If you have been selling residential solar for the past few years, you have probably been taught that uncovering a customer’s pain points is the key to closing the deal. Specifically, you have likely mastered the art of turning a homeowner’s sticker shock over their utility bills and fear of losing control over the cost of their electricity, into a case for going solar. It was a simple and effective tactic: all you had to do was convince the homeowner that solar would make the pain go away, and you would walk out with your signed contract in hand.In many cases, this message still works: Homeowners still often face the pain of high electric bills, and if you are selling solar plus storage in the right regions, they may still be reeling from the pain of persistent power outages. However, if you find that selling based on pain is no longer as effective as it used to be, you are not alone, and you should keep reading.
Solar buyers today are more savvy and more cost-conscious than ever before. “It has turned into a mature business” says Trevor Wright, Director of Sales at Semper Solaris, a SPW 2019 top 10 residential solar contractor. “For the most part [prospects] know what solar is, [and] you’ve got a much smarter buyer now. The low hanging fruit [...] most of them have already bought.”
This is a new solar market, and the competition for customers is brutal. If you manage a large team of sales reps, things are even worse - because of high employee turnover and an increasingly competitive job market for the best reps, it’s a constant struggle to keep your team happy. This is one of the reasons why sales reps are among the hardest roles to fill in the solar industry.
Source: 2019 National Solar Jobs Census.
So what do you do if you are a successful closer who is looking to maintain your edge and elevate your solar sales to the next level in 2020? Or what if you are a sales leader, trying to grow your company from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue?
From my conversations with some of the most successful sales organizations in solar, to thrive in this environment, I suggest that you ditch a sales strategy based on buyer pain, and learn instead to adopt a strategy of TALC - Teach, Ask, Listen and, of course, Close your leads.
Assuming you already have a qualified lead, the best first step in the sales process is to teach the homeowner about what solar means for their home. I’m not talking about rattling off generic facts about modules - they already have that information from Google (and from your competitors). I’m talking about building an engaging, interactive, educational experience - one that is tailored just for your homeowner. At Aurora, we have built a number of tools to help you deliver this experience. My personal favorites are: the Consumption Profile tool, which makes it easy to explain complex concepts like time-of-use rates, and the solar Sun Path, which helps to show which roof surfaces are getting the most sunlight. Whether you do this at the kitchen table or over the Internet, having an interactive, visual experience will make you stand out from the competitor who just sent the customer a page with some poorly placed panels and pricing.
With the Aurora Consumption Profile tool, you can create an accurate electric consumption based on your customer's electricity bill and location, then show them the impact of their pool, lighting or even their EV.
Now that you have established yourself as a trusted advisor, don’t be afraid to ask open-ended questions to get the customer talking about themselves, their hopes in going solar, and their concerns. Start off by asking the gentler “pronoun” questions - these are questions that start with “What” or “Who”, and as you build trust, move towards the harder, interrogative questions, “Why”, “When”, or “Where”. The best sales reps ask about a customer’s objections to surface them at the beginning so they can listen to the response and address the customer’s concerns and provide satisfactory answers.
Elliot Goldstein, an Account Executive used this technique to consistently top the leaderboard at a leading solar installation company. “The goal here is to get the customer to reinforce the reasons they are making this decision (without you having to bring up pain)”, says Elliot. “For example, ask if they would be okay with the look of solar on the front of their house. What is the possibility of moving? Lean into hard questions to distinguish yourself as a trusted advisor.”
Again, it is critical that you have an interactive process in case they ask you questions that you hadn’t fully prepared for. A classic example is “I don’t like the panels on the front of the house”. An in-app simulation makes it easy to show the customer the economic effect of that decision.
Aurora's energy performance simulation makes it easy to show the customer in real-time the economic effect of any decision, such as placing panels on the front of the house.
When asking your questions, actively listen to what your customer is telling you. The best sales reps will pick up on pitch, tone and other cues that indicate if the customer fully understands the value solar provides, or if instead they need more time to make a big decision. How do they react when you tell them the price? Or when you ask them to compare the pros and cons of buying with cash vs. loan or lease? Make sure you truly understand all of their questions and that you answer them adequately - it costs too much money for you to get this far without you feeling confident that they are definitely buying from you.
An experienced solar sales rep also knows that just getting the homeowner to sign is not the finish line. After all, if you have Taught, Asked and Listened like you should have, you would think that it’s just a formality to get them to Close right there and then. However, due to the industry’s high project cancellation rates and change orders, many solar sales reps still don’t earn their commission until the system is installed and the customer is satisfied.
In my experience, the best way to avoid cancellations or change orders is to make sure that you sell to the homeowner something that they want, and something that your company can actually deliver on. This means that the homeowner feels as good about their decision after you leave as they did while you were in the home or on the call.
It also means that you haven’t created a bad design which your operations department or installer will kick back. Common mistakes sales reps make include placing solar panels over fire code setbacks, chimneys, and other design errors. Fortunately, Aurora Secure Mode makes it possible to foolproof your sales process and reduce the risk of design errors while simultaneously enabling the sales person to personalize the site design. (Quick aside - when I talk to sales leaders about giving everyone access to Aurora, I get a combination of delight and fear: everyone loves what we have built, but many are also worried about what could happen if they let their sales team access the project site models. We have you covered—our new feature, Secure Mode, lets you restrict your team from altering trees, buildings or other aspects of the site model).
2020 promises to be one of the most competitive years for solar yet. Your buyer has more information than ever before, including already knowing that solar will reduce their bills. The major question in their mind is why should they go with you. To close them, I suggest you start to TALC. It is the secret to some of the fastest growing, profitable companies in solar today, and will help you take your sales to the next level.