Be the customer's energy conservation specialist

You are an energy conservationist of the first order. We don’t save energy. Instead we offer our customers the opportunity to conserve energy and avoid spending their hard-earned money on wasted fuel.

What is it about 5:30 a.m.? Eyes pop open, mind starts to race, contemplating how we’ll get it all done, which always marks the end of any further sleep. It doesn't matter that it's Sunday, or Saturday for that matter. Might as well get up, go get the newspaper and savor a cup of coffee.

"As long as you're up, why not fix the oven?" my momentarily-awake bride suggests.

When it failed last Tuesday, I knew it was the carbide igniter. I thought I'd be clever and retrofit an igniter from a local wholesaler, which would be less expensive and save the aggravation of waiting for the right part to arrive. Seems the appliance world is just as fickle as is the boiler/furnace/water heater world, where carbide igniters are concerned, with hundreds of esoteric model-specific igniters (our modern-day thermocouples). That retrofit gave me a fit in order to make it fit!

This time, like so many of our customers, I turned to the Internet to search for our gas stove model, which returned the parts breakdown in about a nanosecond. When I copied and pasted the part number into the search engine, much to my dismay, I discovered I had not saved any money by using a different carbide igniter. This time around, I was a bit more patient, so as long as my bride could wait a few extra days, the new igniters (one spare to keep) would arrive by week's end.

Newspaper retrieved and coffee-pot started, it was time to disassemble the oven and install the new igniter. Been there and done that, so it was an easy task. The ceramic wire nuts were not willing to release the insulated wires, so they were cut again. Just enough spare wire to do so without having to remove yet more layers of the oven's box, so next time will be a bigger challenge (mental note filed). Test-fired and reassembled, and I saved $300! No wonder folks who practice DIY feel so great and it's no wonder Lowes, Home Depot, Menards and Internet sales exist.

But did I really save $300 by my DIY repair? My bank account wasn't any fatter and no one handed me $300. Seems to me I needed to re-adjust my thinking a wee bit because what I did should be reworded to "conserved," not saved. If I'd really saved $300, I'd owe my life's partner $150, which brings me to the point I want to drive home in this column.

You are an energy conservationist of the first order. We don't save energy. Instead we offer our customers the opportunity to conserve energy and avoid spending their hard-earned money on wasted fuel. If we saved energy, we'd need to put it somewhere for later use. BTU banks would be springing up all around the world!

A 95% to 98% efficiency modulating condensing product conserves energy when compared to the lower-efficiency plumbing and HVAC products being replaced. Imagine you're on a sales call. You are the fifth contractor to show up (Lord only knows how many they've called). By now, your potential customer has heard enough about the technical aspects to numb his brain, so you need a hook to grab his attention and, from what I've read, you've have about 30 seconds to convince him you've got something to say that's worth listening to before his eyes become glassy and he has wandered off (mentally) to think about something more exciting — like scraping paint — while you talk about saving energy.

Next time, tell the customer you're an "energy conservation specialist" who can determine which (custom tailored) products will conserve the most energy — energy that is presently being wasted by the existing equipment. Bear in mind that you might be dealing with a customer that may have paid for the old beasts that are spewing energy dollars, flying off into the great outdoors. So, pamper the customer's feelings a bit by adding that the old plumbing/HVAC product(s) were, in their day, considered to be the most efficient. You are striving to move from the customer's visitor to the customer's friend/advisor.

In your opening statement you've told them three things:

  • You are the go-to source for dramatically cutting their energy usage.
  • You are going to virtually eliminate that flock of flying dollar bills, constantly migrating from their wallets.
  • Your advice and wise counsel as a friend/advisor is worth more than the visitors (other contractors) — higher value work is worth more and does not need to be the low bid.

You can bet your potential customer is now paying attention since you gave them three options: good, better and best. While you're presenting their options, add value by giving each option its conservation spread in avoided costs (not money or energy saved). If they become serious buyers, you can offer to better define the range of avoided costs, but by now they might just be ready to sign a contract. Here's the best time to tell them what's so great about you and/or your company. Last, but certainly not least, ask for their business.

Dave Yates owns F.W. Behler, a contracting company in York, Pa. He can be reached by phone at 717/843-4920 or by e-mail at [email protected].

All Dave Yates material in print and on Contractor's Web site is protected by Copyright 2010. Any reuse of this material (print or electronic) must first have the expressed written permission of Dave Yates and Contractor magazine. Please contact via email at: [email protected].