Three Reasons Your Sustainability Pitch is Failing

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http://www.sustainabilityconsulting.com/blog/2011/5/19/resources-3-reasons-your-sustainability-pitch-is-failing.html I frequently talk to people who are desperately trying to “sell” sustainability—and failing. Sometimes it’s a sustainability consultant that can’t drum up business even though their target customer seems to be a no-brainer. Other times it’s an employee trying to green the company from the inside.

In almost all of the cases, I can trace the cause of their failure to one or more of the following reasons. (And unfortunately, it’s often a combination of all three.) So the next time that you realize you’ve hit a wall in pushing for sustainability, ask yourself if you’re you’re making these mistakes.

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Three Reasons Your Sustainability Pitch is Failing

  1. 1. THREE REASONS YOURSUSTAINABILITY PITCH IS FAILINGSSC Blog
  2. 2. Three Reasons YourSustainability Pitch is Failing I frequently talk to people who are desperately trying to ―sell‖ sustainability—and failing. Sometimes it’s a sustainability consultant that can’t drum up business even though their target customer seems to be a no- brainer. Other times it’s an employee trying to green the company from the inside. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. Three Reasons YourSustainability Pitch is Failing In almost all of the cases, I can trace the cause of their failure to one or more of the following reasons. (And unfortunately, it’s often a combination of all three.) So the next time that you realize you’ve hit a wall in pushing for sustainability, ask yourself if you’re making these mistakes. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. 1. You’re Pitching to the WrongPerson Employees trying to ―green‖ their company need to find a champion who can lead the charge. Unless you are the CEO (and sometimes even then!), you simply don’t have the power to unilaterally decide that sustainability merits serious attention. But how do you go about getting a champion? www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. 1. You’re Pitching to the WrongPerson First, don’t talk to your boss about it, unless your boss is the CEO. Your direct boss is invested in you doing your current job and (while they may indicate otherwise) is rarely prepared to throw their weight behind your breathtakingly brilliant ideas – especially if sustainability ideas are far removed from your current job description. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. 1. You’re Pitching to the WrongPerson Second, don’t talk to HR. You’ve got an idea that can benefit the company and fulfill your need for personal development. Their job calls for developing employees in a way that benefits the company. Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? Wrong! Some people will vehemently disagree with me on this, but in my experience HR is a huge stumbling block to sustainability efforts. They rarely want to share responsibility (just try incorporating issues like diversity into the sustainability agenda), and their department’s ultimate goal is to prevent lawsuits against the company. Not exactly a breeding ground for innovative sustainability initiatives. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. 1. You’re Pitching to the WrongPerson Here’s the right answer: go straight to the top. Find a way to bump into the CEO on the elevator, or jump in the buffet line next to the CFO at the Note: before you go next company picnic. Join the same tapping them on the business networking organization as shoulder, check out the COO, or take advantage of the mistakes #2 and #3. quarterly meeting to sit next to the You only get one Executive VP of Manufacturing. chance at impressing these folks, so make it count! These are the decision-makers in the company, and they will be in a position to move sustainability to the top of the priority list. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  8. 8. 2. Your Pitch is Too Vague  Please promise me that you aren’t leading with a line like ―we should go green‖ or ―sustainability makes good business sense‖. And please under no circumstances utter the term ―save the world‖. Yes, it’s true. But it’s not helpful. Your pitch to the big guy (or gal) needs to be specific and tangible.  Try to see it from their perspective. They’ve got a dozen people clamoring for their attention, the annual numbers were due last week, and they’ve missed lunch three times this week already. The last thing you want to hear is some random employee (or god forbid a consultant) asking for your attention and pleading for a feel good initiative that isn’t core to your business. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. 2. Your Pitch is Too Vague Instead, try something like the following: ―Hi Mr. President, I’m so glad to run into you here on the elevator. I’ve been doing some research and have found that we’re spending almost $40,000 a month in electricity bills – and that’s 20% higher than our neighboring companies on a square-foot basis. By bringing in an energy auditor, we’re likely to find ways to bring down our costs about 30% and with a payback time of less than a year. In five years, we could save more than $600,000. That seems like a no-brainer to me – how do you think I should proceed?