To really own the green business, customers need to trust your energy-saving recommendations.

The big buzzword today is “green.” Frankly, I’ve been in the business of saving the planet and I didn’t even know I was doing it.

Way back in the 1970s, when the first oil shockwave hit, my company knew we’d better get into the energy-saving business or someone else was going to lock us out of our own customers’ basements. And we weren’t going to allow that.

We learned about energy-saving heating systems, water-saving devices, electrical controls and more. When the price was spiking, it was a no-brainer to sell this stuff. But once the price backed down and we got adjusted to it, we fell back to our old habits. You can see where that’s gotten us.

What you need to understand is that people in general say they’d like to be green but often, if you scratch below the surface, a little more than most really vote with their wallets.

To really own the green business, and do the world and your company a big favor, you need to:

1. Be green at your own business.Because if all you do is talk green and you’re not green, you’re guilty of “green washing,” which means you stand to be exposed for the hypocrite you are.

The best way to begin the green process at your own company is to start by appointing someone (if not you) to spearhead the effort to go green. Remember, there are shades of green, so if you’ve never been green, you need to start with an audit to see where you are in the way of your own carbon footprint and energy use. This will help you create an extensive list of actions and policy changes from what you’re doing today to get on the path of a smaller environmental impact.

The key is to prioritize the to-do list and begin as soon as possible - in small steps if necessary - and dedicate your company to becoming greener as you go, without breaking your own piggy bank.

A must-do is your own demonstrated change to a truly green company, because going green and growing profits starts at your own company.

2. Sell green for the money it saves and not just because it helps the planet.It would be great if we all acted responsibly and would take green action because it’s the right thing to do. But the truth is, you need to also sell going green to your customers for its payback. The way to shorten that curve is to know all the information the client will need to be convinced there is a savings that will pay him or her back for acting responsibly.

This also means knowing what funding and tax credits are out there to help shorten the payback timeframe.

3. Create packages of energy-saving items you can sell that reduce waste and save people money.We all know that when we go shopping and we’re looking to buy a number of things from a vendor, we can do better if we package the purchase we’re making. We should do the same for our clients. It allows us to provide a “Total Solutions Provider” approach that can many times improve comfort, savings and more while doing a good thing for the planet.

4. Invest in energy audit technology and the training.It’s a small price in the long-run to be capable of completing the energy audits and also the one to provide the solutions. You can choose to let others do the energy audits, but at some point you need to put your money where your mouth is. Step up and learn how to qualify to do this vital work yourself if you’re going to market yourself as the “Green Choice.”

Plus, you’ll want to be the one to do the audit and provide the best choices the customer can make. Otherwise, you’re giving other companies the opportunity to market to your customers instead. The good news is there are many ways to get the training and the equipment at a steep discount if you’re willing to partner up.

5. Become passionate about how going green is the right thing to do and be just as passionate about how going green saves the customer money.People buy from people they trust and feel are genuinely passionate about what they are recommending to them. Customers also need to see you’re a demonstrated professional and knowledgeable about the products and services you’re recommending. Finally, they want to see testimonials from others who have experienced the benefits you’re talking about that will help them save money and become a more eco-friendly citizen.

All that’s left to do is get great at marketing your success stories; move your company from a commodity service-and-install business to a niche service business. Then get ready to reap the rich rewards.