Catching the Big Fish: How to Land Larger Retrofit Clients

Jeff Seifert | Nov 10, '23

Catching the Big Fish: How to Land Larger Retrofit Clients

Is it better to have a few big clients or dozens of small ones? Maybe the answer is both. Having a diverse client base that includes large and small companies offers unique advantages that can help your company maintain a steady cash flow.

Adding some large clients can help you achieve a balanced mix that creates a safety net for your company. Because, let’s face it, smaller clients often have tighter budgets — and missed or late payments can be devastating. Bigger clients, on the other hand, bring in more revenue and push your business to meet higher standards.

If your retrofit business has focused mostly on smaller clients, adding larger ones can help you get a more balanced mix. However, selling to larger accounts takes a different approach.

What does it take to land the larger retrofit clients? We spoke with big company master Lynn Hawkins, CEO of Sustainable Turnkey Solutions about the tactics they use to reel in the “big fish” — try them out for yourself to win over bigger deals.

Scope It All Out

Many large enterprises are tackling retrofit projects piecemeal. What Lynn often hears is, "We're doing one over here. We're doing one over here. Call Johnny. Call Bob. They're all running their own thing." Only to find out everybody’s doing things differently.

So, start with a comprehensive audit. (After all, it is one company.)

Suggest to the client that you conduct a Level 1 ASHRAE audit, where you interview all the key operations people, look at facility utility bills, and walk the site to identify glaring areas of energy inefficiency. You’ll find more and more large clients are open to this. As Lynn says, “We're getting more of a welcome because large companies say, ‘We don't even know what we have. We want you to come in and look at everything.’"

Data collection is a concept big companies are very familiar with and will appreciate. So, once the audit is complete, they’ll want to see the numbers and understand their options. Using SnapCount software helps STS count and inventory everything, and then provide the client with a professional report that helps them understand the scope of the proposed project and the scale of the energy savings opportunity.

With that level of data and detail in hand, they are more likely to say, "We want to do all 18 facilities. What does that look like?"

Manage the Project — and the People

Managing energy retrofit projects for large companies is similar to being a general contractor. On your side, you may be partnering with other companies to handle HVAC or solar or controls. But to the client, you need to present a united front.

The larger the client, the more departments and contacts you’ll be coordinating with. Lynn says the key is focusing on each person’s priorities and concerns. “We have to work with facility people, we have to work with energy teams, and we have to work with sustainability teams and also finance. You have to tailor the message to each one to keep things moving."

  • Facilities will want to know how you plan to keep operations and employee disruption to a minimum. They are responsible for creating a productive environment and handling maintenance.
  • Energy will want to understand the energy savings you can deliver, how, and when. If controls like occupancy sensing or daylight harvesting are to be included, they will want to be part of the planning to optimize efficiency returns.
  • Sustainability will want to discuss the selection of equipment, lifespans, disposal of hazardous materials, LEED standards, and more. Be ready to talk about how your proposed plan fits with their ESG mission.
  • Finance will want to see hard numbers on expected ROI and how the project can be funded. They’ll want a heads up on any changes to the budget.

Whatever the message, communication is the most important skill in project management, so be sure to have the right tools. Giving team members access to a client portal like SnapCount’s can keep everyone in the loop without having to schedule constant meetings.

With the SnapCount Operations platform, you can effectively and accurately deploy materials and labor. From one place, you can generate material purchase orders and labor work orders and stay current with daily progress tracking so you always have the answers to client questions.

Cover the Market

With all the focus on energy efficiency, this topic is always changing, so you’ll need to get educated and stay informed. Larger clients will expect you to know everything there is to know about local and state energy rebates as well as regulations and upcoming tax legislation that can impact their project.

For instance, your clients may not know that …

  • Commercial buildings and industrial plants are responsible for half of the nation’s energy use and nearly half of its greenhouse gas emissions. Larger clients with campuses all over the country could be eligible for the 179D commercial buildings energy-efficiency tax deduction by installing qualifying systems.
  • The new California fluorescent bulb law prohibits the sale and distribution of fluorescent lamps and will impose phase-out dates starting in 2024.
  • As of 2023, building owners can claim an increased tax deduction under the energy-efficient commercial buildings deduction program, as long as local prevailing wages are paid and apprenticeship requirements are met. The maximum amount increases to 5 times the savings per square foot amount.

Becoming an expert resource on these topics is an excellent way to earn the trust of these larger clients, who will rely on you to help maximize their savings.

For example: Lynn says when you can, start the conversation with a tip like, "Let us share what's going on with the BEPS program in St. Louis," the client will see you as a valuable resource, not just a salesperson. Pairing a consultative approach with up-to-date industry knowledge can secure you long-term relationships, and ongoing work, with large clients.

Be a Square Peg for a Square Hole

Most large clients won’t be starting from square one with energy retrofitting. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity for you to scope out a project.

Be flexible — and consultative — in what you offer and bring in partners when needed to flesh out your capabilities.

For example, a company may have already done a LED lighting retrofit, but not the control side of it. After COVID, more employees are working hybrid schedules or entirely remote. A lighting plan that assumes all areas of a building will be occupied throughout the workday will now be wasteful. Even zones are too broad of an area for peak efficiency. By putting a sensor in every fixture over every single cubicle and combining that with occupancy sensing and daylight harvesting control, you can create a system that can adapt to whatever employee schedules the company prefers.

In one instance, STS was working with a hotel. "The chief engineer did not have a huge background in energy efficiency. We brought in a resource to help them tweak some things, and all of a sudden, they are saving 30% on their overall energy, just by helping them adjust their control system.”

Keep an eye on up-and-coming technologies, and reach out to potential partners so you are constantly expanding the capabilities of your extended team. Lynn recommends that you take the initiative to ask, “What are you guys doing? How do we do it? How could we work with you?”

Landing the Big Fish

It’s time to step out of your comfort zone, diversify your cliental, and grow into the opportunities you aspire to achieve, and step-by-step you can become the go-to, trusted partner of your big company prospects.

These are a few of the proven tactics from Sustainable Turnkey Solutions that can give you a leg up in targeting, proposing, and landing projects with top-tier, multifacility companies and creating a balanced mix of clients for more consistent growth for your business. And when you pair these tactics with the auditing efficiency and impressive reporting capabilities of SnapCount, you’re bound to land your catch, no matter how big.

Do you want to learn how other thriving retrofit professionals are crushing their growth goals with SnapCount? Book a conversation now with one of our growth professionals by clicking the button below.
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Jeff Seifert

Written by Jeff Seifert

Jeff is passionate about helping lighting and energy retrofit organizations accelerate and optimize their operations. Jeff is responsible for the sales, marketing and business development activities of StreamLinx, including client engagement, assessments and deployment initiation. Jeff’s background includes 27 years in software, process automation and consulting. During his career, he has helped companies large and small optimize their performance by leveraging digital methods, advanced analytics and business process automation.

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