At home, you might have bargained with your cable TV supplier when prices have gone up. You have probably haggled with your mobile phone provider for a new handset. But have you ever wished that you could bring down your energy bills?
Well, if you run a business, you can.
Ofgem rules prohibit negotiations for domestic energy contracts. But business energy buyers can negotiate to their heart’s content. And if you know how to haggle, then you have a very good chance of getting a better deal.
Take it from us. Our team negotiates better business energy deals for small and medium-sized firms every day.
In this blog post, we share some of the best practical tips to bring down your business gas and electricity prices.
Business energy contracts
Before we share any practical advice, it is worth explaining a few things about business energy contracts and the business energy market more broadly, so it is easier to navigate.
Most small and medium-sized firms used fixed energy contracts. This means that businesses pay a set unit price for energy that stays the same for up to five years.
You need to renegotiate a fixed gas or electricity contract before the contract ends, or else you may be placed on a non-competitive rollover contract.
This is almost a direct equivalent of being rolled over onto a ‘standard tariff’ after a one or two-year deal on your domestic energy supply has expired.
Each contract has a termination window towards the end of the contract period. During this time, you can cancel the contract and negotiate another with the same supplier or a new supplier.
Some suppliers will print the termination window on their invoices, but if not, you may need to contact the incumbent supplier to find out when you can switch.
Before you get a quote from a new supplier, you will need:
- A recent energy bill or an annual energy statement
- Your business address or addresses
- Information on contract dates
Haggling advice and tips
Haggling is a skill. And in some ways, haggling for your business energy isn’t too far removed from haggling for a new cable TV package or mobile phone contract.
The products are different. But if you are confident in your haggling ability, then you can apply the same skills to securing a better business energy deal.
Get a benchmark price
Before you can start negotiating in earnest, you need a benchmark price that you can compare other offers to.
If you already have a contract in place, you can use this price as your benchmark. But gas and electricity prices can vary significantly from year to year, so this probably won’t give you the best guide for the current market.
The easiest way to get a benchmark price is to get a renewal quote from your current supplier. Just make sure you get a precise figure instead of an indicative quote. You can also speak to an expert at Utility Helpline to get an idea of how much you could be paying for your business gas and electricity.
Just remember the golden rule of haggling. You can’t go down from your starting price, so you need to start as low as possible.
You can check out the cheapest possible prices by looking at our wholesale market reports. Because you are not buying on the wholesale market, you are unlikely to get these prices. But it acts a good guide for where the rock-bottom price level is.
Get quotes, quotes and more quotes
Remember that it is vitally important to keep switching suppliers. Many businesses stick with one supplier year after year and their prices go up and up. Switching regularly is the best way to save money year after year.
Once you have an idea of what you should be paying, it is time to hit the phones hard. Contact a full range of suppliers and narrow the best suppliers down to a shortlist.
Utility Helpline brokers compare more than 70 tariffs from 20 different suppliers – big and small – to get the best picture of the market.
Look at contract length
Business energy contracts vary in length. Contracts can be short or they can last up to five years.
You can often get a better deal by locking a contract in for a longer period, however, you do always run the risk of seeing prices shoot downwards before your contract expires, leaving you paying over the odds for gas and electricity.
Go on a charm offensive
When you are trying to negotiate with a supplier, remember that you are dealing with another person. It also helps to remember that you are asking for money off that they don’t need to give you.
It’s time for your winning charm to shine through.
Getting angry or aggressive is unlikely to win you any favours. Be polite, ask them how their day is going and smile, even if they can’t see it they will feel it through the phone.
Get the timing right
You need to make sure your timing is right. If you only have a few days left until your termination window closes, that puts any supplier in the driving seat because you don’t have a lot of time to decide.
There are also certain times of year that are better to negotiate energy contracts. Advisers may have more time to haggle at slower times of year.
Ask to speak to a supervisor
If you aren’t getting anywhere with a customer service agent, you might have more joy if you speak to someone with a bit more authority. Asking to speak to a supervisor is just like asking to speak to customer retention if you are trying to negotiate with Sky or BT.
Get gas and electricity from the same supplier
There’s no such thing as a ‘dual fuel’ tariff with business energy contracts. But suppliers are sometimes willing to shrink rates if you buy both fuels from the same supplier.
You may also be able to get additional services bundled up in your business energy contract. If you think it will be valuable, you can ask for a smart meter or certain energy consultancy services.
Get a broker to haggle for you
If you don’t have the time, don’t feel confident negotiating or if you are looking for a really big discount on your business energy supply, you can get an energy broker on side to haggle for you.
Brokers can often secure a better price than individual businesses because:
- They are market experts
- They can advise you whether to choose a long or short-term contract
- They have a good relationship with suppliers
- They have more time to scour the market and talk to suppliers
Utility Helpline compares more than 70 tariffs from 20 suppliers. We search high and low trying to find you the best deal on your energy.