I was recently approached by a potential customer who asked for our company to quote an LED lighting upgrade project for their facility. As any sales person would be, I was excited at the idea of this new opportunity and relationship and began by asking them some basic questions about their facility challenges and goals.
My excitement quickly gave way to reality as I began to realize that, based on the information I was gathering, an LED lighting upgrade was not a financially sound project for this customer.
Not ready to give up quite that easily I agreed, cautiously, to visit the customer’s site and confirm my suspicions. During the site visit I did some more investigating and dug into a rough audit of the customer’s lighting and electrical bills. The visit lasted about an hour, but the information gathered was more than enough for me to be able to say to the customer that the project wasn’t worth it for them financially.
As efficient as LED lighting is, the truth is that the savings that LED lighting offers is directly proportional to the amount of use that lighting gets. Even though LED lighting fixtures and lamps cost much less today than they did even just 12 months ago, an LED project can have hefty upfront costs that are only recouped through energy usage savings. The return on investment (ROI) of the project can double or even triple in length if the lights are only being used for a short amount of time during the week.
This particular customer has many 2×4 troffers, but they aren’t used every day, the truth is that the hours of operation and current maintenance costs just aren’t there to justify a facility-wide LED retrofit.
While a facility-wide LED upgrade project didn’t make sense, when we looked into all of the lighting usage, there were smaller areas that did made sense. You see, this customer is a church, and while yes, most of their 2x4s are only used about 8 hours per week, there are some spaces that get 40+ hours of use per week. In these spaces, LED makes sense because in these spaces the usage and maintenance costs are greater and a reduction in those usage and maintenance costs could provide a reasonable pay back.
Saying No Isn’t Easy
It hurt me to say to “no” to the customer on the bigger project, but the customer needed a financially sound project designed, and I couldn’t offer them that on a complete building retrofit. I could offer that on a smaller project, and so that’s what I pitched. It’s a shift in conventional thinking to say that one the best things we can do sometimes for our customers and for our business is to say no.
We don’t like to say no, especially as sales professionals. We want to say yes and to be able to do whatever the customer wants. However, if we have hopes of staying in business for longer than a few years, we have to be able to sit back and look at the bigger picture. We have to be able to make recommendations to our customers that contribute to their businesses ahead of our own. By doing this, we establish ourselves as a trusted partner and advisor, as opposed to just another guy out to make a buck. When the project does make sense, we will be their first call.
Long Term Thinking
It would be easy to stop the conversation there and not think about the future, but LED lighting forces you to think further down the road than with previous generations of lighting solutions. Because LED lighting is created to last longer, the lighting solution installed today will still be in use for many years to come.
In our conversation I learned that the church is considering adding a pre-school to its ministry plan which would increase usage and maintenance costs considerably. When you consider these two factors and look at the long term picture, it becomes natural to predict that within twenty-four months the bigger LED upgrade project might make financial sense.
When it does, my hope is that because we said no today, the customer will say yes to us tomorrow!
This big picture thinking is something that not every business can afford to do. Because FSG has invested in our flexibility, we are able to be honest with the church about their needs today and help them build the project that is right for them even if it isn’t the project we had originally hoped for.
For more than 35 years, FSG has been partnering with businesses helping them find the right solutions to their lighting, electrical, signage, and technology challenges.