Making mistakes is an inevitable part of selling. Learning from your mistakes and the mistakes of others is what separates the exceptional from the good, the bad, and the ugly. We’ve laid out five common selling mistakes reps make when discussing energy consumption so you can reap the reward and bypass the “oops” moment that often precedes it.
1. Not Doing Your Homework
There are few things worse than trying to sell someone a solution they already have or educating them on a subject they don’t care about. Doing your homework on a prospect means understanding their current situation and how that informs their perspective and purchasing potential. Almost everything you need to know can be gathered simply by asking the right questions and following sales call best practices.
As you guide the conversation, aim to learn:
- What motivated them to reach out for you
- What challenge they’re looking to overcome or what goal they’re trying to achieve
- How knowledgeable they are about their problem and/or potential products/solutions
- If they’re “concept-committed” or still ambivalent about the solution you offer
- What product/solution they’re currently using, what their experience has been, and what pain points they’re most committed to addressing
- Their budget and financial situation (and, if applicable, their openness to pursuing financing options)
With regards to energy consumption, a prospect may care about how “green” a product is or they may only be concerned with the cost savings that a more energy-efficient solution can provide. Don’t assume that what’s valuable to you is also valuable to your prospect. Instead, ask pointed questions so you can better understand their motivations, goals, and financial situation and identify their position in the Buyer’s Journey. Moreover, the better you understand the prospect’s market segment, organization, professional role, and even their personal goals when it comes to their work, the more you’ll be in a position to reframe the benefits your offering provides. The goal, of course, is to make your offering more emotionally compelling for the prospect to pursue.
2. Ignoring the Buyer’s Journey
When it comes to discussing energy consumption, there’s a tendency to want to skip right to the punchline. Maybe your offering can provide greater energy efficiency at significant cost savings—and who wouldn’t want that? Though this fast-tracked approach might work with leads who are farther along in their decision process, opening with a hard sell—even after a successful discovery call—will alienate the vast majority of prospects in your orbit. And when you consider that the strongest motivation to pursue an energy-efficiency initiative may not even be the energy savings, it’s easy to see why a “skip-right-to-the-punchline” approach is foolhardy.
The way we buy has fundamentally changed and the undiscerning, product-centric sales approach of yesterday has lost its allure. Most modern consumers begin the buying process—also known as the Buyer’s Journey—online before ever reaching out to a sales rep. Marketers and sales reps use the Buyer’s Journey as a framework to build better customer relationships by aligning their approach, offers, and resources with the stage a prospect is currently in.
If you haven’t engaged with a prospect before, take the time to qualify where they are so you can offer a contextually relevant response. An existing customer that is considering a return purchase probably won’t be interested in rehashing the basics. For prospects who are just starting their journey, offer resources (blog posts, infographics, and so on) that will help them better understand and contextualize their problems without monopolizing your time. Resist the temptation to shift the conversation to your product until they’ve arrived at the decision stage. And, as always, don’t forget to follow up.
3. Being Too Attached to Your Sales Script
You’ve practiced your sales spiel so many times that it slips out in non-work conversations. You know every detail of your product, have memorized every statistic about energy consumption, have compelling content at the ready and a killer pitch that ties everything together. How could anyone refuse?
Here’s how: Today’s consumers don’t want to be pitched. Or rather, they don’t want to feel like they’re being pitched. It can be easy to switch into autopilot when you’re discussing a subject that you know well and have talked about time and again, but your adaptability, trustworthiness, and tone all suffer when you stop focusing on the here and now and get sucked into the vortex of your own voice.
The best salespeople see their pitches as rough outlines and aren’t afraid to change course when they’re met with resistance. Contrary to what you may think, good listening skills are just as important to sales as speaking skills. If you’re having a discussion over the phone, jot down the words or phrases that a prospect uses to describe their challenge so that you can focus the conversation around these points and communicate in a way that resonates with them. Ask questions of your prospect to help determine what their motivations are, what aspects of your pitch are relevant, and what should be scrapped.
4. Ignoring Sales Compliance Criteria
Some energy solutions require additional permission and documentation beyond a signed sales contract. If you don’t have all the documentation or support you need to move forward with a contract, you risk prolonging the sales process or losing the deal altogether.
Spraying insulation or installing energy-efficient windows may not necessitate calling a town meeting, but solar energy sales could involve negotiating Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans, obtaining local solar permits, or signing a variety of legal documents, such as a solar power purchase agreement (PPA). Naturally, this process involves the cooperation and consent of parties beyond the seller and the property owner. Because compliance criteria can vary by state, property type, and customer, it’s important to identify what’s necessary on a deal-by-deal basis.
Knowing what you need to collect at the point of sale will also help you be more proactive in your planning. If you know your product requires certain resources, legal documentation, or permission, start gathering those items early on to confirm that the sale you’re building toward is actually feasible. Doing so will enable you to establish realistic timelines and expectations with your prospect throughout the sales process.
5. Using Too Much Industry Jargon
Every industry has its own culture and lexicon. Although this diction helps industry professionals communicate internally, consumers have an aversion to lengthy, jargon-heavy descriptions. Instead of relying on popular industry terms and phrases to emphasize your point, come prepared with specific examples that illustrate what you mean.
Alas, some industry terms are important to the conversation. For example, it’s hard to talk about energy consumption without mentioning the price per kilowatt-hour, but if your prospect doesn’t understand what a kilowatt-hour is, it will be hard for them to follow your logic and remain engaged. Take the time to define key terms early in the conversation so that simple misunderstandings don’t distract your audience from your message. Along with avoiding over-complicated language, beware of focusing too much on the equipment and technical aspects of your product that your prospect won’t find meaningful.
The Bottom Line
Even the most well-planned discussion can have hiccups. If you remember nothing else in those pivotal moments, remember to be yourself and treat your prospect with courtesy. If you make a mistake or draw a blank, an honest apology will usually suffice to clear the air and keep things moving forward. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so; there’s no fault in admitting that you’d like to do a little more research rather than steer someone wrong. If a prospect gets defensive or takes a tone, take a breath and try to understand where they’re coming from.
At the end of the day, we’re all human. The way we react to our mistakes is often more telling than the blunder itself.