Selling Energy Blog

Benefits of Forming Partnerships

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One of the best ways to grow an efficiency business is to partner with non-competitive vendors or service providers. There’s a trick to doing so, though. Most “salespeople” look for a non-competitive vendor who could send them leads.  Sales professionals, on the other hand, find non-competitive vendors for whom they can create new business. Why? Because it’s not enough to assure a potential vendor partner that you’re not going to reduce their current business volume if they were to send you leads. Why should they take the time to play ball with you? However, if you prove that you could be a fertile source of new leads for their business, you’ll capture their attention, and they’ll likely use whatever mechanisms you put in place to facilitate sharing of leads.

There are a multitude of benefits to forming partnerships. You can use them to provide your existing customers with new offerings (and in some situations, prevent them from searching for new vendors with more complete offerings). Provided the lead swapping becomes genuinely bilateral, you’ll also wind up with new prospects to approach with your own offerings… and you’ll be approaching those new opportunities from a position of strength because you’ve been referred by someone the prospect already trusts.

One word of caution when forming partnerships: protect your reputation. If people in either your company or your partner’s company fail to deliver what they promise, both of your reputations are at risk. Moreover, realize that if the partners who recommend you have a bad reputation to begin with, you will be tarred with the same brush. Be sure you can deliver what you promise and that they can deliver what they promise. Otherwise your prospects will think of you as being partnered with the village idiot (or worse), and your outbound marketing campaign will be compromised rather than enhanced.

Think about products and services that might benefit your customers that you don’t currently offer and research some reputable companies in your area that have a great reputation for specifying and delivering those offerings. And when you finally decide to propose a partnership, be sure to present a carefully considered and compelling case as to why joining forces would be a win-win for both of your organizations.

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | sales tips | Read more

Uncover Your Buyer’s Motive

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Knowing the buying motives of your prospects is both vital to successful selling and harder than it may seem. So how do you really uncover their motives? You may have a list of dozens of questions that you ask your prospects in an attempt to learn more about what they really want. Questions are great, and they have the potential to resolve at least some of the mystery. That said the best targets for your questions are your previous customers.

There's an interesting story I heard many, many years ago about a Japanese electronics manufacturer who was planning to bring boom boxes to this country. They were evaluating whether they should manufacture yellow ones or black ones; they didn't want to risk the capital to manufacture both colors without knowing which one would be a bigger hit with their target audience. As you might expect, a focus group was convened with a bunch of kids who represented the target demographic to buy these machines. After showing both models, talking about the options, and then circulating a survey to complete, it appeared that the kids unanimously preferred yellow… well, at least according to the surveys.

Fortunately, this was not this particular focus group facilitator’s first rodeo.  At the end of the focus group session – after the surveys had been collected – he offered the following closing: "Okay, great! Thanks for joining us today and sharing your feedback with us. We've written it all down. Anyway, we're flying back to Tokyo tonight, and we're obviously not going to take these extra boom boxes back with us. In fact, we’re not taking any of the food back either, so fill up your pockets with the extra sandwiches and drinks and give them to your friends… and while you’re at it, feel free to take whatever boom boxes you want. Whatever you don’t take, we're going to donate because it’s not worth the cost to ship this gear back to Japan.”

He then sat back and watched as every single person in the focus group picked up a black boom box and walked out of the room. Every single yellow one remained on the table.

What does this story prove? An old salt in sales once told me, “Buyers are liars, and sellers are storytellers.” And the funny thing is, many buyers don’t even know they're lying when they tell you what their motives are. Sometimes potential buyers think that they feel a certain way – or perhaps they think that they should have a certain preference – yet when it comes down to actually writing a check for what they said they'd buy from you, it’s a totally different story.

So, what to do? As mentioned above, ask previous customers – people who have actually written you a check – “Why did you do business with my company? What did you most admire about our product or service? Did we deliver all of the things that we promised during the sales process?" And then ask the golden question, "Are there any other benefits that you experienced in the wake of doing business with us that we did not mention when you were making the decision to do business with us?"

