Helping Small Businesses Visualize Savings
What does a small business owner care about? Most are running lean on working capital, so their primary concern is to make payroll. This can be an issue if you’re trying to sell efficiency products or services. The minute you start talking about the upfront cost of the project, the prospect’s interest will wane. Even if you offer them a one-year payback, they may still have to pass because their cash flow is already committed to keeping the doors open. Many simply don’t have the cash to advance an entire year’s utility savings today to pay for that “one-year payback” measure. Small business owners have to watch every dollar to ensure they stay viable. If you put yourself in their shoes, you could easily understand why. After all, what good is energy-efficient lighting if you can’t make payroll?
So let’s assume you’re trying to sell a lighting retrofit for a small café that would produce a few thousand dollars in utility savings annually. How do you convince the owner that the efficiency investment is worth undertaking?
The most direct path to a “yes” might be helping the entrepreneur focus on the positive outcome rather than the first cost. You might ask, “If you had a few thousand dollars of extra working capital in your hands today, what would you do with it?” Then zip it…just allow the question to hang in the air to give your prospect the time to consider it carefully before answering. He or she might say, “The first thing I’d do is replace our espresso machine that just died so we could once again sell coffee drinks at $4 a pop instead of the $2 we’re now charging for drip coffee!”
You might respond, “That certainly makes sense. What if we get creative about financing that lighting upgrade we’ve been discussing? What if we could secure a utility rebate for 50% of the project cost and six months of low-interest financing to cover the balance? I’ve already run the numbers and the project’s savings would fully amortize the 50% non-rebated portion in just six months. After that, all of your utility savings can go directly into a special account that you’ll eventually use to buy your new espresso machine cash. Think about it. Before long, you’ll have both the lighting retrofit and the new espresso machine paid off. Your shop will look better than ever, you’ll be back in the $4-a-drink coffee business, and you’ll continue to see lower utility bills for years to come.”
It’s always a good idea to think creatively when showing your prospects how spending money on your project is in their best interest. Doing so is exceptionally important when dealing with small businesses. Painting a picture of a shiny, new revenue-producing espresso machine lit by ambiance-enhancing new shop lighting is a lot more motivating than saying that if you do such-and-such energy-efficiency project, your electric bill will go down by “x” dollars a month.
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