How Commercial Lighting Contractors Win Enterprise Customers

Derek Morsch | Sep 8, '21

How Commercial Lighting Contractors Win Enterprise Customers

A single enterprise customer can provide a commercial lighting contractor with a steady stream of LED retrofit projects – and revenue – for years to come.

But landing deals with enterprise customers takes a lot of patience, tenacity, and a strategic mindset—most large corporations have painfully slow and rigid sales cycles. Not only are you often several steps removed from the person holding the purse strings, but your lighting retrofit project must also compete against some of the biggest players in the industry.

It’s a tall order … but far from impossible.

Kansas City-based commercial lighting contractor Sustainable Turnkey Solutions is just one case in point. Sustainable Turnkey Solutions (STS) landed one of the biggest fish of them all: Intel, a household name in microchip manufacturing. (Just stop and think for a moment of how many lights would be in that facility.)

How did STS do it, and what can you learn from their experience?

To find out, we invited STS CEO Lynn Hawkins and Jason Hakes, the AMR Energy Conservation Program Manager at Intel, to participate in the SnapCount Retrofit Showcase 2021 this spring. The duo talked about what brought them together and how Intel decided STS was the right choice to roll out LED lighting across its many facilities.

Here are four key insights from their discussion:

1. Energy Savings Alone Won’t Seal the Deal

When Intel’s CEO publicly spoke about the company’s RISE goals (creating a more responsible, inclusive, and sustainable world, enabled through technology), Hakes realized that sustainability was no longer a “soft target” for his employer.

“There are some very aggressive sustainability goals that we’re trying to meet, including being a 100% carbon neutral compute company by 2030,” said Hakes.

Hakes saw that STS’s lighting retrofit proposal fit right into Intel’s environmental objectives, and he framed it as such with the company’s finance department.

“It’s not just the utility savings. It’s these environmental impacts as well – that there’s a whole story around that cost savings and meeting that sustainability challenge.”

"To be able to say that the project plays into those goals of not just reducing energy but reducing greenhouse gas and emissions and total environmental impact – it’s a big deal. It wouldn’t have been that big a deal six, eight, ten months ago."

- Jason Hakes, AMR Energy Conservation Program Manager, Intel

Lynn Hawkins noted that STS has been hearing about similar sustainability goals from other corporate clients. Facility managers like Hakes are tasked with meeting those goals and given a certain budget to do so.

“That’s where we try to fit in. ‘What can we do? What can we do to help to get something going?’” added Hawkins. Typically, once STS gets involved with an enterprise customer on a sustainability initiative, then the ball starts really rolling, and they start seeing the savings.

“That’s always our goal: to fit in wherever we can, not come in with the big truck.”

2. Persistence Pays Off

Hawkins and his firm were first brought into Intel’s orbit by a partner company that was doing some work for Intel in Texas. During discussions for that project, Hawkins first got wind that Intel was looking to go bigger with LED lighting.

“Jason was on a couple of those calls, and I think he let it slip that he was working on a big LED rollout for the Americas,” said Hawkins. “And so, I latched onto that, and I think I hounded him and hounded him.”

Hawkins and Hakes had multiple discussions, but the data clinched it for Hakes, and more importantly, for the people making financial decisions at Intel.

“We did some SnapCount demos. They absolutely loved all the data,” recalled Hawkins. The STS team offered Hakes and his people multiple ways to look at the project, “and then he could send that up the chain to get funding and show the different options we have.

“It’s what he wants to do with the data, whether he just pulls the trigger, we install it, or he can bid it out, or whatever,” Hawkins continued. “I think that was one of the reasons we got in and really started moving forward together.”

The data clinched it for Hakes, and more importantly, for the people making financial decisions at Intel.

3. Expertise and Technology Add Value

From Hakes’s perspective, STS filled an expertise gap for Intel. After all, Intel is a company of experts – but experts at building processors, not experts on every detail of an energy conservation project.

"What we’re looking for as a facility group, or as an engineering group, or sustainability group, is ‘Can we find a partner who can fill in the gaps of the things that we don’t know?’"

- Jason Hakes

He adds that Intel values “expertise in the latest and greatest technologies and in that visibility to seeing what is out there and being able to bring those best practices from other companies or experiences into what we’re trying to do…It’s that last little layer of expertise that makes the difference.”

One area of expertise STS has added is around controls. Like many large companies recalling employees from remote work, Intel is reevaluating how it uses space …and controls are key pieces of the puzzle.

“There were some specialty control features that we’re looking for to be able to help manage our office space better in the future,” Hakes added.

“That’s where it’s valuable to have experts in that field who can say, ‘Here’s what you really need and here’s what will truly be helpful,’ versus all of the other fluff that you might end up with.”

Hakes singled out SnapCount software – which STS uses extensively – for not only demonstrating the energy- and money-saving possibilities of modernized lighting systems but for adding value long past the project’s audit phase.

SnapCount is “not just for the audit, but it’s actually used for the construction of the project, and then it’s something that our sustaining team would use…to be able to continue to manage that lighting system,” added Hakes.

“Everyone has done audits where you get that information, you look at it, you use it, and then you throw it away and never see it again. Then you wonder, ‘Wow, what did we spend all that money for?’ This is something that would be for the full lifecycle of the system.”

4. Data Paints the Picture

Unlike many enterprise organizations, Intel was not initially interested in the “low-hanging fruit” of an LED retrofit project.

“We looked at some of our bigger systems – oil-free air, HVAC systems, cleanroom supporting systems – that are big utility hogs, but very complicated systems to solve,” Hake explained. “…Lighting was really an afterthought. It’s something you see all the time, and yet there is a real cost to it, but it’s a small percentage of our utility bucket.”

Enabled by SnapCount, Hawkins persuaded Hakes that a lighting retrofit project could be about so much more than shaving a few dollars off Intel’s utility costs.

Hawkins persuaded Hakes that a lighting retrofit project could be about so much more than shaving a few dollars off Intel’s utility costs.

“There are a whole bunch of other things on [a SnapCount-generated proposal] about the other added benefits of this project besides just that kilowatt-per-hour that you’re going to save. It gives a lot more information that you can base a return-on-investment or net-present-value calculation on,” Hakes explained. “…There’s a huge opportunity around the maintenance and operation, the quality of light that you get out, the controllability of that light, and how happy your employees are going to be sitting in that space.”

To commercial lighting contractors, enterprise customers represent the biggest fish in the pond. How can the right software help commercial lighting contractors like you build relationships and close deals with enterprise customers? Learn more in the SnapCount Lighting Retrofit Software Buying Guide.

Download the Retrofit Lighting Buying Guide

Derek Morsch

Written by Derek Morsch

Derek is responsible for planning and implementing the digital and traditional marketing activities at StreamLinx. With experience in the latest and greatest digital marketing practices, he ensures that the SnapCount brand remains at the forefront of the retrofit industry. Derek has an all-encompassing role in combining digital marketing tactics with traditional marketing campaigns including print, design, and trade show management.

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