Energy Guy Perspective
This is the first in a series of podcasts from Fritz. This week’s audio interview has Fritz answering questions on how to engage perspective clients and successfully sell AUS services. Whether you’re selling under the AUS name, an outside agent or a business agent looking for ancillary income, Fritz addresses a range of questions and concerns, with ways to help grow your business.
Welcome to what we hope is the first in a series of podcasts from AUS. This week, Fritz Kreiss tackles some important questions you may have regarding sales techniques and ways to get into the energy marketplace. He’ll be covering such issues as:
- How is AUS different from the Average Broker?
- How can an agent use their association with AUS to their best advantage?
- How does someone new to energy market themselves as an energy consultant?
- Ways to overcome the “Gotta Guy syndrome.”
- How to work with existing clientele to sell new services.
- And How to determine if a potential client is the right fit for AUS and you.
This podcast is meant to provide tips and direction in how to generate and expand your business. And so – to begin…
Q: What makes AUS better than the ‘Average Guy’?
A: I think the biggest thing that differentiates us is our knowledge of the energy market place. We don’t just go out and get 3 different prices, but we’re looking at building an integrated energy plan, which includes energy efficiency, energy reductions, demand response, capacity peak load contributions, what type of contract they should enter into.
We look at that entire assessment. So really part of this process is, instead of just jumping in and saying, “Yeah I can get you three prices or I can get you a bunch of prices”…First we need to ask some questions. Are you planning any future energy efficiency projects over the next year? Did you do any over the past year? If you did, when were they installed?
And that could be whether it’s a large chiller, a big boiler change and retrofit, going to geothermal, on-site generation, renewable energy. All of those things need to be part of our equation.
So in an integrated plan we need to first gather some information, and that’s more than just getting a copy of a bill and saying let me get you some pricing and I’ll get you the lowest price. We want to differentiate ourselves because a typical broker is probably going to just say, “Well…you know…I got 6 different prices, and here’s the best price, and it’s a fixed all in contract so there’s no changes on anything throughout the contract.”
That’s typical because that’s the simplest thing for someone to sell if you don’t understand the interaction between things like energy efficiency, on-site generation, your peak load contribution…I mean your peak load contribution within PJM could represent 15 – 20% of your entire cost per kilowatt-hour.
We want to help them understand that we don’t want them entering into a penalty phase on a contract because they did a huge lighting or chiller retrofit and they’re no longer purchasing the same quantities of electricity that they did the year before.
Q: So that’s why you refer to them as consultants rather than just sales professionals?
Q: Are there certain key points about AUS that would help an Agent become a more credible expert?
A: Well, whether you’re selling as the consultant or you’re newer to the energy field, in both cases you’re selling AUS and/or yourself so it just depends on your experience within the industry. But with AUS you’ve got a company that’s been around for over 20 years.
We grew up with the deregulated energy industry. We also started doing modular co-generation and energy efficiency on an energy service contract basis as our primary business platform until more states started to de-regulate.
So we’ve got the experience in looking at all aspects of energy usage to see whether there’s areas that we can do some reduction, and better efficiencies, and how that will impact their energy pricing. If we can do some demand response capability that means…and if you’re in PJM we can do our peak load contribution management service. We can also impact your cost for electricity, not this year, but going through a summer will impact your cost of electricity for the following summer and future summers as long as you stay on that service.
So we’ve got a number of tools in our portfolio that makes us very very different than the guy that’s just going out getting some pricing.
Q: How does someone even begin to sell themselves as an Energy Consultant?
A: Well anybody that’s new to the process is looking at building relationships…and everybody can’t be the expert. What they’re partnered with is a team of energy experts at AUS.
So let’s gather some information, and I know people all seem to feel like they don’t have any time, but that’s one of the critical first steps to just say “Let’s start to build a relationship, and I’ve got just a handful of questions; “What have you been doing with energy?” And are there some areas that we want to take a closer look at?
Q: But what if they tell you – I’ve already Gotta a Guy?
A: You might be going out looking at acquiring new customers, and just as we did the video called “I Got a Guy”, everybody or everything has already got a guy. I think in those cases you’re going back again to questions. Instead of me only having one arrow in my quiver, I now have an entire filled quiver of things that I could be targeting that customer with. And even though he might already have a guy that does his HVAC or already has a guy that does his lighting that doesn’t mean that we can’t look at… did you do some new energy calculations when you did an energy efficiency upgrade?
You know…let’s take a look at your contracts and I can give you some unbiased feed-back. Is it that you need to be looking at some other kind of contract in order to maximize what your savings are? And we can always do a rate and tariff analysis. Rates and tariffs change all the time. For a lot of people bill reviews are a lot of work. Most brokers, or other guys, are not staffed in order to be able to do rate and tariff analysis and bill review. AUS is.
