You want the sale. We all want the sale! Maybe you’re very hungry to post some numbers or push to hit the plan. That’s OK. But don’t let that get in the way of good approaches. It’s easier to stick with a good process when you’ve got ample leads, a solid pipeline, and you’re been hitting the numbers. So, try to stay ahead and…use effective lead generation, maintain your pipeline, and stay on top of your plan and what you need to deliver it! (All subjects discussed frequently on OmStout’s Energy Matters blog.)
When all isn’t going as well as you hoped, though, there is a tendency to fall back on approaches that seem like they’d drive you forward faster, but that actually work against you. Try to avoid the following.
- Ready, fire, aim! Jumping into a pitch or presentation without fully understanding the problem is dead wrong. You’ll sell less—and you won’t make customers as happy. The oft-repeated mantra in home performance is “prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.” One of the beauties of home performance is the emphasis on diagnosis. Using the blower door and infrared camera, doing CAZ testing, and using your understanding of how a home is performing to figure out what’s going on before presenting “solutions” (because they’re not really solutions if you don’t know the problem). Remember, though, it’s not just physics. You also have to understand the home’s performance in the context of what the customer wants. They may be more interested in fixing the daughter’s bedroom that is too cold, the home office that is unusable in July and August, and getting rid of the stinky odors from the crawlspace than they are in shooting for 80% energy savings with a deep energy retrofit, or even than they in energy savings at all. You’ve got to find that out, too.
- Talking more than the customer—Yep, you’re smart. You can measure cfm50. You can figure out the source of the ice dam problem (or the damn ice problem). You can give a lecture. But trying to show your expertise this way is annoying. It also doesn’t help them customer understand. Yes, it’s a whole lot simpler to just start preaching the science, explaining the logic, and moving on. Logic and financing make sense, right? As mentioned frequently on this blog, however, logic is not how people decide. It’s also not how you learn what’s important to the customer, that is, what they want and what they’re willing to pay for. It’s not how most people learn, either. If you’re giving a building science lecture to a homeowner, and his or her eyes are glazed over, you’re wasting your breath and everyone’s time. You’ve got to ask questions and engage in a dialog.
- Asking to manipulate rather than asking to learn and to educate. Questions are a great way to help you figure out what the homeowner values. And good questions can help the homeowner understand not just how solutions match problems but also help them understand what they value. (See this example!) Questions should be one of your greatest tools. That said, good questions don’t come automatically to most. You’ve got to practice to get good at asking questions. And leading questions, closed-ended questions designed to trick people into saying “yes” five times, and statements disguised as questions are all tools that homeowners can usually see through, and that turns most people off. Don’t try that stuff on me!
- Closing to sell. The pressure is on. You NEED the sale or the crew doesn’t have work next week. Don’t blow it. This is exactly the time to remember that building the right solutions, and as hinted at above, that’s not just the technical solution, it’s also the solution that the customer wants and values, it the way to help you today and tomorrow. Rushing the process of getting a signed contract won’t build satisfaction. It separates you from the customer. That’s bad because the sale today is less important that the customer for life who can keep coming back to you over and over and over. The sale today isn’t likely to be the $80,000 deep energy retrofit. But the components of the DER live on as opportunities that you can revisit over time, IF you deliver the right solution the first time and IF you maintain the relationship over time. It’s a lot easier to succeed with the long-game time than with the short game.
It’s easy to fall back on the approaches that don’t work. It’s even easier when you’re stressed and panicked and need that sale today. Good practices don’t come easy. They come with…practice! But practicing good approaches, and practicing them some more, helps you stick with what works even with things get hard.