Episode #020 - Guest Eric Swanson of Greentech Media

Transcription of Episode

Chris Battis:                  On this episode of Intent Topics we have special guest, Eric Swanson of Greentech Media. Eric will be speaking about his experiences selling in a unique industry.

Logan Kelly:                  Hello, everybody. Thank you for tuning into Intent Topics, today, I'm here with Chris and today we have Eric Swanson on the show. Eric, we are pumped to have you on the show. Tell us what you are doing now and how you got there.

Eric Swanson:               Yeah, thanks Logan. Thanks Chris.

Chris Battis:                  You bet.

Eric Swanson:               Super stoked to be on the show. I work for one of the leading media and events companies in the energy and utility industry and so we do some podcasting, we're pretty much the leader in the market when it comes to podcasts for the energy sector. So it's kind of fun to be on the other side of the microphone, if you will, as opposed to usually being the behind the scenes kind of guy, or behind the microphone kind of guy.

Logan Kelly:                  Nice.

Eric Swanson:               So yeah, thanks for having me on. Like I said, I'm the head of sales for Greentech Media. And so with that I kind of run our sales department for events and all the different digital media efforts that we do.

Logan Kelly:                  Cool.

Eric Swanson:               I mentioned podcasts. We do a lot of webinars. We have a very well trafficked website and news channel for what we call the energy transition. So renewable energy, utility sector, and all the changes that are going on there.

Logan Kelly:                  Cool.

Eric Swanson:               Yeah. So I've been doing this similar kind of role for about 10 years now in the sales side of things, and client relationships.

Logan Kelly:                  Nice, cool.

Eric Swanson:               So, it's a lot of fun. It's always changing.

Chris Battis:                  So you're pretty much constantly selling ROI, right? Against what's currently in place, right? Is that a lot of the conversations you're having?

Eric Swanson:               Yeah, I mean for the most part I'm kind of in a very niche segment. So I mostly work with marketing folks. So marketing folks are usually my target, or my customers or clients or what have you. And for them, as we all know with marketers, they're kind of setting the table for sales ultimately.

Chris Battis:                  Right, I see.

Eric Swanson:               So you want to make sure that those marketing people are getting that ROI for ultimately who they're reporting to on the sales side of things. So it's kind of a unique role for sure.

Chris Battis:                  The reason I asked is because actually I had a brief stint with a startup in the Northeast, and we were selling geothermal heating and cooling, closed loop systems, and that paired with solar and I was the sales marketing guy, because there's five of us. And it was literally just me trying to sell the ROI of a geothermal system.

Chris Battis:                  And it was at a time when oil was four plus dollars a gallon. It was easier, but that's what it all came down to, so I got to imagine a fair amount of the media that you're doing revolves around knowledge around that, and information around that. Right?

Eric Swanson:               Yeah. And you know, ironically enough I sold a podcast sponsorship to a geothermal company earlier this year in February, March timeframe.

Chris Battis:                  Yeah, that's good.

Eric Swanson:               So, but I mean, at the end of the day it's all about ROI. I think my biggest thing from a sales perspective, I'm all about building that relationship. And so for me it's not worth it to even book a deal when I know the client's not going to be happy at the end of the day. I do a lot of work on the back end to make sure that we're getting the right product in front of them, the right ROI, if you will.

Chris Battis:                  Cool.

Eric Swanson:               So yeah, it's a cool, it's a lot of work there.

Chris Battis:                  Nice.

Logan Kelly:                  So talk to us about... When I think about sales and marketing and all these things, one of the last places that my head goes is energy and utilities and all that. But in the conversations that we had had, it was fascinating because there's a lot to it, which I would imagine. Kind of frame the conversation. What's it like being in that space where there's still advertising, there's still sales, even though it might not be B2B tech or business to consumer tech. Talk to us about that.

Eric Swanson:               Yeah, I mean, it's definitely B2B. Of course there's a B2C component as well when you're talking about the solar installers trying to sell to, I mean, how many times do you get folks from Sunrun or Vivian trying to sell you some solar on your rooftop? They're in Massachusetts, Logan, right?

Logan Kelly:                  Yeah.

