How to sell energy efficiency projects to customers

Jeff McDowell
group of people at a meeting

Taking advantage of energy efficiency product upgrades is one of the best things a customer can do, but talking to your clients about the latest cost-saving devices can sound like an upsell if done incorrectly. Contractors are more than experts in their fields – their jobs require them to prove they are trusted advisors who can deliver quality products and solid savings, as well as provide energy education for clients. Here are five tips for introducing energy efficiency upgrades as a cost-effective project to get the most out of your next discussion and boost the scope of your projects and revenue.


  1. Avoid the cold sell
    First, seize the opportunity to introduce energy efficiency upgrades when you’re already making a sale. That way you're adding value to a purchase that customers are already willing to make when they are already in a buying state of mind. Cold sales almost never work; you’re far more likely to be trusted when you advise an energy upgrade after a customer is already comfortable and interested in another service. Bundling complementary energy efficiency rebates is also a good tactic to increase the size of the project, while allowing the customer to reap the benefits of available incentives.
  2. Do your homework
    It's not enough to tell clients an energy upgrade will result in long-term savings. Contractors must not only y serve as sustainability educators who understand energy cost-savings appliances and products inside out but be fluent in energy efficiency and know how to communicate the benefits that upgrading a system may provide. Communicating the technical features of the product tells only half of the story. Describing it in terms of benefits, such as fewer lost workdays, more comfortable tenants, or fewer complaints will complete the picture.
  3. Provide concrete examples
    Providing examples of previous successful projects in similar facilities can provide additional credibility to your proposal. You can turn one success story into 10 by spreading the good news of customer savings. Feel free to offer anecdotal benefits in numbers the customer can relate to, but allow the customer to accept your offer of referrals before volunteering them. Of course, be sure to ask existing customers if it's OK to use them as a reference for your future proposals. Third-party validation goes a long way toward erasing doubt in a customer's mind.
  4. Be transparent about the bill
    Customers don't want to commit to an energy upgrade without understanding how they are being billed. Remember to be transparent when you quote the upgrades, and be sure to understand your expenses inside and out so that you never have to walk back a quote or take a loss. Break down the cost of the equipment, the labor expected and the time frame when customers can expect a return on their investment. Your knowledge of available rebates, familiarity with the timing of rebate checks and past experience with the rebate process are part of the sustainability education you provide. Your experience also increases your value as a turnkey solution for your customers. Consider teaming up with your Trade Pro Alliance Manager to help identify savings or financing opportunities that may be available to your customers.
  5. Mention financing options to pave the way for future purchases
    Some businesses have more funds available for upgrades than others. Plant the seed for larger upgrades by mentioning the array of financing options available during the next service they have scheduled. A great one to mention specifically is PG&E's On-Bill Financing, which offers zero-percent interest financing on energy efficiency upgrades. The project is paid for by the savings it achieves, so the client never feels a deficit in the budget.