It’s safe to say that solar doesn’t have a public image problem. Polls show that an overwhelming percentage of Americans support solar power. The New York Times recently reported that the cost for solar continues to go down. In fact, solar is increasingly becoming cost-competitive with conventional fuels in many parts of the country.
Still, the Solar Energy Industry Association estimates that the average customer decision time for “going solar” is 8.9 months, and customer acquisition costs make up 10-15 percent of the total price of a solar system. That’s far longer than the average car sales cycle. It’s also longer than most enterprise software sales cycles, where the costs can be well over half a million dollars.
So for solar installers across America, the question remains: How do we get to “yes” faster and cheaper?
Here are our top insights, from experts around the country:
Tip 1: Concentrate
Start in a specific neighborhood or community and build a concentrated customer base through referrals and networks. Yale University recently published a study that proves what we know anecdotally — people are more likely to get solar if they live in proximity to homes that already have it. This can decrease the customer decision time from 8.9 months to three months on average, as customers see and hear real testimonials. If you want to grow quickly while also lowering your customer acquisition costs, concentrate on concentration.
Tip 2: Don’t Hesitate to be the First Follower
For smaller solar installers, you don’t have to be the first mover. In fact, following a large first mover who paves the way with advertising dollars and customer education might be your best bet. By following the leader, you can spend less to educate customers and sell a differentiated product based on your reputation, expertise, quality, and being local.
Tip 3: Simplify the Pitch
Solar has traditionally been complex. It required proposal documents, engineering designs, permit packages, assembly of multiple pieces of equipment, several classifications of installation expertise, interconnected processes with utilities, and large cash payments or complicated financial instruments.
Don’t bring the complexity to the customer. Your pitch, or rather your consultation, must be simple — you pay “X” for “Y” results. The more sales leaders can simplify the sales process for the customer, the less likely they are to distract customers with tangents and doubt. Simplicity sells.
Tip 4: Underscore Solar’s Value
Solar is a no brainer. Believe it and convey it. If you don’t believe it, you won’t convey it. Consumers who install solar can save a significant amount off their utility bills every month — savings that can add up to more than 4 percent of their pre-tax annual income. Moreover, while utilities’ electricity rates continue to go up annually — 6.7 percent a year in California since the 1970s — solar energy rates do not. Ask yourself, why would your customer want to waste money every month that can be put back in their pocket?
Tip 5: Underscore Your Value
Don’t just convince someone that solar is the way, convince them that you are the way to solar. People naturally buy from people they trust, identify with, and like. Therefore, don’t position yourself as a sales person. Rather, position yourself as a friend and an expert or trusted advisor. By positioning yourself as an expert regarding solar power systems and energy efficiency, you immediately gain credibility and trust. Keep it simple unless asked.
It’s not just about savings, it’s about demonstrating your authenticity, credibility, expertise, and reliability to people who will turn to you during the 20 plus years their panels operate.
Tip 6: Urgency Drives Sales
Having a sense of urgency drives success.
It’s easy for a customer to say that they will look at your proposal later and then forget about it. Create a sense of urgency by pointing out when tax credits are expiring, state credits are limited, or when you are offering a special for the month. Encouraging a decision "in the now" is critical. For example: “Our solar backlog is strong today, when you can get 30 percent back from federal government through the investment tax credit for solar. But when the investment tax credit expires, you will have to once again pay full price. Getting you signed up today puts you ahead of the backlog and will definitely get you the tax credit.”
Tip 7: Ask For the Sale
Those successful in selling know how to ask for the business. Rejection is part of sales, and it is OK not to get a “yes” on the first ask. Each rejection is a chance to understand their concerns and resolve them.
Tip 8: Have the Right Audience
If you don’t have all the decision makers in the room when you are providing a solar consultation, you are wasting your time. If it is a husband and wife, arrange a time to talk to them both. Save time and increase your chances of success; most people don’t make expensive choices for their home without talking about it with their significant other.
For solar installers everywhere, there are many ways to get customers to yes faster and more efficiently. You can work to simplify your processes, concentrate on a specific market, leverage other companies’ marketing efforts, communicate the value of solar, be a trusted expert, convey a sense of urgency, ask for the business, and make sure you are speaking to the decision makers.
Following these tips — and building a sales force who practice them — will get you closing more deals in less time.
If we follow these tips, we can bring the decision time of solar down significantly from its 8.9 month average. Solar makes sense.
Lead image: Sales via Shutterstock