While solar is making steady progress towards the main stream, it ain’t there yet. Many consumers are still suspicious of solar because it’s unfamiliar. They’ve seen panels and solar homes in pictures, but it’s not like buying or selling a car… or is it?
Making analogies to something familiar can be very helpful for both the residential sales person, as well as the homeowner. It may seem like a stretch, but buying and selling cars actually has a lot in common with residential solar sales, and solar marketers and sales people would benefit from making those comparisons. Let’s take a few examples:
Both cars and solar are large purchases that require research. Solar marketers need to become a generous provider of solar research. Be sure your website is chalk full of information about technology, rebates, costs, and financing options. You can also spread this information through various social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook. Remember, this isn’t a sales pitch as much as it is friendly, trust-building research that helps consumers decide they like and trust your solar service.
Both cars and solar can be considered optional. Solar is not essential today, but neither is having a luxury, hybrid or new car. Car companies overcome this practical thinking through showing positive images of experience and through test drives. Once consumers see people driving the car on a commercial or drive it for themselves, people develop a sense of ownership and excitement by imagining themselves driving down the street with the top down.
Can you give prospects a solar test drive? Sure, you can. Do it either through video or by having a prospect visit a customer’s home, giving weekend or monthly solar tours. These experiences can be so powerful. It allows the prospect to “experience” having solar through a real person with solar and lower utility bills. Of course, compensate these customers for their time, perhaps giving a fee for any contracts signed after the tour.
Both cars and solar can be bought with loans, leases, or on a per use basis. Solar has a lot of analogies to leasing verses buying cars. The main ones are that the upfront costs are lower with leases, maintenance is included with both leasing models, and that there are long-term ownership/savings advantages through purchasing either a car or solar system. Most solar companies can qualify for some type of leasing or PPA product. Make the car analogies and show customers the advantages of both leasing and purchasing through apples to apples case study comparisons. For solar PPAs, compare it to rental cars that charge for mileage.
Both cars and solar can be sold with marketing discounts, local rebates, and other government incentives. Once again, it’s important to emphasize and carefully explain all of the available incentives to your clients. They can be complex, so try to keep it as simple as possible in your marketing materials and sales calls. Images and graphs help a bunch, so dig into Excel or PowerPoint and show it as well as tell it with words. Of course, the case can also be made for solar leases that all of the incentives are taken into account. Nevertheless, don’t try to hide any incentives for the sake of simplicity, or the customer may feel like you’re hiding something and being a used car salesman. Transparency is key. Remember, solar is a huge purchase decision, so homeowners will be afraid of being ripped off. The solution for this is education, patience, and transparency.
Both cars and solar have warranties, and consumers expect and desire reliability for both. A direct car analogy is the “bumper to bumper” car warranty. That’s essentially what a solar lease is. If you want to explain the technology and maintenance, try making the analogy that solar panels are like a car's engine and that the inverter is like the transmission, which typically has to be replaced before the panels/engine. You could also make the comparison that unlike a car, solar has no moving parts, so solar requires little maintenance or replacement parts—with the exception of the inverter. If you’re using Tier 1 panels, you might also reassure prospects that you’re installing the equivalent of “Toyota” or “Honda” or "Ford-truck" panels, not “Yugos.” I’d stay away from Mercedes and Lexus, as these generally imply higher "luxury" prices, not long-term reliability. "Volvo" might be a better high-end analogy, since the Volvo brand implies safety.
There are tons of other car analogies to be made, and there are contrasts too. Some might be tempted to tell prospects that solar systems save money, while cars only cost money to drive and maintain. Don't make that point. Consumers don’t want a solar salesman telling them to buy solar instead of the BMW they’ve always wanted to see parked in their driveway and wrapped in a bow with a card on the windshield that says, “You deserve it, honey!”
So, don't kill anyone's hotrod dreams for a solar sale. You'll probably lose. Besides, the point of making car analogies is to make solar more familiar, not to compete with new car purchases. Have more car analogies? Feel free to share yours in the comments below. I'm sure there are plenty of automobile-centric ways to UnThink Solar.
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