True story: A few weeks ago I went to a major retail store to buy a new television. The model I liked was on sale and had all the features I wanted. Or so I thought. The salesman explained that, although this was a great set and a tremendous value for the price, he also had one just a bit better for slightly more money. Now, I’m not that naïve. I knew what he was up to—the old bait-and-switch, or at least a watered-down, polite version of it.

I resisted his sales pitch at first, but then something amazing happened: I realized he was right. For a few more dollars I could get a TV with everything I wanted, plus some really neat additional features I didn’t even know were available (and that I now use constantly). In hindsight, I’m glad the salesman suggested the better TV. It wasn’t that much more expensive, I have some terrific extra conveniences, and he got a bigger commission. So everyone’s happy!

I have to give the salesman credit. When it comes to sales, it never hurts to make recommendations to a potential customer. The worst that could happen is that the customer could say “no.” And if they are interested—like me—they’ll be truly grateful for your input and more likely to call on you again.

Electrical contractors have amazing opportunities for increased sales growth and profitability, thanks to recent advances in the lighting controls industry. Like my experience with the additional features on my new TV, your customers—residential and commercial alike—will be astounded at what dimming and mood lighting can do for their homes and businesses. They may not be aware of it, but when given the opportunity to experience it, it’s almost certain they’ll find dimming and mood lighting indispensable.

And the technology now exists to address virtually any lighting need: from a simple wallbox dimmer to a whole-house/building system that integrates with timers, occupant sensors, and security systems. It’s even possible to start with one basic lighting control and then add components one at a time until a whole house/building system is in place. Have a customer who’s remodeling and doesn’t want to tear apart walls to rewire new lighting? Suggest a wireless system that operates on radio signals and doesn’t require hard wiring. The possibilities are endless.

Upselling to lighting controls instead of offering just lighting with “on/off” switches is simply a matter of making the suggestion. Think of the TV set I originally wanted as a traditional on/off switch, and the one I ultimately bought as mood lighting and dimming. By taking the same approach as the TV salesman, you too could be basking in the joys of happy customers, expanded sales and increased profits, plus the potential for future business too.

For example, a contractor I know had a client who was remodeling her kitchen. She specifically wanted lights over the table, above the work area and under the counters. The contractor recommended dimming these lights to give the woman infinite options: bright lights for preparing meals and cleanup, dimmed lights for dining and relaxing after the meal and a variety of choices in between. Three dimmers made a huge difference. After experiencing the advantages of dimming in her kitchen, the woman is now considering retrofitting the rest of her home with lighting controls.

Obviously, she believed paying the extra money for dimmers was well worth it. And none of this would have transpired if my friend hadn’t simply made the suggestion.

Of course all of this sounds great in theory, but what do lighting controls mean to you in practice? Well, they’re not rocket science. Individual dimmers install exactly like traditional switches. In the case of whole-house or whole-building systems, modern lighting control panels wire just like a conventional distribution panel, so installations and setups are simple. In addition, modern lighting control panels are configurable in the field to any load type. So installation time and labor costs are about the same, yet the profit margin will be much higher.

Consider this: a basic toggle switch costs between 50 cents and $2.50, generally with a 20 percent profit per switch. If you install 40 switches, you make a small profit. Light dimmers are priced at $15 to $30 each, with profits of usually 25 to 30 percent. So for 40 switches that cost $15 a piece, the contractor’s profit is $150 to $180. All of this is yours in exchange for some basic wallbox dimmers.

Imagine the profit potential for a whole-house lighting control system, or, in the commercial sector, a comprehensive lighting control system for a new hotel, retrofitting electronic dimming ballasts in a healthcare complex, installing energy management controls in an office building. Again, the possibilities are only limited by your ability as an electrical contractor to show—and sell—your customers the advantages of lighting controls.

Just as lighting controls will be advantageous to your bottom line, customers too stand to benefit in more practical ways. Dimming saves energy and helps lamps last longer. The life of an incandescent bulb can be extended by 20 times by dimming 50 percent, which also saves 40 percent on electricity. The same is true for commercial facilities with fluorescent lighting. If the average light level is approximately 50 percent, it yields a 50 percent energy savings. Also, in a store or factory, lights can be dimmed during non-work hours and reduced during peak energy usage periods for added energy savings and lamp life preservation.

Of course, you can’t sell something effectively if you’re not totally familiar with how it works. It’s important to align yourself with a lighting controls company that provides the comprehensive training and support you need to educate your customers on the value and versatility of lighting controls. The more you know, the more important you’ll become to your clients.

Sometimes the smallest, most obvious things are the difference between a so-so business and a successful one. Consider the shampoo manufacturer that experienced greater sales after adding the word “repeat” at the end of the instructions on the back of the bottle. It just goes to show you the power of suggestion.

These principles are hardly limited to shampoo marketing or TV sales. They’re universal. The next time you have a customer interested in lighting, recommend lighting controls. Give them a demonstration. Explain the options to them. Show them how mood lighting and dimming can be as different from traditional lighting as a color TV is from black-and-white. Trust me. When your customers see the benefits of lighting controls, you’ll see your sales and profits in a whole new light too.

WEINSTEIN is senior sales manager, Lutron Electronics Co., Inc. He can be reached at (800) 523-9466.