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What’s life like for an energy salesperson?

Salesman talking to woman on doorstep

British Gas may stop doorstep selling and SSE has already suspended sales. And we know how consumers dislike doorstep selling… but what’s life like for the energy salespeople who spend their days cold-calling?

Energy companies have stormed the headlines recently, and between suppliers announcing colossal price hikes and getting fined for complaint handling, some interesting news has come out on doorstep sales.

First British Gas said it may stop door-to-door sales, then SSE announced it would stop sending out sellers paid on commission.

Consumer Focus has called for a three-month suspension on cold-call energy doorstep sales and we are supporting this – not least because 95% of you told us you’d rather door-to-door salespeople didn’t come to your house at all.

A day in the life of a salesperson

While fending off door-to-door sales or getting cold-callers to stop calling you may be annoying, the encounter can’t always be easy for the salespeople.

We’ve seen several posts on other sites from salespeople who’ve been ordered to sell deals they know are poor, sometimes for little reward. And a commenter called Truth said this on a previous Conversation:

‘I worked in this industry for 12 years and recently left. Years ago we offered customers savings of £70 to £140 on average. However for some reason the big 6 have narrowed the margins of new doorstep offers to £10 to £50 a year savings against standard prices. Most customers who trust doorstep callers will swap for £70 savings per year so the reps are lying about the savings and sometimes costing customers more.’

In 2008 Ofgem found that more than 40% of consumers switched to a worse deal on the doorstep and if – as Truth’s comment suggests – the savings being offered on the doorstep are shrinking, then selling these deals must be increasingly difficult.

So what inspires people to work in this field? And what is day-to-day life like?

Energy salespeople – tell us your story

We want to know more about what it’s like to be an energy salesperson. If you currently (or have ever) worked selling energy tariffs on the doorstep, over the phone or in any other context – we’d like to hear from you.

What training and support were you offered and how does it feel trying to meet switching targets? How did you learn which sales tactics worked, and how much pressure was put on you to give the hard-sell?

To what extent was your pay linked to the number of sales you made? And were you able to offer all the deals your company offered, or were some excluded from doorstep sales?

Tell us about your experiences below, or if you’d like to speak to us in confidence – please click the ‘tell us your story’ button on the right.

Uzume says:
7 August 2011

I can’t stand having to deal with cold callers selling gas and electric who always seemed to ring the doorbell as we’re sitting down to dinner, or later in the evening making me think it was someone I know rather than a salesperson. I have even had them on the doorstep at 8.45pm which is ridiculous!

A leaflet or email is enough for me to get the information and decide if it’s what I need, I don’t need someone on the doorstep and I’m happy to hear it is stopping.

If companies are worried about specific cultural groups or vulnerable adults not getting the information, they can liaise with organisations who work with them to ensure they have the full picture but they shouldn’t be knocking on the doors of vulnerable adults at that time of night anyway..

Craig says:
7 September 2011

I worked in the industry for quite a while and I found that the job had good days and bad days but overall I could earn a decent living.My pay was 100percent commission and there was some days when I went out all day and earned nothing.In general I think there is still a market for this I think consumers do and will need a bit of a push to change supplier because gas and electric is not something they think about on a day to day basis.I cant see this new tatic of no cold calling working all this will do is loose people jobs and the companys will not get a lot less customers,I think this is wrong because most of the older people who are with the gas for the gas and electric for the electric will always end up paying more now in the majority of cases.I always sold fixed price tarriffs and found the longer fixes a better deal for customers I found alot of people not willing to engage even though I could save them money.To me this is a real big shame there is to much publicity surrounding the job its not the same as it was years ago the regulation and vetting are alot more strict.

I am currently in employment with Eon as a home energy consultant.. I have been with the company for almost 4 years with a small break inbetween. I have chosen to work with Eon because I think the way we are able to present ourselves, products and tariffs on the door is the most transparent of all the big 6.. We use a pentablet computer that has upto date prices uploaded on a daily basis and allows us to provide clear and accurate statements of fact (savings to the penny) in comparison with the customers current supplier and tariff. In the recent months due to the climate and energy price rises more and more people are buying into FIXED prices.. This may not be the cheapest way to have your bills but it offers peace of Mind to the customer for a greater length of time.. I want to stress that I completely understand why this form of selling is sadly looking like coming to an end.. Many (quick buck) salespeople that slip through the net have worked for suppliers in order to just make a quick salary, no thought, compassion and often morals, these are the kind of sales that ofgem have and are still investigating… Sadly due to the nature of the beast, poor experiences, mis-selling, poor customer service have all culminated in the publics belief that we may be there to harm their interests and Not to HELP them… I often make many appointments whilst cold calling in order to allow the potential customer to gather their bills, thoughts, usage etc.. On appointment basis I feel the business I produce for the company is more solid. I pride myself on the facts that I walk away from every sale with my head held high knowing the customer has chosen to use Eon and for all the right reasons. With our baby due in only 5 weeks now I am find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that I could be soon taken away from my role and even made redundant due to no fault of my own.

