The Six Winning Sales Techniques Every Sustainability Consultant Should Master

You are at your first meeting with a potential new client, and they are clearly not keen on undertaking a sustainability assessment for their building. They have to do it because it’s a planning condition, but really, they would rather spend the time and money another way.

Have you ever experienced a situation like this, where you’ve had to try and convince them with a few random facts that popped into your head?

“The building will be cheaper to run in the long term!” but they are investors who would sell straight after construction is over, so they aren’t really interested.

“It will help saving money at the construction stage!” but how? If all they can see is extra resources, extra involvement by various professionals, extra features?

Then you resort to the stick rather than the carrot:

“I’m afraid you have to do it.”

This will work in the short term, of course they will have to do it, but it will be like pulling teeth for the next 12 to 18 months.

Your technical expertise is, of course, fundamental to the job you do. You need to be able to advise your clients about the most appropriate technologies and strategies for their project. Without those skills, you won’t be a sustainability consultant.

However, a survey carried out in 2010 by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (which you can view here) uncovered that in general, more ‘soft’ skills were deemed of extremely high importance than ‘hard’ skills.

Soft skills support you in an area that is less objective and more subtle than your technical knowledge. Interpersonal and influencing skills cannot be easily measured, but have a huge impact on the outcome of your project.

However, not everyone is born with a natural ability to sell ice to the Inuits.

The first step is to come across as a confident professional that knows what you are doing, in order to win your client’s trust. To do that, you need to work on your presentation skills, on your assertiveness, on how you deal with and resolve conflicts, on how you react to changes happening to you and how you can support others when changes occur.

But it’s also essential that you learn to deal with your sustainability consultant job as a salesperson would do. At the end of the day, you are ‘selling’ the idea of sustainability and its benefits.

You need to use all your influencing and negotiation skills to ensure not only that the client ‘buys’ sustainability, but also that they collaborate with you and, if you are lucky, you convert them from client to advocate. This will ensure a smoother assessment process and a far greater chance of referrals and repeat business.

But what if you are shy? What if selling is the last thing you want to do? Haven’t you spent the last decade of your life learning what fabric first is, the three pillars of sustainability, and the difference between a ground source and an air source heat pump?

Truth is, you don’t need to be a sly, ruthless, outspoken, greedy individual to sell. Think about it: selling is not despicable, we all need to buy to survive. Additionally, your role is mainly to provide your client with all the information they need to make an informed decision and you are not going to sell something that your client doesn’t need - in fact quite the opposite. Also, modern sales techniques are more sophisticated than those used in the 80s by door-to-door encyclopedia salespeople.

There are six winning sales techniques that are fundamental to helping you reach your goals, even if you are not a natural salesperson. Try them in your next meeting:

1. Ask insightful questions and really listen

You need to understand your client’s needs first. Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. If you try and reel off a list of generic benefits that will not help them sort out their specific problems, you will not get very far. Asking the right questions will help you to understand whether their main interest is selling quick, or long-term productivity and staff retention, or CSR, or beating their competition, etc. There are enough benefits in sustainability to please clients in any situation. We cover these in the Green Gorilla’s Value of Sustainability masterclass.

2. Sympathise, then sell to their pain

This is the key to selling to people: understand their main frustration and issue, then respond to that with the right solution - are they in a hurry to finish the building and sell? Are they building on a tight budget? Are they worried about their reputation in the marketplace? Different aspects of building sustainability can support and help address any of these issues. Again, we cover how to deal with different clients and their specific issues in our Green Gorilla’s Value of Sustainability masterclass.

3. Enable the client to be the hero

How can you help your client to resolve their issues? The key here is to remember that people love talking about themselves, and so does your client. Talk about the results you can give them, without boasting about your wonderful company and magnificent abilities. If you can make it all about them, you will empower them to find a solution to their issues. This is subtle – but it makes a difference. A client who feels like they are the hero makes for a very satisfied client.

4. Define the value proposition

When you reach the point of talking about the benefits of building sustainably, tell the story in an engaging and compelling way. Do your research, pick a few case studies of similar buildings and companies to that of your client’s, and show them what’s possible. Get them excited about the prospect of building something to be proud of, something that will set them apart from the competition, with a higher rental value, happier building occupants, lower bills etc.

5. Think yourself a winner

Don’t go into meetings with your tail between your legs. Stand tall and be proud of the job you do. On the way to your next meeting, picture yourself sharing a joke with your client, in a relaxed atmosphere where you are confident and persuasive without being cunning. Imagine having a productive, positive, collaborative outcome. The mind is a fantastic machine that can perform the best tricks if we use it right - believe that you can do it, and you will.