Eric Swanson:               But yeah, so it's all about the B2B side of things. And I think what's unique about the energy space, and I'd kind of gear this a little more towards the utility space versus the renewable side, is the sales cycle is ridiculously long. I mean, we're talking 12 to 24 months at the short end of it. These utilities are regulated entities, so if they want to go and make a large software purchase, or a large hardware purchase for that matter, I mean it takes forever to get them to get through.

Eric Swanson:               So the whole mantra of the buyer's journey is 70% complete before they even reach out to somebody at a company. That's even more so the case when it comes to the energy and utility space.

Eric Swanson:               So from my perspective, when I'm talking to marketing folks, it's not as much about strictly leads or even setting appointments, or things of that nature. It's really more about how are, how are these folks, they're trying to sell to those utility and energy companies, how are they educating their customers? How are they positioning the company as thought leaders, so that when they're ready to ultimately pick up the phone and say, "Hey, I want to know a little bit more about this," that that their company is top of mind? So it's definitely unique space to think about, but yeah, it's more about that education and brand building and all of that than I think you would ever see in the B to C space.

Logan Kelly:                  Yeah, that's awesome. So it's the companies that that are basically buying that media, they have to be very strategic with what they're doing right, because it's not like they're running some sort of pay-per-click where they're going to be able to adjust course on a day to day basis. Right?

Eric Swanson:               Yeah, exactly. Most of the work that we're doing with, with some of these companies trying to again sell to the energy and utility space is, whether it's building out that thought leadership, it's spending the time to write a white paper for them, or it's develop a custom podcast like this where as we know podcasting is a different medium than, than just writing an article or writing a white paper. So you're really trying to help the customer and help the client kind of tell that narrative. It's totally different than with most of the guests that you guys have had on the podcast previously, I would think.

Logan Kelly:                  Yeah. That this is really cool. So you're...it's relationship selling, right? What are some of the things that you focus, because it feels like the clients that you're selling to, a mistake is costly, and so you really need to be an expert at what you're doing. They need to really understand how their positioning in the market. So what is your day to day look like? Because I don't imagine it's like a lot of other people who are quote selling.

Eric Swanson:               I find it kind of unique because I'm working with mostly marketing folks, so I need to be super knowledgeable in marketing, like in recent trends in marketing and understanding retargeting campaigns, or ROI or SEO, things like that, where you have to kind of be up to speed on that so you can speak their language, and then also have to have a general knowledge of the energy industry. And know what a CIS system is, or a MDM system, meter data management, customer information systems, or know what bi-facial solar panels are, and tracking systems and things of that nature. So I always like to say that I know enough to be dangerous on the industry side of things, in understanding the energy space.

Eric Swanson:               So I know what they're talking about, or what they're trying to get out of things with the campaign. But it's kind of a mix between both. So a lot of the times I'm spending my day, not what I would call traditional selling, if you will. It's a lot of knowing what's going on with my customers and their businesses, and when I see something that's of interest that might be in alignment with kind of the other side of where I spend the rest of my day is understanding the industry and what what we're doing at GTM, to figure out where's that perfect marriage, does it make sense to do something that's leading up to a trade show that we have coming up? Or maybe it's a major industry trade show that's coming up that I know some people want to get some cloud cover about their announcements or products or drive people to their booth or whatever the case may be.

Eric Swanson:               So you're trying to kind of always keep an eye on both aspects of it and kind of figure out where the perfect middle ground is. Does that make sense?

Logan Kelly:                  Yeah. That's cool. So you're just constantly assimilating lots of different information to try to position it with your clients, with yourself, to really be successful. It's funny we talk about "Oh this is such a different world than traditional selling." But I feel like if the quote traditional sales roles spent more time doing what you're talking about, how much better conversations would they have if they were focused on really trying to assimilate that information. You know, from both sides. Customer, internal, you know it's fascinating.

Logan Kelly:                  So what are some of the tricks that, because you're dealing with a fairly large amount of information on it from the industry, from what you guys are doing, because GTM has a lot going on, and then with the client. So how do you, this is kind of like CRM, but on a whole another level, right? So how are you managing that information and actioning against it?

