Steve Miller on how to influence change

Steve Miller works with Ecova, a large energy efficiency strategy consultant, who optimizes energy efficiency projects among residential and commercial customers. They use advanced data analytics and technology to optimize energy efficiency projects before contractors install them. Steve manages a portion of Ecova’s customer accounts, working to make energy strategies into buildable projects. While sitting down at a restaurant in Kendall Square, I asked him a number of questions about how he deals with the challenge of convincing his clients that there is potential for energy savings. For me, this is a very timely subject as I try to move forward with improving the Watertown Recycling Center, and bring sustainability to each one of the catering companies I’m currently employed with.

One of the key things I learned studying economics was that human beings are adverse to change. I believe this is the largest obstacle I face as an independently driven person not affiliated with any organization.  I regularly ask myself, how can I influence a shift to sustainability in organizations where current stakeholders are already comfortable with how things operate? Some people I work with have been in the industry 30+ years, and I’m just a newbie. It doesn’t matter that the company can save money by recycling, or that it’ll benefit the environment. Change is seen as a threat to their current way of thinking.

Steve has extensive experience influencing his retail customers to install energy efficiency measures. He knows how to deliver a project that will make a company better off. He shared his secrets of how he has done it in the past.His first piece of advice is to listen. It’s important to understand the other person’s perspective, and their business model before proposing anything. Also, he truthfully noted that professional people are busy, and view their time as  extremely valuable. So be honest with them. Clear communication is key.

Every company has a different business model that uniquely fits them. When developing a new, more sustainable business model, is it possible to discover one that works for them as effectively? Heck, can you even make it better? What is good about it and what is bad? Test it out.

Even when you get lucky, and the people you are pitching your idea to are very receptive, can you understand why they’re being this way? It takes constant evaluation and adjustments to meet the other person halfway. For example, the best salespeople let their customers sell themselves.

Overall, it was very inspirational speaking with Steve, and I learned a lot about the soft skills of dealing with people. His willingness to share his advice was much appreciated. From our talk, I realized that not only do I need to have continuing persistence with the catering companies and Watertown’s Department of Public Works, but that I need to have a carefully crafted approach as well. I can’t expect them to see sustainability from my perspective, but rather I need to see it from theirs. How can I demonstrate to them that they can gain by making a change?




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