Questions like these get to the heart of why your past customers actually decided to buy from you. Moreover, they’ll inform the way in which you approach future sales opportunities with both your present customers and new prospects.

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | questioning | Read more

An Innovator’s Guide to Creativity

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Sometimes you can find great advice in the most unlikely places.  This week I’d like to highlight a book that doesn’t necessarily come from a business or energy efficiency standpoint, but a design standpoint.  Nevertheless, it has some excellent ideas you can apply to your career and home life. 

Marty Neumeier is a veteran of creative thinking and design, having worked for major companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Adobe.  He is currently the Director of Transformation for Liquid Agency and has written about his use of “design thinking” throughout his career, namely putting your customers first and challenging the status quo - not all that different from what we’re trying to do with sales, right? 

In The 46 Rules of Genius he offers a variety of different tactics that can be used for problem solving, beginning with his first rule: “Break the rules.”  Its layout is simple and expertly laid out, posing questions regarding the challenges of problem-solving, setting goals and making strides that matter. 

Here is the summary from Amazon: 

“There’s no such thing as an accidental genius. Anyone who’s reached that exalted state has arrived there by design. But simply wanting to get there is not enough. A would-be genius also needs a theoretical framework, a basic compass, a set of principles to guide the way forward. 

“Marty Neumeier, acclaimed author of The Brand Gap and Metaskills, has compressed the wisdom of the ages into the first “quick start guide” for genius—46 glittering gems that will light your path to creative brilliance. This is THE essential handbook for designers, entrepreneurs, marketers, educators, artists, scientists, innovators, and future leaders in every field.”

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | books | Read more

Weekly Recap, September 10, 2017

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  • Monday: Read Putting Stories to Workby Shawn Callahan, for a distillation of experiences with how storytelling can used to connect with prospects.
  • Tuesday: Check out a few stories, courtesy of some colleagues of mine, about the power of the connecting the dots between your product or service and your prospect's bottom line. 
  • Wednesday: If you are looking for an inspiration on why we do the work that we do, watch this TED Talk.   
  • Thursday: Explore the shortcomings of the simple payback period. 
  • Friday: Discover the do's and do not's for presenting to the C-Suite. 
  • Saturday: Check out this article in Success magazine online for "4 Tips to Set Yourself up for a Better Tomorrow Today."
 
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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | weekly recap | Read more

Tips for a Better Tomorrow

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Many people that struggle to stay focused and happy at work spend too much time planning for the future, completely missing the present moment in the process. While they still work hard and produce good work, they just destroy themselves by being stressed out and neglecting their mental and physical needs. 

If you find yourself living life like a zombie trying to complete all the tasks on your to-do list and belittling yourself when you fail to reach your impossible standards, you should check out this article in Success magazine. It has some great tips to motivate you to make the most of the present.

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | habits, productivity | Read more

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

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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:

  • 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 info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | communication, prospecting, value | Read more

Shortcomings of Simple Payback Period

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It will come as no surprise to anyone who has experienced one of my efficiency-focused professional selling or financial analysis workshops that I recommend migrating the conversation away from Simple Payback Period (SPP) when discussing the merits of a proposed expense-reducing capital project. 

Payback period tells you how long it will take to recoup your first cost, and there are actually several varieties of that calculation, some better than others.  The most simple payback calculation doesn’t take into account time value of money or the potential for irregular cash flows over time, opting instead for an overly simplistic calculation that divides the first year savings into the first cost. 

Some practitioners recognize the shortcomings of using only the first-year cash flow in the denominator, so they calculate “cumulative payback” – how many years’ cash flows would you need to capture before totally recouping your first cost. 

The least inadequate payback period calculation uses a similar approach, except this time it uses discounted cash flows that take into account the fact that dollars are worth less the farther away from today they are received.  It’s called “discounted payback.”  Even this least offensive variety of payback is seriously lacking though.  For example, it says nothing about how long the investment will actually continue producing savings beyond the payback period, nor does it take into account the actual value of those additional cash flows. 

Another big problem with any of the above varieties of payback period is that most practitioners don’t remember to quantify and monetize the non-utility-cost financial benefits, opting instead to limit the calculation to the utility-cost financial benefits.

