Study Reveals Room for Sales Response Improvement in Growing Solar Industry

Solar installations have grown by more than 600 percent across both residential and commercial properties in the past 9 years – a compound industry growth rate of 76 percent.

But even within an industry that is ripe with opportunity, there are a surprising number of time-sensitive sales leads that aren’t being worked by solar companies every day. In a recent study that secret shopped 30 residential solar installation companies, it was apparent that solar installers’ contact strategy vary in comparison to established best practices for maximum sales effectiveness in other industries. The survey tracked how quickly solar companies responded via phone and email, and the number of response attempts made over a 22-day period. Their performance, relative to buyer expectations and best practices, left significant room for improvement.      

The study found that there was a surprising percentage of companies that took days or weeks to respond to what should be seen as a “hot lead.” What was even more shocking was that a majority of companies failed to follow up with interested buyers after their initial contact attempt or failed to respond to these interested prospects at all.

Given that residential solar investment tax credits (ITC) are set to expire at the end of 2016, residential solar installers are looking for every possible edge to drive increased revenue. There is no excuse to neglect leads that are waiting to be contacted with more information about residential solar options.  Based on the study’s research, here are three best practices to optimize inbound lead conversation:

1. Maximize The Value Of Your Leads: While the concept of responding to all inbound leads sounds obvious, the secret shopper study revealed that 30 percent of online buyers never received a phone call, 43 percent didn’t receive a response by email and an alarming 19 percent of leads did not receive any sort of response.  That is a significant amount of revenue and opportunity being left completely untouched, and practically being served up to the competition. It’s time for sales teams to take advantage of inbound leads and convert more untapped revenue.

2. Implement A Sales Contact Strategy: Previous research found that the optimal amount of follow-up to be between five and seven contacts attempts. This secret shopper study revealed only a fraction of interested buyers received close to the optimal number of follow-up calls. Interested customers were more often not contacted by a solar sales rep than they were to receive multiple follow-up phone calls. This is not ideal when building brand loyalty and awareness, and if customers are feeling ignored they will likely move on to a competitor.

3. If You’re Not First, You Might Be Last: Industry research showed speed-to-contact as the number one driver of lead conversion. So much so, that calling a prospect within one minute can increase the chance of conversion by as much as 391 percent. However, the study surveying solar sales reps found that many of them failed to follow-up promptly via phone, with 60 percent of solar prospects waiting days, weeks or not receiving a phone call at all. Sales reps’ response via email wasn’t much better, with more than 50 percent of interested prospects waiting days, weeks, or were never contacted via email.

Driving revenue is the number one goal for every company, and the solar industry is no different. This rapidly expanding industry has seen extensive growth, however, drastic changes must be made to the selling process in order to address the problem of untouched opportunities.

Solar companies are getting far too comfortable with the current growth cycle in the solar sector. In a sales environment driven by word of mouth customer marketing, these practices could hurt brand reputation in the long run.  Being the first to make contact with a prospect and stake a claim is extremely important, but there are more steps required to close a deal. Knowing how to work with a prospect to optimize satisfaction and chances for a successful sale is essential to capitalize on this exploding market.

Lead image: Timing is Everything. Credit: Shutterstock.

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