Selling Energy Blog

Weekly Recap, August 20, 2017

  • Tuesday: Learn how to reframe renewable energy. 
  • Wednesday: Explore three investment scenarios for doing an energy efficiency improvment and how it makes sense to implement the project as soon as possible. 
  • Thursday: Discover ways to reframe the benefits of efficiency in agriculture, particularly farm animals.  
  • Friday: Check out some helpful tips on active listening.  
  • Saturday: Check out 5 things to do this weekend to make Monday the most productive day of the week. 
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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | weekly recap | Read more

Set Yourself up for a Productive Workweek


The workweek may be done, but you are still hammering away this Saturday. Maybe you’re finishing up that proposal due on Monday? Perhaps it’s your turn to watch the kids?

Fast Company published an article on 5 things to do this weekend to make Monday that most productive day of the week. Of their tips, my favorites include: set goals for the week ahead; think big-picture thoughts; and, do something fun. Read the full list here and consider fitting them into your weekend.

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

Active Listening, Part One


"A good listener has the ability to better understand and process information.  A great listener has the ability to use this information to negotiate, to influence, and avoid misunderstandings and conflicts." – Christopher Pappas 

There is a variety of online content about active listening from experts like Tony Robbins, Christopher Pappas, Julian Treasure and many more.  Each of them offer advice on better listening techniques, especially those of us that live in the city.  We’re used to being assaulted by a cacophony of noise in traffic, our office environments, our neighborhoods and whenever we go out on the town.  

When you’re listening to your prospect, all of that needs to be tuned out.  Here are some helpful tips: 

  • You want to be fully in the moment, focusing at least 75% of your time to listening while remaining calm, resourceful, and flexible. You certainly want to maintain a sense of curiosity.  Nurture the silence; however, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Most of the revelations in a meeting come from the pauses between speaking. For example, if you ask a question, make sure there is enough time for a customer to answer.  They shouldn’t feel rushed. They need to feel relaxed enough to ponder their answers.  I often say that speaking is a lot like music.  There would be no music if there were no space between the notes.  It would just be one constant sound… not very interesting, for sure!
  • Don’t compose your response instead of listening. That’s not listening at all, and very often it comes across as rude.  Although you aren’t speaking, you’re giving off non-verbal cues that you aren’t giving your full attention.
  • You certainly shouldn’t multitask when listening.
  • One of the questions I often get asked is, "How do you tell when someone's multitasking on the phone?" One of the things you can do is stop talking, because when they hear the unexpected silence they will immediately snap out of it and think “Uh-oh,” or they'll think you just asked a question and are waiting for an answer. Other ways to deal with multitasking on the phone is to ask a lot of questions, because they'll eventually have to put their other projects aside and give you their undivided attention. Another solution is straight-up honesty.  Say, "You know, I feel as if you've got a lot going on there.  Would you like to call me back at a more convenient time?" More often than not, the person's going to say, "Oh, I'm sorry.  I'm just a little bit distracted here.  I wasn't paying attention as much as I should've been.  I promise you, I'm all yours now.  Give it to me again." 

There are other aspects of active listening that can help anybody regardless of where they stand in their sales career, neophyte or veteran: 

  • You must be taking notes. When a customer sees this happen, it reassures them that what they're saying is important and will not be forgotten.
  • If you don't understand something, wait until the speaker has finished speaking, then ask a qualifying question. You might ask them to demonstrate what they just said to ensure that you understand the point they’re trying to make in the proper context. 

Stay tuned for more on this topic next week...

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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | communication, habits, sales tips | Read more

Efficiency on the Farm


Huge strides are being made when it comes to efficiency in agriculture, particularly regarding farm animals.  I recently read a study about chickens becoming more docile when illuminated with red LED light.  They were looking at the world through rose-colored glasses!  And since everything they saw was red, they would never notice a spot of blood on a fellow chicken’s feathers, which might have triggered an instinct to finish off the blood-spattered hen!   No joke.  Making everything appear red makes the chickens less likely to attack one another. Believe it or not, before this technological innovation, some farmers actually clipped tiny red sunglasses onto their chickens’ beaks to achieve the same effect! 

