Excel at outreach by adjusting perspectives
I’ve been fortunate enough to work in the US and Europe in energy efficiency, as both a client and a delivery agent, consulting with utilities, the public and the private sector. When I first began working in the European market, the emphasis within energy efficiency was in C&I, with a strong dose of process redesign. By the time I returned to the US market, the European market was emphasizing residential initiatives and marching confidently toward a 2020 plan complete with goals. Whereas, the US market seems in roughly the same period of time to have gone from residential to C&I.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
A North American colleague recently asked me how the European market was different from the US energy efficiency market. I responded that it was completely different and yet, absolutely the same. By that I mean, regardless of whether it is a regulated or unregulated market, whether you are working with a monopoly—duopoly, or government-funded entity—it all boils down to the same issues: Human nature and the propensity to change, driving technological advancement, and having the vision to push through the change the market is in need of, whether it wants it or not.
Perspective is a key component in delivering a successful demand-side management (DSM) program. To excel at outreach you must be able to continually adjust your perspective to develop the next lead, the next project, to recruit the next client or trade ally. Why? Simply put, you must invest in understanding the perspective of the customer and the trade ally if you are going to be able to develop the case for energy efficiency. It is not enough to simply stop at understanding the difference between a small or large energy consumer—we must take the next step to understand their need as a small business owner—to understand the pressures of budget holder within a large multi-national.
Given the opportunity (or for that matter, make the opportunity), listen to market-shapers like Geoffrey Immelt of GE or Lord Browne formerly of BP. Taking the time to listen and clarify your understanding of a client’s perspective (or their customer’s) is invaluable. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a number of clients and speak to them at length about their thoughts on the market opportunities for growth. People like Immelt and Browne will inform you, and conversations with your clients will allow you to define your perspective if you listen closely.
We are responsible for shaping the actions today that will generate the decisions our customers take tomorrow and just as importantly, for listening to their needs as well as the societal demands and market pressures, to develop new products and mechanisms that will enable future decisions in support of energy efficiency. Our DSM clients face similar challenges in responding to regulators and listening to their customers—the cyclical nature of utility market engagement provides familiar sign posts along the route of energy efficiency. However, our ability to recognize the sign posts while keeping ahead of the changing customer mindset and technological advances means that we work in an ever-changing field.
The utility of the future will be determined by the decisions that we, our clients, and their customers take today. Building value into your outreach approach begins by embracing the fact that you need multiple perspectives to build and deliver a program over the long term. And, over the long term, you must be comfortable and confident in adjusting your perspective if you do not want to get left behind.