Selling Energy Blog

Posts in the communication category

Selling to a Reluctant Buyer


Many buyers have a tendency to talk themselves out of the sale. Your job as a sales professional is to make sure they don’t find a reason not to buy. Say you have a prospect that is interested in purchasing window films. Chances are they've never touched a window film in their life except maybe unconsciously putting their nose against the glass of a store window to look at the merchandise. They have no idea what a window film looks like, tastes like, smells like, or feels like. They have no idea what it costs. They have no idea that there is tremendous variety of window film available. 

So, your prospect comes to you and says, “I need window films.” The average salesperson could come in and say, “Ok. I have these seventeen grades of window films. Which one do you want?” What does that do? It paralyzes the decision maker. Your prospect is thinking “Seventeen? That means there are sixteen chances I could make the wrong decision. Holy cow, how am I going to pick the right one? I had better call in a window film consultant, but I don’t have the money for that, so I guess I'll have to wait until I have a little extra money to afford a window film consultant.” In the meantime, you're not getting the sale because they aren’t ready to make a decision where their odds of choosing the right product are one in seventeen. 

What if the salesperson had instead said, “What’s your main goal? Are you trying to have privacy so you want something tinted or mirrored? Are you worried about your merchandise in your store fading? Are you worried about heat gain because the air conditioning bill is too high?” Once you have this information, you can offer one type of window film that fits their needs. Now you’ve made the decision for them and you will have not created a reason not to buy.

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

Be the Problem Solver


As an efficiency sales professional, you have an immense amount of knowledge about your offerings. You know what the benefits are, and you know how they can bring value to your customers. You know the costs, the savings, the project timeline, and so forth. It can be very tempting to jump right in and tell your prospects about the benefits of your project, how much money you could save them, and how long it will take them to recoup the cost of the project through energy savings. Don’t succumb to that temptation. Before you present any information to them – regardless of how compelling it is – find out about their goals, objectives, needs, biases, and scar tissue.

Suppose you are selling an LED lighting retrofit. You might be tempted to approach your prospect and say, “We can save you a lot of money on your utility bill. This LED retrofit will pay for itself in just 2.1 years, and after that, you’ll save up to 40% on every utility bill.” Sounds compelling, right? Well it turns out that this particular prospect doesn’t care about utility bill savings at all.

Had you first asked a question like, “What do you most dislike about your current lighting system?” you would have learned that your prospect was interested in LED lighting because he was tired of having to change his current lamps all the time. You would have learned that he was concerned about overworking the air conditioning system because the current lighting system was making the room hot. You would have learned that his current lighting system did not align well with his goal of running an environmentally conscious business.

After collecting this valuable information, your pitch would not be focused on utility cost savings. In fact, you wouldn’t even discuss cost at all. Instead, you would explain how your project could solve each one of the issues that your prospect mentioned. 

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

Do’s and Do Not’s for Presenting to the C-Suite


Whenever you prepare for a presentation, you have to keep in mind who your audience will be and what it is that they care about. Today, we’ll cover some “Do’s” and “Do Not’s” for presenting to the C-Suite (high-level executives like CEOs, CFOs and the like).


  • Do: Get to the point at the start of the presentation. Many people think that they need to give an introduction about themselves, the company and its history, and the type of work they do. I don't know a CEO in the world who wants to sit in a room and listen to a PowerPoint presentation that starts off with a dozen slides with a storyline that is some variation of "We've been in business almost 100 years. Here's a slide with the logos of all the customers we do business with. This is where we have our distribution warehouses. This is a picture of my grandfather back in the early 1900s when he dragged his first energy management system through Brooklyn on a pickle cart…” You get the idea.
  • Do: Focus on risk mitigation. Many people are less interested in making money and more interested in not losing money. If you're a newcomer to the table and they haven't had experience with you or your organization, one of the first things they're going to say to themselves is, "Can I trust this person? Does this person have a good enough handle on my industry and these technologies to be recommending this project and to be capable of creating value for me?"
  • Do: Come up with a value proposition that puts the customer’s story first. In many cases, your prospect doesn’t even know that they need your product or service, so it’s your job to tell them what the problem is, show them that there is a solution, and demonstrate how your solution will create value specifically for their organization.

 Do Not:

  • Do not: Focus on your product. It sounds like heresy, right? Not to be overly provocative, but you should really stay away from the product discussion. Talk about what they get from the proposed project. Don't talk about the bits, bytes, and blinking lights. That's not what makes sales happen.
  • Do not: Dive too deeply into the “how.” When you’re trying to convince a prospect that you’re capable and qualified, it’s easy to fall into the trap of talking about the execution of the project: “This is what we will do, and how we do it. Aren’t we great?!” Instead, focus on why you do what you do and why your prospect does what he or she does, and how those two “why’s” intersect to create value.
  • Do not: Focus on price. C-level execs tend to focus less on price and more on whether what you are suggesting they invest in will create value for their organization or make it easier to manage. If you could convince a CEO that your proposal would make his or her enterprise easier to manage or more valuable, price becomes relative.