Eric Swanson:               Yeah. So I definitely spend a lot of time on LinkedIn and kind of seeing what folks use. LinkedIn and Twitter for that matter, and kind of seeing what people are posting, what people are talking about. Having a lot of conversations internally with our experts as well. I mean that's one of the cool things about what we have here at GTM is we have an entire research arm of the company that all they do is spend time understanding what's going on in the industry, trends, all of that. And so the more time you spend talking to them and then therefore also reading some of our news and information and things that we have coming out, the more you kind of put together those marriages between what they're doing and what the customers are doing.

Eric Swanson:               In terms of a strict process, I don't really have one to be honest with you, it's just always learning, constantly learning, constantly trying to put pieces together. And I'll say this. So you mentioned that if other salespeople spent their day doing that how much more successful they would be?

Eric Swanson:               So a real world experience that I just had last week: my wife and I are buying a new house. And Chris, as we've talked about just a little bit ago, we also own a condo up in the mountains. And so I was talking to a mortgage company, and within the first three minutes of me having this conversation with this mortgage company, about purchasing a house here in the Denver metro area, this person's telling me that their mortgage company specializes in what they call condo hotels, which is basically like an investment property where most mortgage companies, they touch those for whatever reason. I don't really know why.

Eric Swanson:               But this lady sitting there like, "We specialize in condo hotels," and I'm like, "I was just thinking about starting to look at refinancing my loan up there and pairing that with my loan down here." And so, sorry for the tangent here, but I was shocked at like, us this lady reading my mind or did she know that I had a condo up in the mountains that was a condo hotel?" And anyway, so it made me think when you were saying that it's almost like that lady did do her homework before the call.

Chris Battis:                  Or statistically there's probably a lot of people in Denver Metro that go up the Hill every weekend. That's cool. So did you get the loan?

Eric Swanson:               Could be pure coincidence, but- [crosstalk 00:00:14:26].

Chris Battis:                  Market, right? So did you get the new house?

Eric Swanson:               Yeah we're building a new house. So we signed the contract and they actually started digging on Friday.

Logan Kelly:                  Awesome. Grats.

Eric Swanson:               Thanks. Yeah. More debt. Thanks guys.

Chris Battis:                  More debt, yeah.

Logan Kelly:                  America.

Chris Battis:                  Sheet money. Yeah.

Logan Kelly:                  Nice. So talk to us. Do you have any more anecdotes about your job and how you're really bringing this information, this data and assimilating it into your process into building relationships. I'm super fascinated to understand because I think it can have a huge value to the people listening, as far as like you have to do it where other people, it's kind of like a nice to have, right? Like yeah, I did some research that was nice. You're like, I have to do it because that's kind of the nature of the business. So do you have any anecdotes you can share with us that might be powerful?

Eric Swanson:               Nothing in particular. I think one of the things that I think is super important about the utility space to think about, and this might not completely answer your question here, but utilities, if you think about it from a in the U.S. perspective for example, is they're not necessarily competitive entities, right? So, Logan, you're in Massachusetts, so you probably have like Eversource or National Grid as your utility.

Logan Kelly:                  You got it.

Eric Swanson:               They're not competing with Xcel energy out here in Colorado for customers. So it's really interesting to understand that dynamic and knowing that with that, those utilities want to learn from each other and/or share stories, it's generally a very tight knit community, because they're willing to get onto a webinar and talk about how they're doing pricing or what kind of computer systems they're using, or whatever, because they know they're not... You wouldn't expect State Farm and/or Allstate to use that, right, because they're competing for customers at the end of the day.

Eric Swanson:               So I think one of the things that I've always found is really interesting is to make sure that in my role, I understand kind of where what are some interesting things that those utilities are doing, and then ultimately, vendors as we call them or like solution providers, what are they doing as well that's kind of aligned with that interesting project.

Eric Swanson:               So I might read something that Eversource is doing some really fascinating project and I'll spend some time digging into who was the system integrator for that? Who was the consulting firm that helped put all that together? Who was the computer software company that helped build that? Who's the contractor that built out that solar project or whatever it is?

Eric Swanson:               You see, so if you start putting things together and piecing A with B with C together, you can go to some of those companies and say, "Hey, Eversource is promoting this, why don't we talk about it on a webinar?" Or "Why don't we talk about it in an article?" So in a roundabout way, you're kind of piecing the story together already for them, in some cases.

