Efficiency Programs Shouldn’t Ignore the Demand Side of the Equation

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Just because you can deliver something, doesn’t mean anyone wants to buy it. It’s called supply and demand. You could teach me to sing, but I probably wouldn’t sell a single record.  People choose what they want, and few will want to hear me sing! (Trust me on that.)

In the home efficiency world, over the past decades, we have focused on a lot on the supply side. We’ve trained tens of thousands of technicians how to do energy audits, how to air-seal around the flue, how to verify refrigerant charge. And I’d say we’ve done a decent job of that.

But most of those people aren’t delivering top quality work day in and day out because that’s not what they–or the companies they work for–are selling. Yes, there are obvious and inspiring exceptions. Generally speaking though, we’ve generally done a poor job working the demand side of efficiency. The market chooses what it wants, and en masse, we don’t help them figure that part out. 

Program folks, by and large, you haven’t yet been part of the demand solution. And that’s not just leads, leads, and leads. Lead generation is important. But sales matters, too! Without sales, nothing happens. (Even “free” programs require sales as you ask people to give up time and attention, and accept disruption.)

A recent Better Buildings Neighborhood Program evaluation pointed out part of the answer:

  • “Programs that improved the capabilities of contractors through sales and business training were less likely to be in the least successful cluster.”
  • Progams in “the contractor training spotlight study commonly shared six attributes: (1) Training content addressing program, technical, and business needs – especially sales training; (2) expert and trusted trainers; (3) flexible access to training (classroom, web-based, on-site); (4) varied timing and duration of training; (5) robust financial support for attending training;…”

Contractors reporting success selling efficiency routinely point to the fact that most of the customers are actually more motivated by and making buying decisions for other things, making rooms more comfortable, fixing stinky crawlspaces, and stopping ice damming, for example, than they are driven by efficiency.

On the flip side, many contractors, including those in programs, report close rates that are way too low for a viable, let alone vibrant, business.

Better sales skills can help sell more projects. And bigger projects. Technical skills alone just aren’t enough.

Program folks, if you want better success, you can’t ignore the demand side of this. Providing help with sales skills is one way to do that.

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About the Author:

Mike Rogers is the President of OmStout Consulting. A nationally recognized expert in residential energy-efficiency, he works with contractors and programs to scale sustainable market approaches to improving homes. More on Google+

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