If you access this article on the impact of color-tuned LED, you’ll read about this effect and others: "The results showed minor effects of green light on explorative behavior, whereas red light reduced aggressiveness compared with white light. The accelerating effect of red light on sexual development of laying hens was confirmed, and the trial demonstrated that this effect was due to the specific wavelength and not the intensity of light." 

There is another study on illuminating chickens' occupied environments with yellow and white LED lighting: "[They] did not show any behavioral sign of preference for one of the environments.  However, birds presented greater feed consumption at 21, 28 and 35 days of age when exposed to white LED lighting. Generally, birds exposed to LED lighting presented better production performance than birds under the CFL [compact fluorescent]. Seven-day-old male chickens presented better feed conversion under LED illumination than did males of the same age under CFL." 

(PLEASE NOTE: This next study isn’t recommended for animal lovers, so be warned.) 

There are other researchers experimenting with the effects of LED lighting on farm animals.  One of our Efficiency Sales Professional Boot Camp graduates helps pig farmers leverage their facility’s lighting to achieve not only energy efficiency but also production efficiency.  First, they optimize the placement and intensity of the lighting to minimize the shadows.  Why?  I’m told that pigs, as smart as they are, stop in their tracks when they see a shadow because it confuses them.  This causes all sorts of traffic jams at swine houses.  Better lighting also allowed the pigs to find the feed troughs better, so they knock less of their food into the manure.  That one innovation alone can save the farmer a lot of wasted feed. 

Another experiment involved slowly dimming the lights at night to put the pigs to bed, and then gradually raising the light levels in the morning to wake them up.  Since they’re experiencing simulated sunset and sunrise in an otherwise windowless factory farm, the pigs were found to grow more effectively within a certain number of calendar days.  They're leaning toward the conclusion that if you use the right kind of lighting in a swine house, you could get a pig to a “six-month” target weight in a period that is five days shorter than the typical cycle.  Doing so saves the farmer five days worth of feed for each of thousands of hogs he raises… and that’s a benefit that trumps the energy and maintenance savings by a significant margin.

It's really fascinating when you think about the science behind these experiments: lighting levels, lighting frequencies, and what can be done to influence animal farming.  Stay on top of the research in these fields and you’re likely to have a more interesting conversation with your customers, whether you’re talking to hen and hog farmers or not! 

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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | benefits, communication, sales tips | Read more

Net Present Value


One of the reasons I print out our financial worksheets and juxtapose them with each other is to demonstrate the outcomes of three scenarios for doing an energy efficiency improvement: 

  • Pay for the entire project upfront
  • Do half the project now and the rest a year from now when more funds become available
  • Borrow the money now to fund the project fully and use your savings to repay the loan 

A lot of people are laboring under the myth that Scenario 3 is the least attractive option because a significant portion of the project’s return would be consumed by the interest you have to pay to gain access to the capital. 

We use a prototypical project in our Learning to S.E.E.: Sell Efficiency Effectively™ workshops to explore these three investment scenarios.  

In Scenario 1, you pay for the entire investment today (“Date 0”) using your own cash, and your net present value over a ten-year period is $53,000 and some change.  

In Scenario 2, you decide that you only have sufficient capital to fund half the project now (“Date 0”), so you wait to do the second half of the project until a year from now (“Date 1”).  In this scenario, you would lose half of the upgrade’s projected savings for the first year.  You might also lose half of the rebate or incentive because it might expire before you have a chance to fund the second half of the project.  In fact, our Scenario 2 worksheet is configured using those exact assumptions.  It proves that delaying half the project by one year reduces your net present value to about $42,000.  You’ve lost more than $10,000 of NPV just because you waited a year to do the second half of the project. 

In Scenario 3, you finance the entire project today (“Date 0”) by borrowing the necessary capital and paying a reasonable interest rate.  For our example, we assume 12%.  In this third scenario, the net present value turns out to be only about $1,000 lower than what you would have realized if you had funded the entire project at Date 0 using your own capital.  Why? You have the entire project installed immediately, which means you get the entire project’s energy savings within the first year as well as the full amount of the rebate.  And it turns out that the interest you’re paying pales in comparison to the return you’re generating by having both halves of the project implemented at Date 0. 