Craig says:
8 September 2011

What a disgrace putting people out of work who are doing a great job saving people money! I dont believe these figures about the 40%being worse off.I think people get confused when there direct debit goes up before winter that they assume because they changed supplier a month before that they have gone onto something not as good.I see it all the time quotes like “yeah but when we change to you you will put it up”having to explain that its the price you pay per KW that is fixed and direct debits are always vairable.Once they understand this there is not a problem. So bring back energy sales people and dont be horrible just get the kettle on and lets have a chit chat about the weather or anything you fancy!

genie says:
17 February 2012

Hi all,

i don’t work for any of the big 6. I’m a distributor for the Utility Warehouse (Telecom plus Plc).

I find Door to door sales extremely difficult – even though i know i can save the customer a HUGE amount of money due to the companies ability to offer all of the utility products including broadband and free phone calls anytime/anywhere not to mention the supermarket cash back card which reduces the bill even further without any change to their day to day shopping habits – How can i be so sure – because I’m saving it myself as a customer. The distrust of door to door salesman is inherent in human nature – the first thing people say to me is Ok I’ll listen to what you have to say but I’m not switching !!! How can i get the message across if the won’t even answer the door with an open mind – How can i get my message across.??

curtiss ormerod says:
14 May 2012

I have worked in the energy industry for now 12 years and ive enjoyed every minute of it, what is disappointing is that there is so much miss selling going on as an adviser i knew it was going on and as a sales trainer i did, there are plenty of good people within the business but there are a fair few bad and its those people that have ruined things for others, and have made things so much harder i dont blame the customers for the lack of trust but its equally as hard for those of us that are honest and hard working.
There is a difference too a blagger and a sales person in my opinion energy companies need acknowledge those people who do the job honestly and not those ones that consistently hit high figures best practice is the key too success i know i can do an honest job showing empathy too the customer and identifying the customers needs in a professional manner and i would gladly challenge a ofgem representative too work with me too prove that the job can be done in a compliant manner.
For those advisers who have earnt lots of money ripping people off, thanks alot for ruining a great job.

Xena-Lee Haynes says:
16 March 2021

I worked with a dishonest I guess you could call it a business for a month. During covid and December it was hard. At first I was excited then I found that these people in higher position were just getting richer. I don’t think this should be commison based and salery only. So that the manger can’t tip us off. Most of them were in it for the money. It put me off doing this job for life. We basically just got given a script of what to say with no proper training.

geordie says:
22 July 2012

I worked on the doors for 10 and a half years,and sold approx 25,000 services,with my best year £104k.I genuinely only ever had one yes one serious complaint which I was fully cleared,although I had my share of petty complaints,like buyers remorse or third party complaints.The reason the job has a poor reputation, is in my opinion down to the utility companies desperate to give anybody a job.Compliance was never adheared to in the early days and it was basically a free for all.There has been a catalogue of errors by companies to identify problems and the sh-t has hit the fan!!!!!!!! But unfortunately these errors have filtered through to good,honest and hard working advisors.I could go on and on and on but whats the point.A sad loss for me and many many others and am sure jealous people will take great pleasure in this but at least I have something to show for those fruitful years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BYE BYE

Adam says:
15 January 2017

I worked for most of the 6 suppliers, was great working selling energy, but must say the reps where given deals which are more expensive then others tariffs the suppliers where promoting online, this resulted in reps inflating savings to get sales in some cases costing the customer more, so the suppliers are to blame as they knew to will that these tariffs are not compitive
After all sales persons can only sell the product that’s available to them
But price is not always the only reason people sign up so it’s a shame the companies have closed this channel dwn
I would like to think I did a good job and helped many customers with energy at there homes
[This comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines. https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/Thanks, mods.]

Adam – Are you saying that British Gas, National Power, and E.On are currently ripping people off, or is that a historical situation that has since been remedied by enforcement action by Ofgem? We have been supplied by one of those companies for four years now and don’t believe they have treated us unfairly; in fact I would say they have been transparent and have helped us to lower our bills by offering better tariffs.

Perhaps those sales reps who were complicit in selling overpriced deals, for their own benefit, also deserve criticism? I’m sure “only obeying orders” does not absolve them.

We seem to have abolished doorstep energy selling. I still wish we would abolish fixed term fixed price deals that are subsidised by standard variable tariffs. If Which? genuinely want to fight for fair energy prices this could be a better place to start?

You may get sales reps telling long stories and all sorts just to get a sign up, but the fact is if customer has saved money they won’t mind so much. The problem arises when utility companies use this method of selling to sell more expensive tariffs. THIs is where customers are mis sold because if the reps point out the real deal no one would switch unless they having customer service issues with current providers. I blame the energy suppliers for not offering a good enough deal at the door
First utility is prime suspect
Cheep deals online
Expensive deals face to face

Nicholas says:
23 February 2019

Iam a new energy consultant but have lots of sales and customer servive experience. I work for a reputable company and never promise a business i can save them money. I do have to knock on businesses doors and amalyze their bill and compare it to what my energy supplier is offering for rate and terms. In most cases i can sabe businesses money. I dont do the hard sell thing anf let the customer decide what is right for them
My bih problem is that sp msmy customers hsbe been slammed by unethical sslrdpeople. Building report with the customer takes a lot of work thanks to thede unethical a******s.