Distance Beats Density

Published On
Jun 12, 2020

Just a few months ago, experts in commercial office interior design were promoting workspace layouts with relatively dense, open clusters of furniture, furnishings and equipment. Today, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are taking a different approach. Densification is out; distancing is in.

A new normal has landed in our society. Along with everything else that it disrupted, COVID-19 will reshape the accepted design of offices and workspaces.

This rethinking of office interiors will require reconsideration of electrical systems, including lighting as a major item. It will lead to desirable lighting-retrofit scenarios and call on the full talents of qualified electrical contractors, not just for swapping out fixtures.

Electrical contracting firms can seize this advantage. First, you need to form a team dedicated to pursuing this work. Next, assemble a bundled offering to differentiate the team’s capabilities. And, finally, adopt selling techniques that go beyond the standard practice of submitting a bid and then hoping for the best.

Taking all three of these steps constitutes a special recipe for success.

Step 1: Create a team dedicated to pursuing these new opportunities

Select a team—a minimum of two people—to lead this effort. The team will own the objectives and key results of this initiative.

Engage everyone in your organization. Start with an all-hands meeting with anyone in the company who can contribute to the effort’s success. Explain your initial assessment of the business opportunity that is quickly unfolding. Ask for everyone’s help and involvement.

Tell them the strategy for the latest iteration of lighting retrofits. Then get ready for their feedback, which could include novel ideas. Better yet, it could include unexpected sales leads and unanticipated insights.

Build a list of candidate opportunities and start with current and previous customers. At the top of the list should be places where you have done retrofit in the past, where the customer was pleased and where it might be time for a new one project. Consider industries that were historically dense and now need distance, such as restaurants, processing, manufacturing, institutions and more.

Step 2: Bundle products and services

People have been selling you bundled offerings, and now it’s your turn to sell them.

In selecting a complementary component to bundle with a new lighting system, we have long thought the most logical pick is state-of-the-art, wireless lighting controls. We reached out to Tom Perich, marketing director at Lutron Electronics Co., Coopersburg Pa., to confirm this assumption. He also reminded us that wireless lighting controls have been around for more than 20 years.

Perich stressed how easily an EC can scope, install and even commission one of Lutron’s Vive wireless controls systems. Because the components of the Vive system are 100% off-the-shelf and available from many sources, a contractor can confidently promise to deliver a complete installation, start to finish, in a minimum turnaround time.

When we asked him to characterize the kind of electrical contracting firm that typically has made these wireless systems part of its ongoing repertoire of services, he surprised us with his answer. The most common characteristic was neither the size nor the age of a company but rather its culture of taking pride in constantly trying new things. Consider your firm’s orientation to new processes and products and identify gaps that get you there, such as design, sourcing, procurement and field training.

Step 3: Everyone gets sales training

That’s right. Make everyone a salesperson. Think of the U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Alfred M. Gray, who remarked that every Marine is a rifleman. That includes the ones working at a desk in the Pentagon. Likewise, everyone in your company should be a salesperson, even the ones working at a desk in the back office.

If that sounds preposterous, consider this. People with far less native ability, formal education and common sense than the folks in your company have been—up until recently—going out into the world every day making a living in sales jobs.

As Mark T. Jewell, president of Selling Energy, Burlingame, Calif., said, “Most people are not very comfortable selling, even in settings where the notion of selling is not taboo. Why? For one, the average salesperson receives less than three days of sales training in his or her entire career.”

His company’s system, he explains, functions more like “drip irrigation” in the way it delivers sales training. His program has always included lighting retrofits in the context of a traditional category of energy efficiency. When everyone is on board, they are not only good at selling, but they also are invested in the strategy’s success.

In the exceptionalism of the present era—and the special need for lighting retrofits that we believe will soon come along—it is an excellent source of basic sales training to promote your company’s capacity to perform in that arena.

About the Author

Andrew P. McCoy and Fred Sargent

SARGENT is an electrical industry consultant focusing on service expertise. He can be reached at fred@sargent.com. MCCOY is the Preston and Catharine White Fellow and department head of the Department of Building Construction in the Myers-Lawson...

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