Early on the people who bought solar energy systems were either live-off-the-land environmentalists, survivalists, right wing extremists , or engineers & hobbyists. That has changed. Solar electricity systems are becoming quite mainstream, and therefore the approach for selling them has to change too.
In particular, the residential solar lease offers a whole new way to look at going solar, and therefore also presents a whole new way to sell solar. Solar no longer needs to be about amps and volts and which panels and BOS are the right for a particular home. Those are all still very relevant, but at the end of the day may not be something that a homeowner who is considering going solar needs to hear about. Here are what I believe to be the key steps for selling solar. Do you agree?
1. Understand why the homeowner wants to go solar. Is it for environmental reasons? Financial reasons? Prestige? Independence from the utility company? To go off grid? It is critical to understand what is motivating someone to go solar. That way you can speak to them in terms that will resonate with them. Asking questions about why they want to go solar is more important than telling them why they should go solar. I’ve read numerous books on sales over my sales career and every single one talks about the importance of asking good questions.
2. Remember that they came to you. These days people go solar because they want to and because they believe in it, not because they have to. They’re not buying a used car, something they dread doing. They’re going solar! They’re taking a step that they’re excited about. Part of selling solar is being about to stay out of your own way and let them build on their own excitement. At some point selling solar will require lots of outreach and outbound sales, but at this point I still hear that it’s mostly inbound inquiries.
3. No matter what you’re selling, listening is always more important than talking. Customers will tell you how to sell to them by the questions they ask and the statements they make. Listen, then address their questions, then listen some more.
4. Ask good questions. In my experience customers were always happier and more successful when they came to their own conclusion about how they wanted to proceed, rather than me telling them how to proceed. Asking good questions can help homeowners come to a desired conclusion faster. It also helps ensure that they make a decision that is right for them. After all, they are the ones who will have the panels on their home for the next 20+ years.
5. Unhappy customers are NOT worth it. If a customer is not the right fit and won’t be successful with solar energy then do not sell it to them. An unhappy customer is way more trouble than they’re worth.
6. Keep it simple. Selling a solar lease can be as simple as outlining what the monthly payment will be and how that it, when combined with the remaining electricity bill, will be less than why they currently pay for electricity. It really does not need to get much more complicated. A clear graph of what their payments would be if they stayed with their current utility compared with payments for a solar lease combined with a greatly reduced energy bill will go a long way in explaining their energy future with a lease.
7. Process, process, process! Do some detailed analysis on your recent sales. What was the process like? What worked? What didn’t? How could you reduce the amount of time it too to close each deal? How could you have qualified them better before going on-site? What made for the happiest customers and most successful installations? The more you can figure out what your best, streamlined process is, the better you’ll do in the future. Many sales books talk about how a good rep with a great process will outperform a great rep with no process or a bad process. Now just imagine how well you can do with a great rep and a great process!
8. There is a cost to sending out bad sales people even if they’re commission only. Sure, you don’t have the pay the rep if he can’t close a deal, but there’s a big opportunity cost if you could have sent out a better rep with a good process who could have closed a higher number of the deals. Therefore, you have to be good at hiring and even better at firing.
9. Training. Sales people should get continual, monthly, if not weekly training. You’ll be amazed how fast the message being presented by reps who attended the same training diverges. Figure out what your best practices are, what your process should be, and what your unique messaging is, then practice, practice, practice.
Installers & sales people: I’d be interested in hearing what has and hasn’t worked for you.
Customers & homeowners: I’d also like to hear what you did and did not like about your buying experience.