One of the things we've undertaken this year is teaching how to sell through a recession and how to deal with pandemic-related social distancing. One of the main objections sales professionals are hearing now more than ever from prospects is, “We don’t have the money.”
This objection can come in a variety of forms. Here are just a few:
- “Our CFO has put a kibosh on central spending.”
- “Our budgets are frozen.”
- “We’re keeping our gunpowder dry because we’re not sure how long this recession is going to last.”
- “We can’t spend because we’re already spread really thin. We don’t want to have make any further layoffs.”
You can understand the emotion behind those sentiments. At the same time, you can take what they’re saying and give it new meaning. Let’s say you hear the following objection: “Our CFO isn’t allowing non-essential spending.” Now, we know what “CFO” means. We know what “spending” means. However, do we know what “non-essential” means? The trick to getting projects sold in times like these is to reframe them as essential spending.
How do you do that?
Your offerings may solve a critical problem. For example, if your prospect has terribly inadequate lighting in a manufacturing facility, they may have a big problem: a distinct safety hazard. It might even be an OSHA violation. If there's an accident, lawyers could come in and measure how bad the lighting is by using the same foot candle meter that a lighting consultant would use. If they prove that the reason the accident happened was that there wasn't enough light, then your prospect is definitely on the hook. Your insurance company may pay for it, but the premiums might go through the roof, assuming the insurance company doesn’t cancel the policy. Moreover, there may be damage due to the accident, as well as medical bills or even loss of life. Sadly, these things happen. I remember hearing a story about a factory worker who was run over by a forklift because the driver didn’t see them in the shadows.
So, you have to ask yourself, what problems might your offerings help solve? If they are safety-related, you might be in the budget after all. Businesses typically have much bigger budgets for safety than for sustainability. As you can see, even if the CFO proclaimed “no non-essential spending,” as long as your lighting retrofit is reclassified as being essential when viewed through the lens of improving safety and reducing the company’s risk exposure, you’ll likely get the project approved!
Another example of essential spending is when it’s not spending at all. Let’s say someone has an efficiency project lined up, but they’re having trouble financing it. You could line them up with “OPM” (Other People’s Money). This includes loans with low interest rates, grants and rebates, any one of which could tip the balance and create a positive-cash-flow project with no cash out-of-pocket. In this case they would get all of the benefits – energy savings and improvements in health and safety as well – without ever touching the corporate treasury.
Lastly, you can’t underestimate how energy efficiency improvements can increase morale, both in landlord/tenant situations as well as work environments. Improvements in lighting quality, thermal comfort, and indoor air quality can increase productivity and provide a renewed sense of safety and feeling valued. Provided you offer some proof, non-utility-cost financial and non-financial benefits can go a long way toward securing project approval and funding.