We’ve got an entire back office so we’re able to do a number of things…and processing volumes We might get a customer that’s 100 different locations in 14 states. We can process that. Where the typical broker might only be licensed in his own back yard…he might not be licensed in other markets, doesn’t know the rates and tariffs, doesn’t know the process in getting the pricing…in getting release and usage…you know…is it just a local dry cleaners? Or is it a chain of 200 dry cleaners across 5 different states… Those are both different.
You don’t have to sign up for commodity. We understand. You’re already working with somebody, but work with us on this bill rate and tariff analysis. We find billing errors all the time.
But it’s like anything, if you’re not doing the audit, and having someone do it…and customers aren’t able to do it because they’re busy running their business. If you’re not doing that audit, then no one’s checking the books and you’re just paying whatever’s getting billed. So it gives you the verification that you’re ok to pay the bill. The nice thing that this allows us to do… We get to see copies of contracts, copies of supplier bills, and copy of the utility bills.
So we know what they’re being charged and what kind of swing… and things like that are put into the product that the customer contracted for.
Q: Some people feel an amazing loyalty to THEIR GUY – so what’s the way to show them that the guy they have just might not be the RIGHT GUY for them?
A: We need to ask the next questions. Have you done any energy efficiency improvements? If yes, what have you done? Or are you planning any? Are there some areas where you feel you could have some energy efficiency improvements? Have you looked at on-site generation, whether it’s co-generation or renewable energy?
Can you do any temporary disruption of some of your usage? Like setting your chiller temperature up 4 degrees to be able to reduce your load and participate in a demand response program? Cause that could bring in income for your business, and if you can do that and you’re in the PJM market then we can also help reduce your peak load contribution, which means you’re going to be able to lower your cost for electricity…But that’s only if you’re under the right contract. You need to be a pass-thru contract.
I don’t care what your guy’s been doing. Let’s find out if there’s other parts that should be combined together because often times the lighting retrofit company doesn’t talk…they don’t talk to the commodity broker. And the chiller and the HVAC Company, they don’t talk to the commodity broker. They’re all talking to the facility manager or the CFO on the capital improvement side and Cap Ex side. We’re trying to tie all the pieces together because it’s an integrated energy plan. These things don’t stand alone as if they don’t impact each other. So we need to go and ask those next questions because hopefully…the guy’s gonna look at it and say you know, we did do a lighting retrofit, but my other energy guy never even asked me about it.
Q: And what if you already have a business and a relationship with your clients?
A: If you already have an existing business you’ve got an existing client base. We just want to show them that you now have a tool of additional services that you can offer, and it might be bill auditing, it might be a rate and tariff analysis, it might be…you know…doing a lighting retro-fit…
If I had a company, depending on what it was and what my main focus was…I would look at, “Hey I’ve got a whole bunch of other services here…now that we’re already doing business on this one level, let’s bring these other ones to the forefront.” It’s a lot easier to sell more things to an existing customer than it is to find a brand new customer again, and again, and again.
Q: But not everyone will necessarily be a fit for all AUS services. What do you need to look for to make that determination?
A: You’ve gotta look at the size customer and how much time you’re gonna spend with that customer. If it is a single Lens Crafter eye glass store there’s no point really in doing a rate and tariff analysis. I mean the guy’s only spending…they guy’s spending less than I do at my house for his gas and electricity.
So you’ve gotta really pay attention to how much is my time worth? Because you don’t want to be spending your time with somebody you can only make a couple hundred dollars on because he might take as much time as the guy that you can make 3-4,000 dollars on.
Q: We all know getting an invoice is one of the first steps, but what other questions might you ask?
A: What are your plans? Are you planning anything new? Are you doubling your size? Customers oftentimes aren’t being asked those questions by their energy broker.
It’s just like…we’ve got a large condominium association. Had we not asked the question, we would have not known the fact that they were replacing a massive chiller, which was going to reduce their KW… peak load by about 300 KW.
That’s a huge… drop. We need to take that into account when we send it out for pricing so that we’re getting the most accurate pricing and they’re not getting stuck in a price contract that isn’t going to maximize their benefits.
It’s asking questions, building that relationship…it’s not about just give me a copy of a bill, let me get you some pricing. Go the next step and find out what’s the business doing, are you planning any changes? Are you doing any energy efficiency or have you done one in the last year?
Those are things that help you make a little bit more of a connection with the person. As well as those critical little pieces that we can help…fill into a presentation and a proposal.
Q: Or maybe they’ve never done any of that?
A: It could be…I know there’s an ACE store two towns over here that whenever I walk into it, they’re still using T-12 bulbs. So the fact that if you’re in the energy business you kind of automatically think that everybody’s doing the right things for energy efficiency, but there’s still a massive amount of energy retrofits… that need to be done. And that’s part of something that we can…you know…bring to the customer.
This is the end of Podcast #1. We hope you enjoyed it and were able to get some new insight and understanding into energy sales. Please let us know if you have any questions or topics you’d like Fritz to cover in upcoming podcasts. Thank you for listening and we look forward to your feedback!