6. Smile and be positive

People choose people, rarely products. Your client will buy into you, even if they are not 100% convinced of the sustainability argument. They will trust you to lead them through the process pain-free, and that’s what will make them choose you over others. Negativity is a powerful turn-off. That is why it’s so important that you smile genuinely, you come across as open, trustworthy and assertive.

Our Green Gorilla Masterclass Programme teaches you all of the fundamental skills above, including presentation, influencing, assertiveness and more, so that you can be a winning consultant and keep your clients happy. Our weekly live online masterclasses, which run over the course of eight weeks, will change the way you approach your job and have a profound and lasting impact on you.

Tags: Your Community

You have no rights to post comments

The Green Gorilla's Posts

  • All
  • Coaching
  • Getting Started
  • Resilience
  • SustainABLE Mastermind
  • Your Community
  • The power of resilience in uncertain times

    The power of resilience in uncertain times

    By Virginia Cinquemani / 2020-08-03 09:55:52
    I will echo many other people saying that we are living unprecedented times. Life as we know it has come to a weird standstill. Bars, restaurants and shops are starting to reopen after the pandemic, schools and offices have moved
    Read More
    • Coaching
    • Resilience
    • SustainABLE Mastermind
  • Is sustainability a luxury for the wealthier?

    By Virginia Cinquemani / 2019-03-01 09:55:52
    I have been thinking about my personal finances a lot, lately.I dedicated the whole of February to money wisdom. I worked out that I have about 25 years (everything going well) of working life still in front of me, and
    Read More
  • If you have children, you might have heard about oxytocin, aka the “happy hormone”, which is released when you bond with your newborn baby, and is even injected into expecting mothers to induce labour. Oxytocin is produced after any emotional
    Read More
  • CAFOD HQ building, Southwark, London. Photo: V Cinquemani
    A few years ago, in a quest to refurbish a 1960 concrete block on the BRE site in the most innovative and sustainable way possible, I had the good fortune to meet an extraordinary man and architect. He was one
    Read More
  • What does sustainable architecture really mean?

    By Virginia Cinquemani / 2018-11-15 09:55:52
    I was recently invited to deliver a CPD session on Sustainable Design at a small architectural studio. I was told beforehand that the office didn't specifically look at sustainability in their practices, as it was a small practice. In my
    Read More
  • Can circular economy save the planet?

    By Virginia Cinquemani / 2018-11-15 09:55:52
    This phrase by Walter Stahel, the man who also coined the phrase ‘cradle to cradle’, made me chuckle before I felt the heaviness of its meaning. How often do we actually feel that our single and collective actions have an
    Read More
  • Why aren’t your clients interested in sustainability?

    By Virginia Cinquemani / 2018-11-15 09:55:52
    I’ve been asking myself this question over and over again: why aren’t clients interested in sustainability? A couple of months ago, my eight-year-old daughter told me off because we were still using plastic toothbrushes. I’m a sustainability consultant, and sustainability
    Read More
  • It’s another day in the office. Fights over the stapler, ‘elevenses’ gossip, passive-aggressive comments hissed in between the teeth, boiling in silence because your colleague is on Facebook while you are slaving away, talking to the boss instead of having
    Read More
  • The top five skills of a sustainability consultant

    By Virginia Cinquemani / 2018-10-28 09:55:52
    It was all over the national news a couple of weeks ago: according to a new assessment from IPCC, limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society. One of the key
    Read More
  • Why doesn't Wonder Woman wear a hard hat?

    By Virginia Cinquemani / 2018-10-03 09:55:52
    In recent findings summarised in the report Delivering Through Diversity by McKinsey & Co. , it emerges that companies with executive gender diversity perform 21% better than less diverse companies. This means that companies with women in top executive roles, where
    Read More
  • At a recent networking event, I met a very happy sustainability consultant. Given that my new mission in life is to help sustainability consultants to feel happier in their jobs, mainly by making them more confident and able to ‘sell’
    Read More
    • Getting Started
  • In today’s culture we are all more or less dependent on the pleasure caused by the rush of endorphins that we get when our posts on social media accumulate ‘likes’. Sounds a bit daft when you read it, even childish
    Read More
    • Getting Started
  • You are at your first meeting with a potential new client, and they are clearly not keen on undertaking a sustainability assessment for their building. They have to do it because it’s a planning condition, but really, they would rather
    Read More
    • Your Community