Back in the mid 80's when I would tell someone that I was a mortgage banker, the normal response was a strange look and the question, "what's that?"
During the boom period in the mortgage industry the response was usually something like, "oh yeah, my cousin Guido, who just got out of prison, does that!"
By the time I got out of the business a bit over a year ago the response had generally become a dirty look and something mumbled under the person's breath.
The reason that I bring this up is that I have already started to see the same thing happen in the Solar Industry. All kinds of businesses are springing up left and right. While I appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit, I'm afraid that the lack of standards to be a solar dealer or salesperson is going to hurt the industry in the long haul.
In the mortgage industry just about anybody could join the club. One time while I was in line at a gas station waiting to pay for my tootsie pop, my phone rang. I stepped out of line to answer the phone – it was a client inquiring about the status of their loan.
I talked with the guy for a bit and by the time I was done, the line had dwindled to where I was the next one up. As I went to pay, the cashier, who was wearing a gravy stained shirt, hadn't shaved in several days and was missing several teeth, asked me if I was a mortgage banker.
I told him, "yes" and he proceeded to dig out a stained and battered business card that identified him as a loan officer with a large national mortgage lender. He smiled a gap toothed smile and proudly proclaimed that he too, "was a mortgage banker!"
Now, I'm not the prettiest person in the world myself, but I do have all of my teeth (at least the front ones) and I shower and shave everyday. And while some folks out there might think that I'm a snoot for being taken aback by the guy's proclamation, I don't feel bad about my dismay at how low the mortgage industry sunk.
So now, I'm starting over and am out looking to get my foot in the door to the solar industry. I've seen several companies taking the low road when they examine the solar salesperson: Several companies I've talked with were more concerned with my willingness to work on a 100% commission basis than the fact that I've studied electrical theory and know the difference between an amp and a volt.
Looking around, I do see signs of hope, such as the NABCEP Solar Sales Certification, which I've started started studying for. But sometimes, I am still afraid that solar sales is going to go the way of home improvement or car sales.
I hate to be pessimistic, but if my experience in the mortgage industry is any indication, the low road is going to win out. Solar companies are going to be more concerned with how well a salesman can close a deal (whether the customer is best served or not) than in doing the right thing.
I hope that I'm wrong. I'm also curious as to what others think – especially solar installers who have been in the business for a while.
Bob "Free As The Wind" Mitchell
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