It's amazing what excuses homeowners will come up with when it comes to avoiding spending money.  Even though I have found that most people in our field truly feel they are helping people, salesmanship (often uneasily) still comes into play based on homeowner perception of sales people (and based on all the BS that floats around out there do you blame them). Getting past objections can sometimes become an art form.

 

I recently performed a full energy audit on the home of a local pilot for a large air lines.  He fancied himself quite the do-it-yourselfer, but based on personally viewing his handy work, perception is truly reality. The typical procedure is to perform the audit, report the findings, and recommend the most cost effective solutions. Because I am a full service provider, I also offer to quote the homeowner on the improvements and manage the full project. Considering the level of involvement (he was by my side the entire audit), the prevailing issues, the prescribed improvements, and the homeowner's level of income, it was pretty safe to assume I would be hearing the question "So when can you start on the improvements?" And if that were the case, I wouldn't be writing this now.

 

The problem with the avid (or rabid) do-it-yourselfer is they often do it to save money, not because they have any idea of what they are doing.  In this particular case the two main needs were attic air sealing and insulation.  After quoting the homeowner on these services, I got the response "Well, the cost of the insulation seems a bit high.  I went to Home Depot the other day and the insulation was a lot cheaper and my neighbor said he did it himself." Note he mentioned nothing about air sealing because you can't buy air sealing off the shelf.  To try and ease his concerns I countered with the following: "Well Eric, I understand how you feel, but I am offering you a service, that includes both product and PROFESSIONAL installation." I then asked them the following questions:

  • How do you know you are purchasing the proper amount and type of material?
  • Have you ever air sealed or installed insulation in an attic, if not how do you know if you've done it right?
  • How do you know your neighbor did it right?

He then told me that those were some of his wife's concerns. I also explained to him that the pricing for the job was relatively inexpensive (less than $1,000) especially considering that in our area right now, costs are higher due to the raised demand caused by the record low temps and expiring tax credits (scheduling right now is a week out).  Almost on cue, he responded with "Well, will it be cheaper if I wait until spring when demand is lower?"

 

This is where the art of combining science, numbers, and selling comes into play. I simply said to him "The question you should be asking is what would be the difference in your utility bills over the winter if the work were done now versus waiting till spring?"  I then used his own utility bills from the previous winter to make my point.  Over a three month period from the previous winter, his utility bills totaled $1,300.  I told him that if we improved his efficiency by a conservative 15%, that would be the equivalent of almost $200.  I then asked him "Is that worth three more months of dealing with the same comfort issues you've been dealing with for years?" and then boldly added "Do you really think the job cost is going to drop more than $200 in the spring?" (Certainly not on a $900 job)

 

My final statement to him was prefaced by having him read my "Is There a Doctor in the House?" blog, which is also posted on my website.  "Eric, you go to the doctor when you're sick so he can prescribe you a cure for what ever is bothering you.  You don't ask him that if you wait a few months, would the treatment be cheaper. You have serious comfort issues in your home that you have been dealing with for years and based on the audit results, I have prescribed the most cost effective ways to deal with those issues. The improvements are permanent, will start saving you money from the day they are completed, and will make your home a more comfortable place to live in.  When do you want to get started?"

 

Having to test your salesmanship is not always the most comfortable place to be for some people in our industry. Combining it with science, historical data, and numbers (in an understandable form), and even a little tactful selling, can help you get past even the most difficult objections.  After all, they did call you didn't they?

 

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Tags: Cost, Objections, sales

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Comment by Ed Voytovich on January 6, 2011 at 5:04am

Here's an excellent example of getting it done right:  http://www.passivhaustagung.de/Passive_House_E/modernisation.htm (by way of HeatingHelp.com).

 

I understand that the homeowners will usually respond "that's very nice but . . ." or "I'm only going to live here for seven nanoseconds."  Still, we can dream, can't we?

 

Comment by Doris Ikle on January 5, 2011 at 6:41pm
For homes where air sealing and mechanical ventilation are recommended, they will be included in the table that lists all improvements with a payback of 30 years or less.  They will also most likely be included in the table that lists the group of improvements whose total annual energy savings exceed the total annual cost when financed. When the annual savings for the group exceed the annual cost of the group, roughly half of the individual improvements will cost more and the other half cost less than the savings.  If they are not included in the "pay from the savings group" (PSG), they would still be recommended.  Once a customer decides to make the PSG upgrades, they are more likely to also make other upgrades.     
Comment by Adam Zielinski on January 5, 2011 at 9:36am

So how do you get past the air sealing and mechanical ventilation objection/question?  As in, "why don't you just skip the air sealing so we can then not have to do any mechanical ventilation?  And save a bunch of money in the process!"

 

Comment by Doris Ikle on January 5, 2011 at 9:26am

To get past the cost objection, CMC Energy Services has developed a software which lists the group of improvements for the home that will save more on the energy bill each year that they cost when financed. When given the choice between continuing to pay for wasted energy or making improvements that cost less than the wasted energy, most customers opt for the improvements.  By comparing the annual savings with the total cost,to obtain the payback, customers are discouraged.

Comment by Dennis McCarthy on January 4, 2011 at 6:26am

A very effective strategy for me, when trying to convince folks of the benefits of reducing energy waste:

 I show them my OWN BILLS- Take electric bills, I reduced my consumption by half. Actual Comed bills

showing ( documenting kWh use) from 2005 or 06( 600 even 700 kWhs ) - then I show-em my 2010 bill

3209 total  kWhs used for the year. That alone shows : 1- its possible to do it. 2 - HERES THE SAVINGS!

It has motivated people I have provided Energy Loss Analysis for. Hard to argue about documented savings

for the same residence over a 5 yr period when its put in front of ones nose!-& with elec rates going up - even

more motivation to fix their fixable problems! The challenge is to get 10s of millions to do it!

Comment by Jon LaMonte on December 28, 2010 at 4:17pm
After wowing him with my logic (or confusing the heck out of him) of course.
Comment by Ed Voytovich on December 28, 2010 at 3:26pm
Did he hire you, Jon?

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