I remember hearing a story about a metal manufacturing shop that made aluminum windows and doors. They were interested in improving the lighting of the shop and the retrofit they were considering had a simple payback period of 4.2 years. (If you’ve ever tried to convince someone to approve a project with a payback period of more than four years, you know that this is not an easy task). After the lighting retrofit was completed, some enterprising foreman realized that the shop’s aluminum scrap rate was trending about 25% lower than usual!  Apparently, the higher lighting quality allowed their employees to see what they were cutting, screwing and drilling!  Once the value of the avoided metal scrap was added to utility cost savings, the payback of the investment was no longer 4.2 years – it was now 39 days! In this case, the non-utility-cost financial benefits (in the form of reduced scrap) far outweighed the utility cost benefits.

This little story offers no less than four take-aways:

  1. This is just one of many examples that demonstrate the importance of discovering, quantifying, and monetizing the non-utility-cost benefits… and the importance of working those non-utility-cost financial savings into any capital budgeting proposal. 
  2. Don’t be surprised if the non-utility-cost financial benefits are many times larger than the more obvious utility-cost financial benefits (like lower utility bills, rebates and incentives).
  3. The salesperson who sold the original job never would have known about this unanticipated benefit of decreased scrap had he not followed up with the customer after the installation to ensure that the job had gone smoothly.
  4. Once you know that unanticipated benefits have been realized by your customer, you need to capture those data points so that they can be related to your next prospect in a similar industry.

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | financials | Read more

Why Do We Work?

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During our Efficiency Sales Professional Institute Boot Camp, I often ask attendees to consider their own reasons for doing the work that they do, that is, to know their “why.” When people evaluate their reasons for work, they are more likely to be intentional and driven about succeeding. In a TED talk by Barry Schwartz, he takes this idea of knowing your "why" a step further and poses the question of, “What kind of human nature do you want to help design?” 

If you are looking for a little inspiration, I highly recommend watching this quick TED talk: 

Here’s a summary from TED: 

“What makes work satisfying? Apart from a paycheck, there are intangible values that, Barry Schwartz suggests, our current way of thinking about work simply ignores. It's time to stop thinking of workers as cogs on a wheel.” 

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | success | Read more

Connecting the Dots

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In today’s blog, I have a few stories about the power of the connecting the dots, courtesy of some colleagues of mine.  

The first story shared with me is short and to the point.  It came from a student who was trying to sell an energy efficiency retrofit to a hotel chain.  He took to heart what we had talked about: equating the expected energy savings to the net margin of the hotel industry.  He basically took the energy savings divided by the net margin and converted it to the number of hotel rooms that that hotel would have to have available to rent.  As a result, he managed to sell the deal pretty quickly. 

The second is about a colleague who was going after a big piece of business involving a major lighting retrofit for over 300 locations.  In order to do this, he and his boss had to pitch to a Fortune 500 company, which was pretty intimidating. 

His boss said, "Well, you're not going to go in there with just one page, are you?" He said, "I absolutely am."  His boss was incredulous, but he trusted his top producer.  He said, "Okay. Let's do this, but let's have the 3-ring binder with all of the details in the trunk of the rental car as a standby." 

Sure enough, they were summoned to do their pitch.  It turns out that all of the other presenters had already gone, so this one-page-wonder was the last bidder to present.  He told me, "I admit that when I went into the room, several of the people around the table were looking quizzically at me.  Several of them held up the single sheet of paper and said, 'Is this all we get? It's more than a $100-million job.'" 

His answer was very simple.  It's an answer that I would recommend all of my students give in a similar situation.  He said, "If you don't agree with what's on this piece of paper, you don't agree with our philosophy, and it doesn’t matter what we’ve written in the 3-ring binders that are in the trunk of the rental car downstairs in your parking lot.  On the other hand, if you do agree with what's on this piece of paper, then what's in those binders will just be a formality." 

Long story short, after a nice meeting and a very productive conversation, they ended up prevailing. If that's not a testimony for how effective the one-page proposal can be, I don't know what is.  

