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Avoid the Energy Efficiency Sleeping Pill

October 8, 2014 By Josh Duncan

Josh Duncan

It should have been an easy decision. Instead, the project request was as good as dead in the water. We were 45 minutes into the presentation and the decision maker was on the verge of falling asleep.

The project on the table should have been a no-brainer since it had everything you’d look for in an energy efficiency project – great ROI, NPV and enough cash flows to not only pay for the financing but to immediately put money back into the business. So, what went wrong?

Presenting to Executives Is Hard 

It might help by putting yourself in the shoes of the executive (i.e. the financial decision maker that needs to say yes in order to get your project funded). During the course of the day, this executive is going to be running from meeting to meeting and is going to be responsible for making decision after decision.

Think about that a bit. How do you feel when are constantly asked to approve something over and over again (for those of you with kids at home this should not take much imagination). It won’t take long before your default response is NO!

You can’t say yes to everything so you have to raise the bar of what is required before a project gets approved. You are also going to quickly lose patience for requests that don’t seem to be well formed and aligned with your business goals.

Presentation expert Nancy Durate has this to say about pitching to executives:

Ever notice that powerful people tend to be impatient and pelt you with questions before you’re even done presenting? It’s because they start to see the full picture from the moment you propose your idea. Executives get to where they are because they are smart and savvy. They spend vast amounts of time thinking about what’s best for the greater organization and marketplace. They have the uncanny ability to map out concepts in their minds and connect disparate dots quickly. Their seemingly impatient question-asking fills in the parts of the mosaic that they don’t see clearly.”

How do you increase your odds of success?

The first step is to understand what you are up against and prepare for it. Unlike a technical presentation, you are not going to win this argument with a nuts and bolts deep dive into the underbelly of your project. This needs to be a business discussion that quickly helps the executive connect the dots from his/her pain points to how the project will help.

The most important part is going to be the first five minutes of the presentation. This is your chance to set expectations, grab attention, and keep them focused on what you have to say.

How do you keep executives focused?

Usually when you pitch a project you start by explaining lots of details up front to lay the groundwork of your recommendations. In this case, you need to flip the order. Start with a summary of your recommendations and make sure you include the most important part – how this project will impact the business.

Don’t bury the lead. This is not going to feel natural but will make sure that you don’t lose their attention before you get to the good stuff.

Energy efficiency projects have many benefits that should get you a standing ovation from the business decision maker – fast paybacks, high ROIs & NPVs. Most important, energy efficiency projects can generate positive cash flows that not only help pay for themselves with financing but also can result in cash being immediately returned to the business to fund other initiatives.

Remember that part about connecting the dots? When you can show the decision maker that your energy efficiency project is going to save them money and doesn’t require them to take budget from somewhere else, you have showed them how to solve multiple pain points at the same time.

The result is that you now have them focused on your project proposal and will guarantee that they don’t fall asleep before you can get to the good stuff.

Joshua Duncan is VP of product management for Noesis. 

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