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Why might your prospect be willing to say yes to taking on a proposed energy-efficiency project? Is it about saving energy, saving money, saving carbon or something else?

No doubt there are dozens of reasons a prospect might be motivated to say yes to pursuing your energy-saving project. I encountered one of the more surprising ones the other day when a workshop participant told me that her municipal client agreed to do a project to provide one of the managers with something to work on and prevent him from being laid off. It wasn’t about saving the energy itself, the economic value or the carbon content. It was all about saving a valued team member from the ravages of unemployment.

Seth Godin is a world-renowned author of more than a dozen books on marketing, consumer behavior and similar topics. He once wrote a blog called A Hierarchy of Businessto- Business Needs that gives excellent insight into what motivates a prospect to say yes.

Godin wrote that if you’re selling a product or service to a non-business owner in a business-to-business setting, the primary needs rank as follows:

  • Avoiding risk
  • Avoiding hassle
  • Gaining praise
  • Gaining power
  • Having fun
  • Making a profit

How does the typical energy-efficiency proposal fare when juxtaposed to that hierarchy? Well, let’s think about it. How much risk does a manager take on by saying yes to a 50-plus page proposal written in another industry’s technical jargon?

How much hassle is involved in understanding all of the competing technologies and approaches, interviewing and then selecting suppliers, negotiating contracts, applying for and securing the necessary capital, filling out incentive applications, cooperating with pre- and post- installation walk-throughs, measuring actual savings against projections, etc.—all for the purpose of replacing equipment that is not technically broken?

And skipping down to the bottom of Godin’s hierarchy, how might the resulting energy efficiency map into the last item: making a profit? How similar is “saving energy” to “making a profit?” And how much is the estimated savings? Would it even “move the needle” when compared with the rest of the organization’s overhead? Who would actually receive the savings? And would that be the same person who had to endure all of the above-referenced risk and hassle?

I recently read that more than 70 percent of American workers are “disengaged.” Another recently published study warned that, on any given day, half the workforce is looking for another job, either casually or formally. Can you imagine taking on additional risk or hassle when, even if the project succeeds, the reward would be making the employer you are about leave more money?

I mentioned all of this in a recent Efficiency Sales ProfessionalTM Boot Camp, and someone wryly pointed out that the middle-ranked motivators—gaining praise, gaining power—still applied to those seeking other employment. Why? A successful energy project is a great resume builder! Reducing your present employer’s energy bills or capturing an ENERGY STAR® label for the facility you currently manage could be a feather in your cap while interviewing for a new role.

One thing is for sure, whether your prospect is looking for another job or not: Someone who has the insight to connect the dots between enhanced energy efficiency and more traditional metrics of performance (think better productivity in office environments, lower scrap rate in industrial settings, better learning outcomes in schools, etc.) stands to receive praise and maybe even more power and influence within their organization by aggressively pursuing an efficiency agenda.