The economic effects of COVID are widespread and ongoing, so it might seem intimidating to move forward in an uncertain world. But having weathered several recessions during my 40-year career, I can assure you that life goes on.
If you look at the big picture, it’s obvious that the effects are large. The COVID-19 pandemic created supply chain problems. It depressed a business’s ability to serve customers. It made people reluctant to leave their home and spend money. It also caused a lot of people to reflexively put the brakes on energy projects. And the phrase, “We have frozen all non-essential spending for now” was echoed by CFOs across the land.
This kind of objection maps into our course, Learn The Secrets of Selling in a Recession: Put the Wind Back in Your Sales, which was created to deal with the economic downturn last year. One of the things we talk about is diagramming that sentence and breaking it down. It isn’t necessarily the end of the conversation, but an opening.
First of all, what is “spending”? If there is a program where a utility does a direct install of an energy efficiency maneuver at no cost to the customer, is that spending? The answer is no. If you can line up financing because there is money on the table, I would say that isn’t spending. You aren’t taking money out of the corporate treasury. To say the least, this is an investment you don’t have to “spend money” to pay for!
Secondly, what about the word “essential”? Let’s say a prospect isn’t sure about funding the improvement, but once you add the non-utility cost financial benefits into the equation (e.g., reduced scrap rate, increased pick-and-pack accuracy, etc.), the “savings” would dwarf the monthly debt service required to finance the investment. Isn’t funding something that adds dollars to the bottom line “essential,” especially as organizations try to regain their financial footing from the pandemic/recession?
Here’s another example. If your prospect has poor lighting in their factory, let’s say 40% below the standards of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), isn’t the well-being of their employees at risk? What if someone were injured on the job because they couldn’t see what they were doing? What if a regulator inspects the place and discovers your lighting isn’t up to safety standards? Shouldn’t investing money to protect your business and its employees qualify as “essential spending”?
All it takes is a change of perspective to realize that an objection might be holding a prospect back. Aside from that, keep in mind that there’s a silver lining to this post-COVID world. Some companies went into the recession awash with capital. Others benefited from stimulus money, economic injury disaster loans (EIDL) and COVID relief grant programs. I recently read an article that said that corporations had hoarded so much cash in the face of uncertainty that banks are now awash with cash. They can’t lend it out fast enough, so the banks’ own profit ratios are suffering and their capital ratios are becoming problematic as well. As a result, many banks are encouraging customers to withdraw their cash hoards and invest them elsewhere (e.g., money markets).
Why am I mentioning this? Many of your prospects and customers may have a lot more cash at their disposal today than you think. Why shouldn’t they invest some of it in the energy upgrades they had been planning before the pandemic? Wouldn’t investing that cash in projects that would make them more competitive, profitable and valuable help them regain their financial footing after a difficult year?
As a sales professional, it’s up to you to morph objections into objectives. In this case, you have the opportunity to reframe a hoard of cash and a basket of misplaced anxieties into a wonderful opportunity to make your prospects and customers fundamentally more successful.