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

Are You Sending the Wrong Message?


At our trainings, we teach all of our students about the importance of writing well and proofreading carefully. Sloppy emails and mistake-ridden proposals not only reflect badly on you and your business, but also reduce your closing ratio. 

I’d like to share an article I found on the blog that provides some excellent questions to ask yourself before you send an email. It’s a quick read, and definitely worth the time.  

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

Fisherman Analogy


You don’t often make a sale on the first call to a prospect.  It generally takes seven to ten touches to make a sale. 

Think of a fisherman throwing a bunch of hooks in the water with short-lived bait, and then not pulling the hooks out of the water, putting fresh bait on and trying again.  It takes multiple touches to get fish in the boat. 

The seven to ten touches it takes to make a sale are crucial components of the nurturing process.  They give you the opportunity to educate your prospect as they move towards a buying decision.

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

Comfortable with Metrics


It is really important to understand whether certain metrics are going to work for you or not, and if a metric isn’t working for you, you’ve got to ask yourself why. 

Let’s say you don't feel comfortable with NPV.  If you feel as if a CFO is going to say, "Wait a second, why did you use that discount rate?"  You may feel a little bit shaky about it.  A discount rate is something you need to be comfortable with. 

Years ago, I asked a Catholic priest, “Could you raise a child to be a Catholic if you aren’t a Catholic yourself?” 

The priest’s answer was, "Son, you cannot give a gift that you do not own." 

I think the same thing is true when it comes to financial analysis.  You need to feel thoroughly comfortable with your worksheets.  That’s one of the reasons we give people live Excel versions of our model financial analysis sheets, so they can play with them on their own instead of creating them from scratch. 

You can build a tremendous amount of intuition about how these numbers work if you take the time to understand them.  I think that solves a lot of problems.  Enter the cash inflows and outflows in the right places, then change the discount rate.  Change the inflation rate.  Change the reinvestment rate.  Change the finance rate.  You'll see what makes the numbers go up and down.  And hopefully, with time and experimentation, you’ll own that material.

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

Non-Mutually Exclusive Projects


There are two kinds of projects out there: non-mutually exclusive projects and mutually exclusive projects. 

Mutually exclusive projects are the ones where equipment fails and you need to replace it.  Let’s say you’re evaluating three different replacements that have a good, better and best selection to choose from.  You have nine choices in all.  But ultimately, you have to take one out and put a new one in, and that means you need to choose the equipment with the best life-cycle cost, which is not necessarily the choice with the lowest first cost. 

Non-mutually exclusive projects are even trickier.  Let’s say you go into a building and say, “We could replace the HVAC, controls, or lighting, or perhaps add window films, solar panels and so on.” You don't necessarily have to do the solar if you do the lighting and vice versa.  This makes proposing improvements to a prospect an entirely different ballgame. 

When you do non-mutually exclusive projects there are four rules:  

1)      You want to consider lowest life-cycle cost alternatives.  For example, if you are thinking of replacing the boiler, that's one of the things you could purchase with your available capital for invest in energy efficiency.  You want to make sure that it's the lowest life-cycle cost boiler, because otherwise you’ll wind up buying the wrong one.

2)      You want to eliminate alternatives with negative net present value.  Net present value is basically how many dollars you have left over after earning your discount rate on the dollar you invest.  Most people don’t want to invest in things where they have less money at the end of the project than they did when they started when all cash flows are discounted back to their present value.

3)      Keep in mind that there are certain exceptions to #2.  For example, let's say a school system has a boiler blow up.  They have to replace it, but it’s going to have a negative net present value because it's a capital replacement.  It's not being done to save energy, but to replace a capital aspect of the building. 

4)      You have to calculate each potential project’s modified internal rate of return (MIRR) or savings investment ratio (SIR).  Modified internal rate of return is the MIRR function within Excel.  Savings-to-investment ratio is a formula in which the present value of everything you receive over the course of the analysis term is divided by the present value of everything you invest in that same period.  It will give you a finance jock’s version of “bang for your buck.” 

Once you’ve figured things out, fund the investments in descending order of MIRR or SIR.  This makes sense because if you have 10 things you could invest in, you'd probably want to do the project that would give you $4 back for every dollar you invest before you do one that would give you $1.50 back for every dollar you invest. 

Lastly, you may have to choose what is highest priority because the investor doesn't have enough money to do everything. However, if you follow these guidelines you’ll be in an excellent position to justify your recommendations.