Chris Battis:                  Isn't a lot of that information, publicly available too, through the bidding process and everything?

Eric Swanson:               Yeah, definitely. Most of it's public record. I don't dive into public records to be honest with you.

Chris Battis:                  But it's there.

Eric Swanson:               But it's there. And a lot of times, here at GTM, a lot of our editors are doing that. They're hearing about different things and-

Chris Battis:                  Keeping the ear to the ground on what's being built and everything?

Eric Swanson:               Exactly. And so a lot of times they know, or I'll see an article on our website that one of our team wrote about, and take that to the next level.

Logan Kelly:                  That's so cool. So when you go to the software company, let's go on a webinar, is that something that the software company is then using as an advertisement?

Eric Swanson:               Yeah, yeah.

Logan Kelly:                  For themselves or... Okay, cool. Interesting. So that's kind of like a prospecting play is like really understanding what's going on in the space, and really having conversations based on what that company has already done or just did.

Eric Swanson:               Exactly. Yeah. So you can go to them and say, "Hey I know you just did this project with Eversource, it's public, so let's talk about it." And in some cases you'll throw out a carrot saying, "Hey I think we could get Eversource to speak on this too. Your customers speaking on a webinar with you." And that's obviously the best case scenario for everybody. Right?

Chris Battis:                  Right. Yeah, of course.

Logan Kelly:                  That's awesome. That's fantastic. So yeah, I think that's amazingly relevant because you're like, "I don't go into public record," there's so many different websites with so much information about just about every company on the planet that doing a little bit of digging, you can get there. So this is fantastic.

Logan Kelly:                  Talk to us a little bit about the evolution. I know we mentioned it, so it's like oil and gas is kind of falling by the wayside and yet it's still a big deal. But then there's all these renewables that are coming into play and all that. So how do these like buzz trends, which I know we see on the front side, like wind farms in Cape Cod and that's an issue or, or this and that. How does the evolution of the industry affect what you're doing, and what your clients are doing? Like boots on the ground, right? In the the actual industry.

Eric Swanson:               Yeah, I think everybody is now walking on eggshells a little bit in terms of what they're what they're willing to talk about publicly. But I think everybody wants to talk about... the reason I say that is that you start to hear people talking about my industry, right? The energy industry all across Main Street, if you will. So yeah, you hear about it in presidential debates, you hear about it in the news, you hear about friends asking questions about it, those kinds of things. So it's a very top of mind issue that people are starting to really think about, talk about very regularly.

Eric Swanson:               I think the other thing to think about too is, climate change is a very real issue. It's a very big threat to the world. Right? And so from my perspective, on a personal level, I find it fascinating that I can play a very small part in that. Right. And the the reason I say that is GTM has some of the leading voices in the entire industry as it pertains to how the energy industry is combating climate change.

Eric Swanson:               And so it's fun to think about that again, in a very, very small way by keeping the lights on here, if you will, keep the financial bottom line strong and healthy, we can do that. We can kind of help move that needle a little bit. So yeah, the industry is evolving, the industry's changing. There's things happening everywhere, but I think that that climate change discussion to me is kind of one of the most fascinating parts on a personal level if you will.

Chris Battis:                  That's cool. It's the butterfly effect, right? Like if you have the voice to influence how people make purchasing decisions and you guide them towards the technologies that are best for the environment, that's kind of a neat place to sit on the influence scale.

Eric Swanson:               Yeah. I mean, you wouldn't necessarily... When I took the job about a year ago, I didn't necessarily think of that, and then like about six months in, I was like, wait a minute, this is kind of cool. I'm actually as much as you know, working for a paycheck, you're working for commissions and things like that. It's maybe we're working towards a greater good here. But yeah, it's kind of fun.

Eric Swanson:               But yeah, the end of the day, the energy space is changing a lot. It's becoming a lot more mainstream. People are starting to really take notice of what's going on. There's a whole mantra of... Utilities are now looking at their customers instead of just the term rate payer. They just get the bill every month and they just pay it. And you put it on the light and the light goes on, you turn on your laptop, the laptop boots up.

Eric Swanson:               Instead of looking at that, they're looking at them as actual people, and actual customers and they're starting to think about what can we do that's better serving them.

