Expert Tactics to Increase Your Project Close Rate: Part 1

Mark Jewell | Oct 27, '22

Expert Tactics to Increase Your Project Close Rate: Part 1One of the things that sets SnapCount apart is that we’re constantly making improvements based on conversations we have with our users. In all of that feedback, there’s one question we hear again and again: “How do I improve my close rate?”

Getting a prospect to say yes to a lighting project isn’t always as simple as demonstrating the energy savings they’ll enjoy with LEDs. In many cases, the person you’re pitching to isn’t even the final decision maker. How can you get the right information in front of the right people in order to close on more projects?

To help us answer these questions, we turned to Mark T. Jewell, author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Selling Energy: Inspiring Ideas That Get More Projects Approved. Mark is a much sought-after speaker, but he took time from his travels to share his wisdom with us. Here’s part one of our two-part conversation with Mark.

Electrical Audits and Retrofits Are About More Than Energy Savings

Mark mentions that many are surprised that energy efficiency is not always the top selling point when it comes to lighting projects. While long-term financial savings should be part of the conversation, you may be missing the mark if that’s your whole pitch.

“Most people don’t talk about the right stuff,” Mark explained. “Auditors like to show their product knowledge, so they talk about the ‘bits, bytes, and blinking lights of what they’re selling. But that’s not what will get the customer’s attention.'”

Putting all your emphasis on things like product specs, utility costs, or even rebates and incentives won’t necessarily connect with your audience. It puts all the focus on the products and project instead of the problems your prospect is trying to solve.

Instead, how about a different approach? Mark recommends more focus on the “why” — the industry-specific benefits that will catch your prospect’s ear.

“Here’s an example: The ‘why’ of a dairy is how much milk it can produce,” Mark said. “So if you’re selling to a dairy, you should point to the data that shows lighting makes a direct impact on milk production. That demonstrates an immediate, tangible benefit that’s relevant to the mission of their business.”

By framing your discussions around your prospect’s industry, you change the whole conversation. You demonstrate not just that you understand their day-to-day challenges, but that what you offer can help to address them.

Prospects Remember Stories, Not Statistics

The obvious advantage of using industry-relevant examples is that it grounds the discussion in terms your prospect can immediately grasp. But there are other surprising reasons to take this approach. One of the things Mark shared with us was that throwing numbers at people just isn’t very effective.

“63% of people remember stories. Only 5% remember statistics. If you approach someone by saying, ‘Our product is X-percent brighter,’ they’re not going to remember. But if you can give an example of a success story, that’s going to stick.”

That’s not to say numbers shouldn’t be a part of the discussion. Rather, the numbers should be part of the story in a way that makes the most impact.

Think of it this way — nobody makes a decision by logic alone. Finding ways to share information that appeal to the heart as much as the head will help you connect with more people. Storytelling is a tried-and-true way to do it.

Factor in All Variables to Show the True Value of Your Lighting Project

As an example of how numbers and stories should work together, Mark described two different ways to talk about payback periods — the amount of time it takes for a lighting project to pay for itself.

“Most contractors talk about the payback period strictly in terms of energy savings,” Mark explained. “If that’s your approach, then you might be telling your prospect that it will take up to four years to recoup the expense.”

Is that good for your prospect? In the long-term, sure, but it’s not exactly a timeframe that gets anyone all fired up. It’s also not the full story. When you look closer, you discover a more compelling way to talk about payback periods that also gets more attention.

“The better approach is to go deeper into the balance sheet. Look at the non-utility cost financial benefits,” Mark said. “Because once you quantify and monetize those things, you’re talking about benefits that are 10, 20 times bigger than energy savings alone.”

Here’s how that might sound in a story: Instead of talking about energy savings, share industry-specific examples. For instance, say your prospect works in a warehouse that measures productivity by pick and pack rates. Workers make fewer mistakes when they have better lighting, and both of these rates are improved. Better lighting can also reduce the number of accidents that happen on the warehouse floor, which can be costly in terms of lost productivity and worker’s compensation.

Once you start to factor in these other variables, suddenly the payback period gets a lot shorter. By couching them inside a story, you also make sure that they stick.

“When you tell customer success stories and share the specific ways your project can help them make more money beyond just the energy savings, that story becomes very compelling,” Mark said.

Remember Who Makes the Decision to Saying “Yes” to Your Lighting Project

Many contractors try to sell lighting projects solely on the energy savings. That may be the conventional approach, but hopefully you can see why it isn’t always effective.

And there’s another good reason to change the way you pitch your projects. It isn’t just because stories stick better, or because you want to provide a broader view of the potential financial benefits. No, the reason to change your approach is because you need an ally on the inside.

“In a typical company with a hundred employees, there’s going to be at least seven people who have to say yes — or at least not say no — to your lighting project,” Mark said. “The person that you’re pitching to is not the one making decisions. Yet you need them to be on your side if you want to get any further.”

In other words, if the person you pitch to isn’t invested in your success, how hard will they fight for your project? How enthusiastic will they be when they talk to their boss?

It’s unfortunate, but the truth is that the person you’re pitching to may turn out to be your biggest obstacle. What more can you do to create a compelling, irresistible pitch that will turn even the most skeptical prospect into your advocate?

Stay tuned — we’ll cover that in more depth in Part 2 of our conversation with Mark Jewell.

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Mark Jewell

Written by Mark Jewell

Mark Jewell is an internationally recognized subject matter expert, coach, speaker and Wall Street Journal bestselling author focused on selling building-related solutions. He is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Stevie Award® for Sales Training or Education Leader of the Year. His company, Selling Energy, appeared on Selling Power magazine’s list of Top 20 Sales Training Companies. Over the last 25 years, Mark has influenced building-related decisions in more than three billion square feet of real estate. Mark received his B.S. in Economics and Finance from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

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