‖ www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  10. 10. 2. Your Pitch is Too Vague If you’ve done your homework, the head honcho will have no choice but to (at the very least) give you a grudging ―that’s interesting, you should talk to [insert middle-manager here]‖. And in many cases, you’ll get a lot more support, and perhaps even an invitation to present more information directly to top managers. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  11. 11. 2. Your Pitch is Too Vague Even if you’re bumped back down to a middle manager, you’re in a MUCH better position. Because now you can say, ―Hi Mr. Middle Manager, I was just talking with Mr. President about a plan to save the company $600,000 and he told me that you were the person to coordinate and approve the plan. I’m supposed to report back to him once I’ve talked with you.‖ You can bet that you’ll get the attention you need with a mandate like that! www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. 2. Your Pitch is Too VagueEven if you aren’t in a position to propose a technical solution (like a lightingretrofit), you should be able to narrow down your pitch to something that is easilyunderstood and quantified. Examples pitches include: A one day workshop with the product A brownbag lunch design team to for employees who understand the want to learn about principles of A specific set of sustainable design forming a green training curriculum and how our products team. designed to help currently stack up. salespeople understand what they can (and can’t) say regarding the company’s ―green‖ products and services. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  13. 13. 2. Your Pitch is Too Vague The more specific, the better. People in the business world – especially those in power – rarely have time to brainstorm with you to craft the perfect sustainability initiative. They much prefer the ability to react and modify an existing proposal or approach. So give them the opportunity to put their finishing touch on your brilliant idea. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  14. 14. 3. You Can’t Identify an UrgentNeed I’ll share a secret with you: the very BEST clients for sustainability consultants right now are Walmart suppliers – especially the ones that haven’t dealt with sustainability before. Over the last couple of years, Walmart has ramped up pressure on its 100,000 suppliers. First, it asked suppliers to disclose key information on energy, waste, water, packaging, and community investments. Then, it made those answers a key part of the vendor scoring process – meaning that suppliers are finding that their ability to sell (or continue to sell) to Walmart is contingent in part on their ability to track and disclose environmental data. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  15. 15. 3. You Can’t Identify an UrgentNeed Obviously, not all 100,000 suppliers are currently hiring sustainability Even if they are struggling in this consultants. But there are hundreds economy, they will find the money (and probably thousands) that are to hire you. Even if their executives frantically scrambling to get their are racing around putting out fires data in order. left and right, they will make time They need help assessing their key for your calls. Even if their impacts, figuring out how to managers have never had to report quantify their carbon footprint, to a consultant, they will fall over trying to optimize their packaging, themselves to make you happy. and engaging (sometimes for the Why? first time) with their suppliers on social and environmental topics. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  16. 16. 3. You Can’t Identify an UrgentNeed Because there is a specific, urgent need for your services. If you can’t identify a similar need in a potential client (or in your own company), then you’re sunk. People will nod and agree that sustainability is the wave of the future and a valuable thing to consider, but they won’t make it a priority. Instead, you will hear things like ―yes, but not now‖ or ―maybe when things calm down‖. (Hint: they NEVER calm down.) www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  17. 17. 3. You Can’t Identify an UrgentNeed So look for reasons that make sustainability urgent. Is a major customer introducing new sustainability criteria for its suppliers? Is there a fantastic tax incentive or rebate that is expiring at the end of the year? Did your major competitor just launch a kick-ass new sustainability report and you’ve got nothing to say when the topic of carbon footprinting comes up? Find something that will get people’s attention now. If you can’t pinpoint something, you haven’t done your homework. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  18. 18. Read this blog and more by visiting the SSC websitetoday:Strategic Sustainability Consulting BlogWhat are your thoughts? Join theconversation on twitter @jenniferwoofter!

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