People Buy What They Want, Not What You Want Them to Buy

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I’m an energy geek. (Isn’t admitting it the first step?) If you’re reading this, there is a good chance that you are, too.

Energy-efficiency fascinates me for a lot of reasons. I love the technical details and the underlying physics. I won’t get into them now—but it does give me something to talk about at parties. And what a thrill that is for everyone else.

That last sentence was sarcasm. And in it rests an important element of truth. Chances are that most of you customers don’t care nearly as much about energy-efficiency or energy-savings (or even ventilation rates) as you do. And they likely never will.

Yet those in the energy-efficiency world, whether industry denizen, policy wonks, or tree-huggers (I actually fit in all those categories) by and large forget that homeowners buy things for their own reasons, not our reasons.

The crux, then, is to find out what their reasons are. If we can address homeowners needs and wants, and solve their problems, we’ve got a good shot at saving energy, too. If the daughter’s bedroom is too cold all winter, and that is frustrating the homeowner, I might be able to fix that and save energy. Fixing the daughter’s cold bedroom, though, is likely to be the bigger selling point. Much bigger.

Saving energy may make you feel good. (I like it, too.) But if you want to sell improvements, you’ve got to find out what makes your customers feel good. And accept that reality that saving energy might not be anywhere near the top of that list.


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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+


  1. Mike Rogers  July 16, 2013

    John adds “Mike, I feel that one should be careful with the phrase, ‘Selling them what they want,’ for it might be misunderstood by many. Often times a customer ‘wants’ a dehumidifier, more insulation, and a UV light, when in fact what they really need is a right-size air conditioner, air sealing, and then maybe more insulation.”

    That’s a fair point, John. Let me be clear about one point: Do no harm.

    You hit it with “wants” in quotation marks. They may call for a dehumidifier or more insulation or windows or some other widget, but usually they really want something else. Like comfort. Like a daughter’s bedroom that isn’t too cold all winter. LIke not having to clean mold off the bathroom wall every week. You’ll have to ask questions and listen to the answers to find out want they really want. If at the end of the day, all they really want is new windows, then if you not doing harm to the house or the occupants, give them new windows. Use the right windows. Install them properly. And maybe add something else in or win a customer that you can help more later.

    So yes, be careful. But use that some of that care understanding–and helping them understand–what they want. At the end of the day, if they don’t want to buy, they won’t.

  2. Steph  July 15, 2013

    The truth in marketing. Pitch what they want to buy, not what you want to sell. Thanks for putting the rule out there so simply and so understandably.

    There are no key selling points. Only key buying points.

  3. Adam Gloss  July 15, 2013

    You hit the nail in the head Mike! Give the people what they want, and if you do your job right they will get what they need too. we have not found that people buy from us to save energy (with some exceptions). But they will buy comfort, or better indoor air quality/health, etc. the good news is that our solutions can give them both.


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