The moral of the story is: 

  • Try to pay for a project using your own cash.
  • If you don't have the cash, don't wait. Finance it. 

In other words, implement your projects as soon as possible, even if you have to borrow the capital to do it.  As the math suggests, you’ll be happy you did.

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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | financials, sales tips | Read more

Are You a Giver or a Taker?


The world of business is often described as “cutthroat” and competitive, earning the stereotype of attracting people who “are in it for themselves” or “aren’t here to make friends.”  But as anyone in the business world knows, the industry is more varied than the bad behavior that dominates headlines.  There are people who succeed by taking, giving, or a little bit of both. 

In Adam Grant’s Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, this issue is put under a microscope and is found to yield some astonishing results.  Takers may be the most notorious figures on the scene, but givers succeed the most… as well as fail the most.  Grant offers surprising insights, stories and advice on how to improve yourself and thrive, no matter where you fall on the scale. 

Most importantly of all, he makes a case for how giving can be incredibly powerful in a “me first” kind of world. 

Here is a summary from Amazon: 

A groundbreaking look at why our interactions with others hold the key to success, from the bestselling author of Originals.

“For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But in today’s dramatically reconfigured world, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. In Give and Take, Adam Grant, an award-winning researcher and Wharton’s highest-rated professor, examines the surprising forces that shape why some people rise to the top of the success ladder while others sink to the bottom. Praised by social scientists, business theorists, and corporate leaders, Give and Take opens up an approach to work, interactions, and productivity that is nothing short of revolutionary.”

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

Weekly Recap, August 13, 2017

  • Tuesday: Learn how to effectively sell to a property manager, Part One. 
  • Wednesday: Learn how to effectively sell to a property manager, Part Two.
  • Thursday: Explore what to do in a situation where an account or existing project has been transitioned to you.      
  • Friday: Discover what a good sales manager should do to create value for their prospect base. 
  • Saturday: Check out 7 tips to prevent burnout at work. 
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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | weekly recap | Read more

7 Tips to Prevent Burnout at Work


As efficiency sales professionals, we deal with stress on a regular basis. Sometimes the stress comes from setbacks or lost deals; other times it simply comes from having too much to do and too little time to do it. Whatever the source of your stress may be, it’s important to have some coping mechanisms to help you stay motivated and productive.

An article published on the Forbes blog suggests “7 Ways to Prevent Stress at Work and Regain Productivity.” If you struggle to cope with stress, I highly recommend checking out this article and applying some of these ideas yourself.

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

What a Good Sales Manager Should Do


A sales manager should always be asking people for stories so their Success Story Archive™ becomes a living document.  He should be quizzing his people to make sure that they have read all of them, because when they're out in the field they’ll need to remember them. 

The next thing they need to do is make sure they create and maintain an Objections Archive™. It’s important to catalogue the most common objections as well as the best, most skillfully prepared answers to address each one of those objections. A sales manager would enforce that process by soliciting those objections and making sure that people actually have the answers.  For example, she could say, “I am in a restaurant and we sell energy efficient lighting.  The pushback is that LED lights are going down in price while getting brighter and smaller.  Why should I press on and recommend a retrofit now?”  There are at least three or four great answers to that one. 

I’ll use the example of a lighting retrofit for a dry-cleaning business.  It would help to know how many retrofits for similar businesses you’ve done within a reasonable radius of your prospect base.  If you simply walk into a dry cleaner and say, “Hi, I'm here to talk to you about retrofitting your lighting,” the owner might say, “Hit the door, Jack!  You’re the 16th person this month that's walked in here trying to sell me a new lighting system.” 

It will go differently if you say, “We've installed energy efficient lighting in thirty-seven dry cleaners within 5 miles of yours and here's a map of them.  I’d like to share how we created value for those people and then show you how you could accomplish the same thing here.” 

A good sales manager makes sure their staff is informed, trained and drilled to bring this kind of value to a prospect.  All it takes is reinforcement and learning, and the result will be a sales team with solutions that stick.