Chris Battis:                  That's interesting because for your customers, they need to be thinking about their install base, if you will, or customer base as an install base, like the SAS model. And they've been doing this long before SAS software was out there, but the key is to retain customers. And so to think of it as just a, what did you call it, a rate?

Eric Swanson:               Rate payer?

Chris Battis:                  A rate payer, it's a lot more than that. And especially in this world where customer service in general has just taken a front seat where it wasn't so much before. It's interesting to hear that this industry that's you're in, or servicing is taking the same approach as well.

Chris Battis:                  Because I have a friend that has a oil company, and I've been trying to get him very in the mindset to think about the SAS model and all right, what's your customer retention? What does it cost to get a customer and all that stuff. And he didn't have any analysis cause he had purchased a company. I'm like, "These people aren't thinking about this. This is incredible and super valuable knowledge and it's way more than just an invoice and a truck." In that industry. That's interesting to hear. That's cool.

Eric Swanson:               And I think the other thing too is the way that you, if you think about the evolution of the energy space and the utility space is, right now it's a monopoly. I can't go and switch and get my electricity from Eversource to use that example. My current utility is Excel. I can't switch and go to Eversource. I mean some places can, in Texas and et cetera, but I can't make that move. But it's not hard to believe that in the not so distant future, people can't make that decision, and say, "Look, I'm going to Tesla, I'm going to buy the roof that they have, it turns into a solar roof. I'm going to put a power wall in my garage. I'm going to charge my car and power my house from solar and a battery and I don't even need a utility anymore."

Eric Swanson:               And so I think as utilities are starting to think about that, that they could lose customers to that kind of a set up, they're starting to say, "Hey, maybe we need to do better about managing their customers."

Chris Battis:                  So maybe that was the answer, but I'll ask the question is, what do you think B2B salespeople can learn from your experiences in the energy space?

Eric Swanson:               I think a lot of it is just, for one, be passionate about your space. Maybe you don't really care that much about solar and energy and utilities and whatever, but you'll find a way to be passionate about it.

Chris Battis:                  And authentic, right?

Eric Swanson:               And authentic.

Chris Battis:                  Authenticity is key. That's our mantra.

Eric Swanson:               Exactly. And so, I mean, being that I've been in the space 10 years now, I kind of find that it's my little niche. I really enjoy the people in it, the conversations that we have and all that. And then again, as I talked a little bit about was, be that expert in both sides of things. Know your industry, but then also know what makes sure your customers tick, because at the end of the day, if they're coming to you purchasing something, they're putting their necks on the line in some cases, right? They made a case internally to get that budget to work with you, so make sure that you're working with them, and putting together the right programs that make sense for them.

Chris Battis:                  Nice. So we're rounding up towards the end here. So, tell me what are the next 12 months look like for Eric?

Eric Swanson:               Oh man. I'm just hoping they're a little less hectic and a less of a whirlwind than the last 12 months have been. So between, like we talked about, a new house coming, I'm not looking forward to moving by the way, but new job, getting up to speed, all that, It's been an absolute whirlwind. So I'm hoping to maybe have some time to breathe a little bit. And I think from on a serious note, honestly, I'd really like to spend some more time working to develop my team a little bit more.

Eric Swanson:               We have two fantastic guys that are on my team and yeah, I'd like to be able to say that I have a little bit more time to spend getting them going. Not that they're not going right now, but you know-

Chris Battis:                  Utilizing your rock star talent you have.

Eric Swanson:               Exactly, exactly. I really think in the next 12 months, we could do some pretty incredible things, and so I'm looking forward to like I said, taking a step back and getting a deep breath in and rocking and rolling.

Chris Battis:                  Awesome. Awesome. Great. Well, Eric, thank you so much joining us today. It's been a pleasure having you.

Eric Swanson:               Yeah, yeah. Thanks for the invite and I hope to do it again soon.

Chris Battis:                  You got it, man. Thanks for tuning into Intent Topics, everyone. I'm Chris Battis.

Logan Kelly:                  And I'm Logan Kelly, please give us a follow and a five star review on Apple Podcast. We will see you next time. Thanks a lot.

Chris Battis:                  Alright, take care.

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