In the solar industry today, it is absolutely vital to your company’s success that you become very good at acquiring customers. People who excel at making sales really are the ones with the power in the solar market. In the US at least, there is more financing available for projects than there are projects able to be installed. Consequently, the question of which sales method is best is one of the hot topics in the industry right now.
Essentially you have a choice of four kinds of sales: Door to door, phone only, affiliate, or a mixture of phone and in person sales. So which one comes out on top?
One of the key benefits of door to door sales is that once you set up an operation that can train people to knock on the doors and make sales effectively, it can be very easy to keep that going. We’ve started to see home security companies using this method to get into solar, because they are often bigger companies that have the ability to set up a large sales force and keep it churning.
Another benefit is that with door-to-door you are consolidating your marketing and your sales costs. Instead of having a separate marketing budget for radio advertisements, mail outs and phone calls, your door-to-door salespeople are doing both the marketing and the final sale.
In contrast to this, phone only sales have the huge benefit of eliminating ‘in the field’ costs. Although a phone-based operation still carries the marketing costs of solar, it costs less to set up and less to maintain. There are two main challenges here. First, solar is a big sale. Finding people who can close effectively over the phone can be really tough and close rates are often much lower.
Secondly, companies using this methodology also need to factor in what is called the ‘change order’. This dreaded cost happens more often with phone only sales because the first time you actually see the property is when you roll up a truck to install the system. There might be damage to part of the roof; the roof’s construction might be sub-optimal for solar array attachment. You don’t know until you have already made the sale.
For this reason, we are seeing smaller companies use a combination of these first two methods. Typically, these companies will have an inbound lead and will speak to the potential customer over the phone. Asking them basic questions to make sure they qualify for solar and that they are not wasting time. Then, when the homeowner seems very interested, they will send someone to the property to close the sale. This method tries to combine the magic of face to face interaction with a good salesman, with the reduced costs of phone sales.
Another option for companies is to look at what is called affiliate sales. Also referred to as channel strategies, it involves finding a renewable energy minded partner, who will take on the task of selling for you. This can work very well for smaller companies that are excellent at installing, but not brilliant at selling. They are partnering with someone who is already known as a ‘green buyer’ and they can concentrate on the part of the process that they are best at.
At ModSolar we see all four methods of solar sales being used in conjunction with our software. Whether you are selling exclusively on the phone, using a door to door sales force or perhaps a mixture of the two; we can support you. The most important thing is that you take a good look at the DNA of your company and understand what you do best.
Essentially there is no ‘winning’ sales method: whatever you find to be most effective is what you should be doing.
Of course anything that closes more solar sales is fine by us!