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By (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | | | leadership, sales tips | Read more

Taking Over Existing Projects


You'll frequently have situations where accounts are transitioned to you because a company is rearranging the chairs.  All of a sudden, you've got a project halfway toward completion and you have to finish it! 

The first thing I would do is send a series of very deliberate questions to the rep who was previously handling it.  Don’t write, "Tell me about this customer," but ask the same kinds of questions you would ask of the customer if the two of you were face-to-face.  For example: 

  • How many projects have been suggested to this customer?
  • How many of those projects have been approved and why?
  • How many of those projects have not been approved and why? 

The former rep for that customer may or may not have had the intelligence or opportunity to ask those questions already.  Who knows?  Maybe they were the customer rep for five years prior to this reshuffling of the deck.  They may know a lot about how many projects have been proposed over there without actually asking the customer. 

You have to interrogate them in a friendly way.  "Okay, tell me everything you know about how this company does business."  You need to know where the landmines are.  You need to know where the skeletons are.  You need to know where the successes flourish.  One of my favorite questions is, “What projects have you done that were the most gratifying?  And why?” 

Most decisions are made emotionally, so what you’re really asking is “What gets this management team excited?”  Did they save some jobs by doing operating expense reductions?  Did they earn an ENERGY STAR® label?  Did they win a local BOMA contest because they cooperated with their utility on efficiency projects?  You have to understand what has been happening in the company before you took over the account. 

The second thing you have to figure out is what stage the project is in and who has been involved up to this point.  Who thought it up?  Was it the rep?  Was it the property manager? Was it the asset manager?  Is that person still on board? 

Ideally you could talk to that person and say, "Okay, tell me about this project.  How far did it get up the approval chain?  What issues were encountered? What steps are remaining?"  These are all things you definitely want to know, or otherwise you’re shadowboxing.  You also need to know where your prospect stands with this project. 

The third thing you need to consider is how the dynamics have changed since the project was proposed.  For example, have the utility rates gone up and down?  As a result, is the payback shorter or longer? 

Now I don't want to put too much emphasis on payback.  I'm using that just as a proxy.  Besides, if the simple payback period got shorter, chances are the modified internal rate of return, net present value and savings-to-investment ratio will have improved.  But ask what you may.  Ask what rebate or incentive programs may have done lately to influence the financial attractiveness of the project.  Ask if the utility has opened any new programs.  I know utilities frequently vacillate between supporting indoor lighting and outdoor lighting programs.  It’s possible that the project was stalled because there was no outdoor rebate, and now that the local utility company has switched from an indoor rebate strategy to an outdoor rebate strategy, a stalled project can qualify, improving the financials. 

I think understanding the project’s landscape is key.  You need to know what kind of soil this seed was planted in.  Was it stony and rocky to start with?  Was it fertile soil, but the internal champion left the company and no one else realized they had to water the plants?  Where exactly does the project stand in the rebate/incentives landscape, the regulatory landscape, the rates and tariffs landscape, the political landscape, and even the organization’s own management landscape? 

The fourth thing to investigate is your circle of friends and previous customers in search of similar projects and any unexpected savings that may have resulted.  For example, let's say you’re going to do a lighting retrofit in a warehouse and the project has stalled.  The former rep says, "I couldn't get the guy off the dime.  It was a payback of five years but they only approve projects with a three-year payback or less."  Then let’s say you happen upon a company in the same industry that did a similar lighting retrofit, and that they realized immediately thereafter that their pick-and-pack accuracy increased by 10%.  You could certainly reenergize your stalled deal by bringing this new information to the table, particularly if you took the extra step of juxtaposing what that pick-and-pack accuracy advantage saved versus what the lighting retrofit was projected to save in terms of energy and maintenance savings alone. 

Once again, it’s important to have segment-specific intelligence and use your Success Story Archive™ to help sell future projects.  There are so many things that can happen while debriefing a former customer rep effectively and so much information worth investigating further.  Overall the question is, “If I present this project, is there any reframing I can do to make sure something's going to happen with it this time around?”

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