Sales Training Helps Maine Contractors Close the Deal
Contractors are the most important point of contact for a homeowner during the energy efficiency upgrade process. In most markets, they not only need building science skills, but also an ability to sell program options to homeowners. To equip its contractors with the skills necessary to close the sale, Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partner Efficiency Maine offered a sales training to its contractor base with significant results.
In summer 2010, Efficiency Maine program managers began shadowing contractors on home visits and observed that they focused on demonstrating their building science expertise by using technical language. The complex terminology, however, often alienated homeowners unintentionally and derailed the sales process. The assessment-to-upgrade conversion ratio hovered around 10%.
Efficiency Maine worked with a local outpost of a national training company to customize a two-day training course that blended selling techniques with building science. More than 30 partner contractors took Efficiency Maine’s voluntary training by fall 2010. Contractors who were initially skeptical reported changing the way they approached and interacted with customers as a result of the training (see Figure 1). Due in part to these changes, by the end of December, 60% of homeowners who underwent an energy assessment were also taking the next step to upgrade their homes. (Efficiency Maine also increased incentive amounts during this time period.)
The contractor training program’s sales model focused on homeowners’ needs by addressing the contractor-homeowner relationship stages, including:
- Prospecting for and conducting home energy assessments
- Selling whole-home upgrades
- Ensuring customer satisfaction upon completion
- Getting referrals for new customers
To facilitate positive contractor-homeowner interactions, Efficiency Maine offered contractors a template proposal emphasizing homeowner needs and an assessment checklist to qualify interested customers. Contractors asked homeowners to rate their upgrade motivations (e.g., saving money) on a scale of 1 to 10. The checklist also reminded contractors to establish rapport by smiling, complimenting the home, and removing their shoes. Efficiency Maine contractors were also asked to sign the program’s code of conduct form to further solidify their customer service commitment.
President and CEO of Evergreen Home Performance, Richard Burbank, was so impressed training that he subsequently paid for all of his auditors to learn about sales and marketing. This was especially important since Efficiency Maine transitioned from energy efficiency rebates to a second loan program in 2011.
“A year after [Efficiency Maine’s] rebates ended, we were selling more with no rebates,” Burbank said. “The bottom line is our company is thriving because of this program.”
Efficiency Maine has since leveraged its relationships with other state groups to make the training available to more Maine clean energy professionals. For example, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., a nonprofit community development organization, has adopted the training as part of its workforce development efforts with solar energy and other green contractor firms.
To learn more about Efficiency Maine’s contractor sales training initiative, read the full case study.
Danielle Sass Byrnett is the manager of the Better Buildings Neighborhood Program.
This story originally appeared as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Better Buildings Neighborhood Progam collection of case studies analyzing effective strategies used by its state and local energy efficiency program partners across the country. Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partners are helping consumers reduce energy use, save money, and support the development of local jobs.
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