In the solar industry, it pays to move fast if you want to close a sale with a potential customer. In fact, sales research has found that how quickly a lead is called after expressing interest is the most significant driver of conversion rates. For that reason, it’s worth taking a close look at selling solar remotely—using screen sharing tools and remote solar design software—if you’re not already.A well-executed remote sales strategy can help you follow up with leads faster and reach them while they are most ready to buy. It can also return valuable hours to your sales team, allowing your company to follow up on more leads and sell more solar installations instead of driving from home to home. Additionally, online sales calls may better suit the preferences of modern consumers who prefer to make purchasing decisions online rather than have a salesperson visit their home.
Finally, this approach can significantly reduce soft costs for your company by allowing you to limit costly site visits to just the customers you’ve already closed. Mike Wiegel at Solarponics, a California solar installer, experienced this firsthand: “[Remote selling with] Aurora has given us the ability to do accurate site designs while reducing pre-sale site visits—saving us $500 per lead."
In today’s article, we break down what you need to put in place a strong system for selling solar remotely.
What Does a Remote Solar Sales Process Look Like?
When we talk about selling solar remotely, what are we referring to? A remote solar sales process involves selling solar to the customer from your desk rather than in the home or office.
The use of conferencing software that enables you to share a view of your computer screen lets the prospect follow along with any visuals, such as slides, your solar proposal, and even your solar design software. This allows you to showcase the design and effectively communicate the information the prospect needs to be confident in the decision to buy solar from your company.
This system is one that Aurora Solar Account Executive Elliot Goldstein used often in his previous role selling solar. Prior to joining Aurora, Elliot worked for a leading national solar installation company, where he sold millions of dollars of residential solar deals and helped lead an inside sales team that operated in 16 different states. Elliot explains that this process worked particularly well because it allowed him and his team to get an accurate design and real numbers to the prospect in under one hour.
His typical sales call would start off by talking through a slide deck that covered things like the homeowner’s current electricity bills, an introduction to solar, how net metering works, and the value the company offers (e.g., hardware details, quality of install, etc.). From there he would walk through the custom solar design for the prospect's home and ensure approval before getting into the financials of the project. [To learn more about best practices for a successful solar sales pitch, see our related blog post—which also includes insights from Elliot.]
Likely most or all of your existing sales pitch can be retained when selling remotely, you just need the right setup to support a remote sale. Let’s dig into that below.
Setting Up a Remote Solar Sales Model: 3 Key Elements
Many solar companies have found great success selling solar remotely. If saving time and money while connecting with leads faster sounds like something your company is interested in, where do you start?
There are a few elements to a remote sales strategy that works seamlessly: an inbound lead funnel (or other pipeline of qualified leads), a system for quickly responding to leads and booking appointments, and the right software tools to make the whole process work. Let’s take a look at each:
1) Create a lead funnel based on a strong online presence
A remote solar sales approach can benefit significantly from an inbound marketing and sales strategy—in which interested customers come to you. Even if your company already has an outbound sales approach of door-knocking or reaching out to purchased leads, adding an inbound strategy can help you tap the pipeline of customers that are already looking for a qualified solar installer. Many teams function with a hybrid inside-outside sales approach.
To build a funnel of inbound leads, you’ll want to invest in your website and build strong reviews on third-party platforms such as Google and Yelp by following up with customers. Having a strong online presence will make a difference to modern solar shoppers who are likely to do their own web research before moving forward in the solar sales process.
2) Create a system for booking appointments—with rapid response times
It’s critical that you have an internal system that allows you to respond and book appointments with prospects as fast as possible. A major benefit of an inside sales approach is that you can pitch and close the homeowner that same day—within the same hour even—of when they request the quote.
Research supports that the time when a homeowner is requesting the quote they are most likely to buy and you’re more likely to connect with them then. In fact, one study of 3.5 million leads, found that calling within the first minute of lead generation can increase your likelihood of conversion by nearly 400%.
To support lead generation, your website needs to be set up with a way to identify prospects and gather their contact information so you can follow up quickly. Options include: a pop-up form that allows them to enter their phone and email (this can be especially effective if you offer something of value, such as a solar factsheet) or a chatbot.
However you structure it, you’ll want to make sure that your team is prepared to immediately follow up with the prospect as soon as they enter their contact information. Elliot has seen success having a dedicated person or people who are responsible for quickly calling new leads to book an appointment, while their interest in solar is still top of mind. Depending on the size of your team, this could also be the salesperson themself.
It’s a best practice to gather the information needed for a solar quote in this first appointment-setting call—particularly information on their utility bill and the address where solar would be installed. That way you can have a compelling and personalized quote ready to present during the sales call. This also allows your team to identify early on if a prospect is not a good candidate for solar (for instance, their property is too shaded), before investing a lot of time.
3) Get the right software tools to support great, remote, sales calls
Of course, if you’re going to start selling solar remotely, you need tools to support remote sales calls and remote solar designs. Solar design software is a critical part of a workflow to get an accurate quote to a homeowner within one hour of the lead’s request.
Aurora Solar enables accurate shade assessments, solar designs, and financial modeling without leaving your office through the use of satellite and other imagery, local weather data, and other advanced tools. This allows solar contractors to quickly determine shading at the site and create a professional sales proposal.
Says Hans Frederickson of Cascadia Solar in Washington state, “What we can do now with the remote assessment [tools from Aurora] is put some nice graphics and financial information in front of a customer within an hour from talking with them on the phone.”
Software that ensures accurate remote solar design is the backbone of a remote solar sales strategy. Without software that allows you to be confident in the accuracy of your designs, change orders resulting from inaccurate design assumptions can cut into your margins—or cost you the sale entirely.
Aurora was built to ensure design accuracy without site visits, and its shading accuracy has been validated by NREL as statistically equivalent to onsite shade measurements. Other features, like measurements powered by computer vision, LIDAR, multiple imagery sources like Google, Bing, Nearmap, Google HD help ensure you can get a clear view of the site.
With a robust software that ensures the quality of your remote designs, you can save the site visits (to ensure structural integrity) to after the sale has been closed, and limit costly pre-sale site visits to rare instances. For Hans and Cascadia Solar, this change enabled them to double solar sales month over month and more than double sales year over year!
In addition to solar design and sales software, a video conferencing platform that supports screen sharing (such as Zoom, JoinMe, Clearslide, or others) allows you to walk through your slide deck and other information effectively with the customer.
This will enable you to showcase the PV system you’ve designed and effectively answer customer questions. For example, with Aurora, you can show the color-coded irradiance map of the customer’s roof so they understand why you recommend placing panels in certain areas and not others. You could even show an animation of the sun’s actual path through the sky at different times of the year and how the shadows move across their property or show what the irradiance would be like if a tree removed.
You could also consult with the customer on things like how their energy usage (and bills) might change if they got an electric vehicle, using Aurora’s consumption portal. Taking this kind of educational role, and using interactive visuals, can help build trust. This is particularly important for a purchase as significant, and often unfamiliar, as a solar PV system.
You can round out your system with a tool like DocuSign or PandaDoc that makes it easy to send and get a signature on your contract, digitally.
Implementing a system to sell solar remotely lets your sales team respond as fast as possible to inquiries from prospects, allowing you to connect with them when they are most interested. It returns valuable time to your team by reducing time spent driving to potentially faraway sites—giving them more hours to respond to do what they do best, sell. Offering a solar consultation over the phone or computer takes the pressure off the homeowner, offering an easier option for the client. Finally, the soft cost savings from reduced site visits can be significant, helping to make solar deployment less costly.