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

Take It out of the Realm


One of the smartest things you can do to sell efficiency is to never mention energy at all.  Put the sale into the realm of something else people are going to care about. 

For example, a controls contractor participated in our environmental optimization-training a year ago.  Afterwards he was quoted in Buildings magazine saying, "If you take a look at tenant surveys, there's a tremendous amount of productivity tied up in thermal comfort, air quality and personal sense of control." 

In short, the whole article in Buildings was not about saving energy at all.  It was about increasing productivity and comfort while decreasing complaints.  Bring that same attitude to the table while meeting clients.  Talking about anything else may put them to sleep!  

Another tip is to not talk about the utility bill or the equipment you’re selling.  You should talk about what they care about.  For example, if you’re talking to a landlord, you need to realize that one of their top priorities is to stop their phones from ringing with “too hot” / “too cold” complaints. 

In a nutshell: don't talk about energy, don't talk about your equipment, and don't talk about utility bills.  You may think those are the top three things to talk about.  They aren’t. Talk about something your prospect cares about instead.

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

When’s the Best Time to Ask for a Referral?


Have you asked for a referral lately?  There are at least six times when you should ask for a referral. 

1)      When a customer voluntarily suggests that your product is incredible. 

2)      When a customer sends an unsolicited testimonial. 

3)      When a customer refers someone to you. 

One time someone called me with a referral.  After thanking them for the referral they offered, I said, “You know what?  You must have 10 people that fit that profile.  I bet they'd all be interested in using our service.” 

The guy told me, “Oh yeah, I have another half-dozen people.  I thought about giving you all of them at the same time, but I know you’re a small company.  I figured I’d give you one at a time.” 

My answer was, “Oh, no, no, no.  Give all of them to me now.  I’ve got a staff.”  The guy gave me several more names.  Now if I hadn’t asked for additional referrals out of shyness, embarrassment or politeness, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to sell to those additional people! 

4)      When a customer admits, you've saved their rear end.  That's called psychic debt.  They owe you a name. 

5)      When a strategic partner tells you about an association they've joined.  

6)      When you've completed a project with a customer. 

Ask for a name right away. Now some people may say, “Wait a second.  I completed the project, but isn’t it a little grabby to ask the person for a referral so fast? What if they don't yet believe in you 100% and they're waiting to see results that validate their gut feeling that you’re the real deal?” 

First of all, don't overthink it.  Secondly, assume a person comes to me and says, “Great.  We did this deal.  Who else do you think in your circle of friends would enjoy having access to the same benefits?”  At worst, I'm going to say, “Listen, you've been really good in the sales process and I have every reason to believe that what we bought from you is going to perform as promised.  But you know what?  I feel a little uncomfortable giving you referrals until I can see at least 60 or 90 days of actual operation... Are you okay with that?” 

Now what does that mean?  He's giving you the license to call him for referrals within three months. 

If you get the permission to call someone within 90 days and you don't call him, you're an idiot.  You should put them in your Outlook calendar as a must-do call exactly 90 days from that day, because now you've got that one in the bag and the guy is going to remember the conversation.

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

Lowering Your Price


There are certain people who will not do business with you unless you lower your price.  They’ll feel like they’re winning or made a deal. 

When someone asks me to lower my price I say, "Pardon me for asking an obvious question, but why do you ask?" They may say, "We can't afford it," or, "We think it's high."  Until they tell you what’s going on you’re going to be left in the dark.  Do they really think your price too high?  Did they get a bid from somebody else and they thought yours was a lot higher?  

They might say, "Well, we did this in another facility and it was a lot cheaper per square foot," or, "Do you negotiate?  Because we'd like to do business with you, but our guys are going for a cheaper price.  We've got to see how far you can come down in return for giving you our business.” 

You don't want to be flip or arrogant when you respond.  For example, you could say, "Well, let me be frank.  We sharpen our pencil whenever we give a bid.  We don't go in thinking we’ll give you a price and then we're going to haggle down to the real price we wanted, because that would be disrespectful to you.”  I think that’s an honest, open way to respond rather than saying, "No, we don't negotiate." 

There are other ways you can address their objections as well.  You could say, “This is the best price we can do for the scope of services we’re offering.   Now if you want less scope, we could certainly reduce the price.  If you want to add scope, we could reduce the price as well to the extent that it afforded us an additional economy of scale.  We can accept a lower margin if we do a larger job.  Are you suggesting that you have other projects that you'd like to expand the scope to?” 

In many cases, you’re finding a gentle way to answer the question “Could you lower your price?” with “Do you want less service?”  If you couple this with the specific value you’re bringing to their situation, this would definitely give them pause.

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