The Art of Selling Environment, Health and Safety

Kelvin Roth

We are told that our education, particularly our technical skills, will prepare us to succeed in a career in environment, health and safety (EHS) management. So back when I was working on my degree in Environmental Engineering, I was taught how to design, build and run projects. I developed technical skills as well as project management skills. And while these elements are certainly important to every EHS manager, one critical component tends to be left out of our schooling: the art of selling and marketing.

We know that EHS programs don’t succeed without senior management support. The consequences of not having this support — insufficient budgets, lack of assistance from other functional areas, conflicting priorities and unnecessary obstacles — can be devastating. But to gain this support, you must know how to sell your program.

I’m not talking about the ability to make cold calls or engage in business development activities, of course — I’m talking about selling a project, idea or program.

Marketing means engaging the company in a targeted fashion. What has sold your program or idea to senior management will often not be the same set of benefits that convince your facility managers or operators. Your strategy needs to address all impacted “customers.”

Because selling and marketing are such critical components, it is important that you take the time during your program design process to plan how you will sell and market it. Put together an internal marketing plan that addresses the implementation strategy and the tactics you will use to promote that strategy. A good marketing plan is like a game plan: It serves as a guide for the actions you need to take, but also provides some flexibility to shift tactics to address any issues that may arise.

Here are a few tips for selling and marketing your EHS program that you should consider when developing your internal marketing plan. (And don’t be afraid to borrow ideas from your marketing people!)

  • Understand your company: You need to know your company’s goals and how it makes money. Simply knowing its EHS issues is insufficient; you need to understand your company’s position in the market.
  • Lead with your strength: Define the biggest or broadest benefit of your program and lead with that. Keep the message simple and consistent.
  • Develop the program “brand”:  All successful programs have a common language, look and feel, regardless of where they are implemented in the company. Develop talking points that provide a quick and easy summary of the program to keep everyone focused on the key goals.
  • Identify your best customers:  If you can identify and engage those who will gain the most from the new program, they can help you sell it. Listen to the “voice of the customer” (or voice of the employee) and use their words to engage them and get them excited about the new program.
  • Know your competition: There will be other programs that will compete for time and money. You need to have a plan to address these challenges and convince detractors that they can also gain from your program.

What other strategies have you used to effectively introduce new EHS programs in your company?

 

About Kelvin Roth

Kelvin Roth is Past President of the NAEM Board of Directors. Follow him on Twitter at @Oenodog.

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6 Comments
  1. Although woven into your tips already, I would underlinethe need to adopt and apply change management. Science and risk/opportunity arguments are not enough.

  2. Based on what you write here, IMO, you should be AMCOL’s CEO.

  3. John Rutter

    June 5, 2012

    Well said, Kelvin. Even though I am retired, I still have to ‘sell’ projects.

  4. DaveT

    June 7, 2012

    Kelvin, many people develop a H&S plan with an eye on the costs rather than the actual needs of the business. Therefore selling a good H&S startegy to your won business is definitely required and hopefully your leaders will recognise the strength of the plan and adopt it!

  5. Debbie

    June 7, 2012

    Thank for sharing Kelvin,
    This even applies in our personal lives, whether with children, aging parents or others in general. Please keep the info coming. Debbie

  6. Rose Shaver

    June 8, 2012

    Great comments Kelvin. I think you just provided me with the go to textbook message for my clients that are struggling with selling programs internally. Thanks, Rose

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