Do Free Lighting Audits Make Sense?


I am not a big fan of the free lighting audit.  My feeling is if free lighting audits worked, we wouldn't be in this mess. 

do free lighting audits make sense

People often come to the erroneous conclusion that if they just stay busy, somehow the universe will make them a living. They'll say, "Well, if I audit ten buildings, then one of them will result in a project." Maybe, but all too often that’s a misnomer.

When it comes to audits, the first question I ask a prospect is, “Have you ever done an audit here before?" If they say yes, I then ask, "When was the most recent one done?" You might find out that they have done one a few months ago or several each year.  They may have a full shelf of them already because hey, they’re free, right?

At this point it’s time to ask a powerful question: "Why do you still have inefficient lighting in the ceiling?" Make sure that there is no intonation at the end of the question when you ask, making it more of an observation than a question.  Their answer is paramount and will most likely explain why these free audits didn’t incite action.

That’s your next question: "What happened with the other audits?"  Maybe they weren’t done very well.  Maybe they didn’t like the manufacturer recommended by the auditor.  Maybe the recommendations from the several free audits they received were so dissimilar that they lost confidence in any of the recommendations. Maybe they couldn’t get approval from their capital budgeting folks.  If it has to do with the budget, I would ask, “What would capital budgeting say about this project now?”

What they may have to confess is that there was something lacking from the sales transaction to get it approved.  Remember, a customer has to have the need, desire, authority, and ability to do a project.  The person you’re speaking to may only have one or two of those elements in place.  That’s why you have to be careful about giving your work away for free!

Another thing to keep in mind: what’s to stop your prospect from taking your free audit and using it with another contractor?  Most people would rather do business with a contractor they already know or have worked with in the past.  You need to be careful about that.  Your hard work might just be an open door for your competition to walk through.

One option is providing a prospect with an audit, but keeping the backup documentation.  You can say, "Look, this is our intellectual property.  We have invested our time and effort with the expectation that you're going to do business with us.  However, if you're not going to do business with us, we’ll need to limit our findings to the basics."

As far as ensuring the sale, it’s important to differentiate yourself from your competitors.  Most people will go in and just count the fixtures.  They just use a clipboard, a digital camera and little else.  What else do you have to offer?  Is it the quality of your product?  Your design expertise in laying out an optimized reflected ceiling plan? Your prompt turnaround time? Keep those competitive advantages in mind as well.

Finally, if you’re determined to give a free audit, you might take a high-level approach. Ask the prospect to show you their four or five dominant light fixtures. Then, specific how you would upgrade each, and what the “savings-to-investment ratio” or SIR would be for each unit of each fixture type. If the CFO doesn’t agree that the SIR is sufficiently compelling to upgrade one of each fixture type, what makes you think they would approve upgrading 500 of each? And aren’t you glad you didn’t invest the time to locate and count 500 fixtures throughout the facility if the CFO doesn’t see the merits of upgrading one?

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Posted by Mark Jewell

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