Best Practices for Finding and Closing CleanTech Business

Updated: March 23, 2010

Sell first to organizations with an existing green or carbon-neutral goal. Few people think burning less carbon isn't a good idea. Few people want to use more resources than are necessary. But unless there's a corporate focus on resource reduction, it'll be hard to get your product at the top of your buyer's priority list. Focus first on those organizations where a "green goal" has been stated and made public. Not only are you more likely get your sale at the top of the priority list, but the PR and marketing opportunities for the buyer (to demonstrate progress towards their goal) is higher as well.

Sell first to organizations with a CEO mandate. This is different from a corporate goal. Some organizations create a focus on going green and reducing resource use, but for a subset of those organizations this focus becomes a personal priority for the CEO. In this case, you have the extra advantage of appealing to the buyer that they can measurably demonstrate to their boss that they (and their team) are directly contributing to the CEO's goals. That makes your buyer look good, and will help get your project prioritized.

Do the math, and predict the future. Help your buyers make a case for your product or service by making the "napkin math" ROI case easy to calculate and understand. Are you helping them reduce energy waste? Prove it. Is it based on a per-truck gas savings in their transportation fleet? Do the math for your prospect, and help them understand specifically how much savings is possible for them personally and directly. Do the math for them, or distribute easy-to-use "ROI Calculators" that can be customized and forwarded around the organization. These tools, measurements and predictors can be powerful motivators inside an organization by predicting the cost savings (or revenue potential) inherence in what you're selling.

Sell the benefits, not the features. You're not selling smartgrid technology, you're enabling greater profit margin and low-cost expansion (which leads to even more margin). You're not selling energy management software, you're selling eight-figure annual cost savings, a great PR win, and a competitive differentiator in a crowded market. Get away from selling what you actually do, and instead sell based on the benefits from your buyer's point of view. With CleanTech businesses in particular, moving from features to benefits can be especially powerful.

Contact multiple decision-makers, and leverage the groupthink. One of my most successful past enterprise CleanTech marketing campaigns was a simple letter delivered to a C-level prospect via an overnight package. The letter was brief, focused on the opportunity and benefits, and at the end referenced the other senior executives in the organization who received the same letter. In an organization with a corporate and/or CEO goal of resource reduction and responsibility, this tactic creates urgency for your prospect to respond and both lead and take credit for the new idea, initiative, product or service you may be providing.

Different targets, different motivations. If you're selling CleanTech products, your primary target may be a CIO or CTO. But others in the organization could be equally interested in what you offer, but for different reasons. The CIO may want a more efficient network consuming fewer resources (and may want to look good in front of the CEO). But the facilities manager pays the energy bill, and wants to demonstrate cost control. The VP of Marketing likes the PR story you could help him tell. The head of HR wants to use your more active environmentally-friendly operations as a means of recruiting and retaining employees. Customize your story to the benefits each individual target wants to hear, and could both realize and benefit from in their own corporate world.

Become a trusted, independent news source. If you're selling a CleanTech product or service, you likely know far more about the space than most of your customers and prospects. Are you sharing that insight with them? Are you demonstrating your expertise and thought leadership? Are you filtering and aggregating the news that your prospects need to hear and read, but don't have time to filter through themselves? This is a great way to attract new prospects, but also to keep and nurture deals in your pipeline that are taking longer to close than you'd like.

Make it a safe choice. Nobody got fired for choosing IBM, the old adage goes. But CleanTech purchases aren't always as cut and dry, or proven. There's risk for the buyer - risk that it won't work, risk that the results won't be there, risk that someone else is better than it than you are (especially true in emerging markets). What can you do - unique to your category, product or service - to make it easier for prospects to say yes?

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