourself on the umpteenth draft, don’t despair.  All you’re doing is sharpening your skills to become a better sales professional, and once you’ve mastered communicating in this concise and compelling fashion, you’ll be unstoppable.

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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | proposals | Read more

Being a True Original


Some of the greatest innovations of our time didn’t happen as easily as we remember.  They were met with skepticism and resistance just like any other risky idea.  When you’ve come up with an original idea or something that goes against the grain, you need to be prepared for pushback.  And you’re going to need help. 

One of the best guides out there is Adam Grant’s Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.  It goes hand-in-hand with some of our teachings at Selling Energy, particularly when it comes to overcoming objections, motivating your prospects, and compiling material to state your case (i.e., a Success Story Archive™ and an Objections Archive™).  The last thing a customer wants is to realize they are out of step or have been left behind!  It’s up to you to make sure that you’re saying the right things and that they don’t pass up a good opportunity. 

Selling efficiency can sometimes feel like you’re swimming upstream, but knowing how to present it will keep you ahead of the curve.  If you’re looking for supplemental material to our Learning to S.E.E.: Sell Energy Effectively™ program, then Originals is a book for you. 

Here is the summary on Amazon: 

“With Give and Take, Adam Grant not only introduced a landmark new paradigm for success but also established himself as one of his generation’s most compelling and provocative thought leaders. In Originals, he again addresses the challenge of improving the world, but now from the perspective of becoming original: choosing to champion novel ideas and values that go against the grain, battle conformity, and buck outdated traditions. How can we originate new ideas, policies, and practices without risking it all?
“Using surprising studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt; how parents and teachers can nurture originality in children; and, how leaders can build cultures that welcome dissent. Learn from an entrepreneur who pitches his start-ups by highlighting the reasons not to invest, a woman at Apple who challenged Steve Jobs from three levels below, an analyst who overturned the rule of secrecy at the CIA, a billionaire financial wizard who fires employees for failing to criticize him, and a TV executive who didn’t even work in comedy but saved Seinfeld from the cutting-room floor. The payoff is a set of groundbreaking insights about rejecting conformity and improving the status quo.”

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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | books | Read more
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