Solar customers are out there in abundance, and it is up to the installer to harness and convert them. Think of it like this: Customers are rays of the sun; you are a PV system. But our hope is to get your conversion efficiency higher than a PV system’s 21 percent. Let’s go over each step of the sales conversion process and see what might make your efforts more efficient.
Step 1: Cast a Wide Net
Having a website and handing out flyers is great, but you will miss a ton of customers outside these boxes. With solar power moving from a niche or novelty commodity to mainstream consideration, potential customers are everywhere, Googling for information. Being connected to the sites they end up on will cast that net wider.
“We are seeing solar consumers are increasingly behaving like shoppers,” says Vikram Aggarwal, founder and CEO of EnergySage, an online marketplace for the solar industry. “As an industry starts to become more mass market and appeals to a broader reach, consumers are saying I like to shop and want to make sure I am paying a fair price for a quality product. If I’m buying a Mercedes, I want to know what I should pay for it.”
The solar industry isn’t cheap when it comes to marketing itself. In the last 12 months alone, six publicly traded companies spent $1.5 billion on marketing and selling solar. And you know what? This is a good thing even for those private, independent, small installers out there. EnergySage says that almost a quarter of the consumers who sign up through its system already have a quote in hand from a big solar install company. These people saw a deal, became intrigued, but were motivated to research for themselves rather than just buy the first thing they saw.
After creating a more multi-faceted customer acquisition approach, be sure to pay attention to the behavior of each customer channel.
“It’s a combination of factors that affect customer acquisition,” says Kathir Kuppan, founder and CEO of SolyMoly, an online solar shopping site and installer sales tool. “Today, installers have to still use a combination of tools for better qualifying leads, which includes shade analysis, credit analysis, address verification, service territory restrictions and state laws. Tracking the inbound partner channel also makes a difference in assessing the customer’s interest. For example, a customer on an outbound call campaign may be better suited than a web-sourced customer.”
Step 2: Present Options.
The 2015 Solar Installer Survey produced by EnergySage captured insight of local and regional solar installers in both residential and commercial markets. One top challenge cited by installers is the sheer number of competitors, with most respondents stating they face between 15 to 20 competitors in their territories alone.
And while this could present an issue, these options are actually a good thing according to buying habits EnergySage has noticed within its marketplace. So, in the EnergySage marketplace, interested shoppers create a profile of their property, identify it on a Google map, upload their electric bill and note any deal preferences they might have. This lead is then sent to all of the nearby prescreened installers in the EnergySage network (which has more than 250 solar installers in 30 states). From there, any of these installers are free to offer a quote or not.
“Typically, we see three to five installers providing a quote,” Aggarwal says. “This is essentially helping them compare, like Kayak.com does for travel.”
EnergySage has discovered that a customer is more likely to buy a system if presented with at least four or five installer quotes (about 35 to 40 percent conversion) versus just one (about 6 percent conversion). And don’t be worried about keeping your prices secret because transparency, EnergySage says, is a good thing.
“We find a lot of consumers have a lot of skepticism because of sales practices,” Aggarwal says. “From one perspective, installers are protective of prices because they don’t want them out in the open more readily, but they’ll have to, to compete.”
EnergySage arms the customer with a ton of information as well — ratings for installers, ratings and explanations of various solar equipment brands, the warranties available, the possible financing options and more.
“In a typical shopping environment, you get one quote and then want to shop,” Aggarwal says. “You do some homework on who to call next. Get that quote. May take a week. Then another. Maybe weeks go by. We are shortening this and shortening turnaround times.”