We recently sat down with Mark T. Jewell, author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Selling Energy: Inspiring Ideas That Get More Projects Approved!, to get his expert opinion on how contractors can increase their project close rates.
In Part 1 of our conversation, Mark highlighted the importance of understanding each prospect’s “why,” sharing success stories, and making sure to factor in all variables to show your lighting project’s true value. But Mark also raised questions about one of the most challenging aspects of closing a project:
“In a typical company with 100 employees, you’ll see an average of seven people who have to say ‘yes’ — or at least not say ‘no’ — to your lighting project. In most cases, the person you’re pitching to initially is not in a position to make a unilateral decision.”
Even if you do everything right, your success may depend on how the person you’re pitching to communicates that pitch to those other decision-makers and influencers. What can you do to make sure your internal champion is emotionally invested in securing project approval? In this second part of our conversation with Mark, we’ll find out.
Your Lighting Project Needs an Effective Champion
When you’re preparing to make a pitch for a new lighting project, where are you putting your time and attention? For many contractors, their focus at the outset is on creating their project proposal. And since that proposal is one thing you can control, it’s tempting to fill it with every detail and specification your prospect might possibly need. But if that’s your approach, you may actually be working against your own interests.
“The person you’re pitching to likely doesn’t have the power to say yes or no to your project,” Mark explains. “A 50-page proposal contains far info more than they need, and they have neither the time nor the interest to read it all anyway. What you need to remember about the person you’re talking to is that they need to become your personal champion inside the company. How do you get them motivated to not only attract the attention of each of those other decision-makers and influencers but also secure the consensus needed to win project approval in a timely fashion?
In Part 1, we talked about connecting with each prospect’s “why” — putting your pitch in specific terms relevant to the goals of the person you’re speaking with. But you should also consider how to make it easy for that person to become your champion. No one is going to take a highly technical 50-page proposal, read it thoroughly, and then convince a half-dozen other people to do the same.
What Mark suggests instead is to distill your project down to a simple, one-page proposal — something direct and digestible that is squarely focused on the “why” rather than the “what,” “how,” “how much,” or “when.” Mark adds, “People generally make emotional decisions and then justify them financially. So, you need to be genuinely persuasive to see projects move forward. That means you need to stay focused on the most compelling ‘why’ you can link to your proposed upgrade. Moreover, you must communicate that ‘why’ message very concisely. Otherwise, it won’t fit on the single-page narrative that all of those other folks will need to read and agree with.”
Creating a One-Page Proposal That Helps You Close Projects
Of course, it’s easy for us to say you should pare your proposals down from 50 pages to one. We’re not the ones who have to do it! As a contractor, you’re no doubt wondering how you could create a one-page narrative proposal that works without losing the critical information your prospect needs to make a decision.
Through our partnership with Mark’s company, Selling Energy™, SnapCount offers a one-page proposal builder that makes them easy to create concise and compelling one-pagers. To help you understand how they work, Mark gave us a behind-the-scenes breakdown of what a successful proposal should include.
And by the way, while the compelling “why” message should fit on a single persuasive page that captures the prospect’s attention – and that is both easy to read and easy to share – you may also include a “Technical Appendix” that provides all the information you used to think was your proposal. So, you needn’t worry about leaving the prospect in the dark regarding the equipment you’re proposing to install!
Start With a Title That Captures Attention
“You want to give your proposal a catchy title that highlights the benefit and catches the prospect’s attention,” Mark said. “Following that should be a second line that includes three or four short, italicized phrases that foreshadow the ‘why’ statements that will be unfurled in the bullet points and pithy paragraphs below.”
For example, if you’re pitching to a distribution center, your title might reference the fact that better lighting could improve fulfillment accuracy. It’s not just about helping your prospect save money on their utility bills. You need to connect the dots between your proposed lighting upgrade and segment-specific business outcomes that your prospect truly values.
Quantify the Single-Line Benefits Your Project Will Offer
Once you’ve established the emotional hook by connecting with your prospect’s “why,” it’s time to establish some of your project’s concrete benefits.
“In this section, give single-line bullet points that ideally quantify each of the benefits,” he said. “By the end of this section, you’re still only a couple inches into the one-pager, but you’ve already given your prospect (and their colleagues) the motivation to keep reading.”
Expand Your “Why” Message with a Persuasive Narrative
The goal of your one-page proposal is to connect with your prospect both intellectually and emotionally. “Here you’ll want to dive again into the story. Why should your prospect undertake the project you’re proposing? How would doing so help them succeed as a company? Share more of that here,” Mark said. “This is your chance to prove that you understand the challenges they face and that you’re here to help them.”
Selling Energy’s unique Segment Guides™ can be a huge advantage here. These guides are available within the SnapCount platform and can help you zero in on the jargon, yardsticks, metrics, and “sound bites” most relevant to your customer’s industry. With the help of these guides, contractors can reframe the benefits so that they can be measured with the yardsticks each prospect is already using to measure their day-to-day success.
Justify the Financials
Mark mentioned above that most prospects make emotional decisions and then justify them financially. He added, “While many prospects are obsessed with popular metrics like simple payback and internal rate of return, neither of those is ideal for showcasing an upgrade’s true value. It pays to learn how to migrate the discussion to metrics that are more helpful in evaluating the merits of expense-reducing capital projects, such as net present value or savings-to-investment ratio. You need to demonstrate that your project represents your prospect’s highest and best use of capital.”
Wrap Up with a Status Update
When your one-pager reaches the desk of a decision-maker, it’s vital that they quickly come up-to-speed on what’s happened so far.
“Your status update should explain everything you’ve done to advance the project up to this point,” Mark said. “Have you done your due diligence on the equipment and ensured that it’s the best fit for the job? Are you certain it will satisfy rebate eligibility requirements? Did you do a pilot, and if so, what were the results? Lay out the work that you’ve done to get to this point.”
Conclude with Action Steps
The final component of your one-pager should be a section that provides clear action steps for your decision-maker. By now, they’re likely convinced to proceed. Exactly what do they need to do at this point to ensure timely implementation? Authorize a purchase order? Complete and sign an incentive application? Issue a notice to proceed?
Building Your Playbook to Streamline the Process
Once you understand how to create a successful one-pager, you can start creating variations for every market segment you’re interested in pursuing.
“You want to create a playbook of one-page proposals for different markets,” Mark said. “In my experience, most people close fewer deals than they should simply because they can’t even capture the decision-maker’s attention, much less communicate a concise and compelling reason to proceed. These one-page proposals are a proven solution. Having a playbook of one-pagers, each template focused on a particular market segment, makes it relatively easy to present something much more motivating than a 50-page technical report.”
Moreover, when you approach a prospect as a peer rather than a salesperson, you set the stage for genuine rapport. They know you’ve done your homework. And your skill in communicating prior successes with similar prospects gives them even more confidence to proceed.