The third story is from a gentleman who shared a recent experience leveraging the concept of cap-ex cost recovery to prevail.  He talked about meeting with a commercial real estate company interested in implementing a million-dollar chiller upgrade. When the property manager saw the figures, he threw his hands in the air and said, "There's no way we could do this.  The tenants pay the electric bills.  We would see no return.  Why are we even talking about this?" 

Fortunately, this colleague had graduated from one of our one-day financial analysis courses and knew a thing or two about how leases allocated energy expenses.  He said, "I understand what you’re saying.  Before we go much further though, may I please see a copy of your model lease?  The reason I ask is that a lot of the landlords that we work with have what's called ‘capital expense cost recovery’ provisions in their leases. If that is your situation, you could probably recover the cost of this entire retrofit from the tenants as you help them repurpose dollars they’re already paying you to cover unnecessarily high electric bills.  After all, they'd be happy to have a new HVAC system.  It would give them more comfort and reliability.  And once the system pays for itself through utility savings, their CAM (common area maintenance) charges would drop.  Assuming you had this provision in your model lease, you could essentially claw back the savings you’d be generating with the new HVAC system  by charging your tenants ‘additional rent’ until the cost is fully recovered.  Make sense?" 

They pulled out the lease, and much to management's surprise, they found that they had the clause in there.  It was tucked away in the definition of Operating Expenses.  The company wound up doing the retrofit because in light of this new development, it became apparent that doing so would be a “win-win” for all parties involved.

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | prospecting | Read more

Putting Your Stories to Work

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I have often spoken about how storytelling is essential to presentation.  As long as humans have been around there have been evolving forms of communication, but storytelling essentially remains the same.  Whether around the campfire or around a table in a boardroom, storytelling is a surefire way to demonstrate ideas and prompt people to look at things from a different point of view. 

Shawn Callahan established Anecdote in 2004, a consulting firm devoted to using effective storytelling in business.  Putting Stories to Work is a distillation of his experiences with how storytelling can be used to connect with prospects, but that’s just scraping the surface.  Callahan writes about becoming a storyteller on your own terms and by using your own experiences.  He also offers insight on how to fine-tune your storytelling for certain situations, such as when you shouldn’t be telling a story or have shared a story too many times. 

Overall, this is more than a how-to book because it isn’t concerned as much with the how as much as the why of storytelling.  It’s up to you to apply what you’ve learned and make it the most effective. 

Here is the summary on Amazon: 

“The most successful leaders are storytellers. By mastering business storytelling, they achieve extraordinary business results. As a modern-day leader, you know you should develop this skill, but you don’t have the time to do this in an ad-hoc way. What you need is a practical, reliable method to follow, one that will allow your business to reap the benefits of storytelling as soon as possible.

“In Putting Stories to Work, Shawn Callahan gives you a clear process for mastering business storytelling. He demolishes the thinking that storytelling has no place at work, reminding us that sharing stories is what we all do naturally, every day, and that it’s one of the most powerful tools for getting things done. You just need to adapt this natural superpower to boost your business.

“Shawn’s story mastery process of Discover, Remember, Share and Refresh is based on over two decades' work with high-achieving global companies. In Putting Stories to Work, each step is spelled out in detail, backed up by research, and, needless to say, illustrated by plenty of great stories. Learn how to find and share stories to connect with new people. How to explain why change is needed. How to influence opinions and promote success. And much more. Most importantly, learn how to take the latent skill of storytelling and turn it into a potent business habit.

“Imagine your colleagues telling the story of how you took the most diverse and opinionated group of experts and had them all working towards the same goal. Or the one about how you persuaded the executive team to change their minds and got a great result for the business. Or the one where everyone got inspired and turned things around. Imagine that your people all know exactly what the company strategy is and how they’re making a difference to the organization. As the successful film executive Peter Guber put it: ‘Storytelling is not show business. It’s good business.’”

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By info@SellingEnergy.com (Mark Jewell, President of Selling Energy | www.SellingEnergy.com) | | books | Read more