You just signed up to be a GIC volunteer. You’ve got everything you need. You’re excited to conduct your first energy survey. There’s only one problem: you don’t have any businesses signed up to receive an energy survey.
Have no fear. It’s actually much easier than you think. Not to mention an incredibly marketable professional skill to have on your resume.
Here are some of the top tips for effectively selecting and engaging local businesses, as reported by some of our top volunteers.
When selecting which businesses to approach:
Start with existing connections. Think of any connections that you might have at local businesses. It could be friends, classmates, previous coworkers, family memebers, anyone. Start with those businesses where you already know someone, tell them about the project, and ask them to introduce you to the business owner or someone else that could help.
If you don’t have any existing connections:
Pick somewhere that you frequent often or know well. Maybe you have a favorite coffee shop that you go to every weekend or a restaurant that you eat at on a weekly basis. You can ask someone that works there to introduce you to the business owner or manager.
Pick a theme and use Yelp. For example, reach out to all of the coffee shops in the area or all of the bookstores. Narrowing down your options to a theme can make your selection process much easier and you can tell business owners that you’re conducting surveys for all of the coffee shops or bookstores in the area. Use Yelp to help you identify all of the local businesses within your theme.
When reaching out to businesses:
Going door-to-door is highly effective. Volunteers report that, on average, 1 out of every 4 businesses say yes to receiving an energy survey when asked face-to-face instead of a cold call or email. Schedule an afternoon, pick out some businesses to visit, and go introduce yourself in person.
Consider the time and day. Certain business types, like restaurants and retail stores, have busy and slow times of the day. When going in person, try to pick a time of day when you the know the owner will likely be there and it will be a slower time of day in terms of customers. For example, try to avoid weekends or restaurants during lunch or dinner time.
Never show up empty-handed. Business owners and managers are typically busy people. So it’s important to give them something visual that they can look at later if they don’t have time to talk with you at that moment. ALWAYS come equipped with GIC Flyers when going in person. And it’s also good to bring your school business card to leave with the flyer.
Talk dollars and make sense. When it comes time to speak with the owner, be sure to make it a point to reiterate that the survey costs them nothing, but it can help them save money. Some businesses might be interested in reducing their environmental impact, but ALL businesses are interested in saving money.
Follow up, follow up, follow up. Chances are that it might take a couple of tries to get a business to sign up. Stick with it and be persistent. One of our volunteers, Gwen, shares some advice on following-up, “If the owner is not there, make sure to get his/her business card from an employee so you can follow up directly. In addition to that, BE PERSISTENT and follow up if you have a hard time getting in touch with the owner. If you follow up a few times and still no bite, then let it drop, though. No need to pester them.”
Download the GIC Flyer to take with you when talking with businesses:
Still not sure who to reach out to or what to say? Contact us and we’ll schedule a Google Hangout to help you get the ball rolling.