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HOW TO SELL SOLAR TO THE MODERN BUYER

Solar sales software is the key to adapting to a fast-changing industry.

The internet has completely changed the way that people buy. What used to be a very product-centric sales process that was facilitated by a rep has shifted into a new, customer-centric buying process that is facilitated by the customer and their web browser. People simply have so many resources available that they feel as though they ought to be in complete control.

Some companies naturally benefit from this change or were even created by it. (Hello, Amazon.) Others have struggled. In fact, there are those who argue that door-to-door selling is dying, mostly because it doesn’t work well with the modern buyer’s journey (in other words, the steps they take before buying something). This doesn’t need to be true, but the best salespeople need to be aware of the changing purchasing habits of their customers and adapt to work alongside of them.

The main point of difference between the modern buyer and former generations is that the modern buyer spends much more time researching a product before they come to a purchasing decision. This is an especially difficult obstacle for the door-to-door rep, who is working within a very small window of opportunity, trying to close a potential client who is now used to buying almost completely on their own terms. Customers set aside the time, they do the research, and eventually come to a decision, all on their own. No wonder visits from door-to-door reps can feel like an intrusion by comparison.

But a rep who is informed and considerate can work with clients in a way that feels comfortable to the customer, whether they have already considered solar or not.

Before we talk about what that looks like, we first need to think more about the way that people buy things:

First, a problem arises. For this example, let’s say your car breaks down. This starts you on the

Awareness Stage

The awareness stage is where you recognize a problem and assess it. Is the car worth getting repaired or is it time to get it replaced? Is it a priority? What will you miss out on if you don’t act now? For most people, transportation is a top priority, and let’s say in this example it makes more financial sense to buy a new car than repair the old one. The question then becomes ‘What are my preliminary options?’ This inevitably leads to a Google search, and the process is underway.

Once you’re seriously researching a handful of viable options, you’re in the

Consideration Stage

Which model best meets your needs? Is it better to buy new or used? Which is a more reliable product? Is it time to get a hybrid or electric car? What rebates are available? Especially with more significant purchases, you’d want to be completely sure that you’re going to make the best possible decision for your circumstances.

After you’re confident you’ve done enough research, you’ll move into the

Decision Stage

You’ve decided on a car, but you want to evaluate your options and make the best purchase possible. For our example, this looks like going for a test drive and evaluating purchasing options, such as whether or not you want to buy it from a private vendor or a dealership. In this stage, you’re essentially implementing your decision.

In the old buyer’s journey, all that research and decision making would’ve taken place at a car dealership, and it would’ve been conducted by a car salesman who knows all about the latest models, the best pricing options, etc. But now there is so much information available to buyers that they feel they can learn everything they need to without having to rely on a rep and without having to experience a lot of pressure.

So. What does this mean for you?

It means it’s going to be difficult to conduct an accelerated buyer’s journey when the modern consumer is used to having time and resources to make a well-researched decision. In the modern world, the buyer wants to be the one coming to the company, not the other way around. But there are ways that your approach can acknowledge that and even use it to your benefit.

Manage Your Area Intelligently

When you understand the way that the modern buyer operates, you can adapt your approach to better meet their needs. This starts with the way you manage an area and make customers aware of you.

Clients like to spend more time in the awareness and consideration stages, so find ways to make them aware of your company before you even knock on their door. You can do this through email lists, flyers, mail campaigns, web ads, or business cards. Imagine how much easier it would be to present a solution to clients who know you’re coming and have had an opportunity to consider your option and generate questions already. It completely reframes the nature of your conversation with them in an extremely positive way.

Another really strong way to build a natural presence with potential customers is to work around your current customers. When you start working an area, you should start right at your customers, asking them if they know of anybody in the area who has been inquiring about your service, expressed any interest in alternative energy, complained about an electric bill, or anything along those lines.

Even if they don’t have any referrals for you, you can start knocking around their house first, since there is a stronger chance that the neighbors have noticed the house in the neighborhood with solar panels and started to wonder about it. If they saw them being installed, that is often enough to start them on a buyer’s journey that will be coming to an end by the time the sales rep comes around.

If possible, it might even be best to work areas cyclically as deals are sold. Say you work in Area A until you sell two or three deals. Then, you can stop and move to Area B. Once you’ve sold a few there, move to Area C. A week or two after the deals in Area A are installed, go back and work around them. The awareness in the area will be growing and you’ll be able to nurture it more productively than if you went in cold.

Obviously, this will only work if you have a lot of freedom with your schedule and area. For those that don’t, it’s important to reach customers before you knock on their door.

Control the Information

In order to take advantage of the new buyer’s journey, you’ll need to find a way to tell people about your service and get them interested in your offering early on. Everybody’s heard of solar. The problem is whether or not they’ve actually considered it a viable option for their situation. Some solar companies are getting their name and solution in people’s minds by either creating leads through digital marketing or buying lead lists full of people who have already done their research and expressed interest.

If you’re going to go the digital marketing route, the best way to spend your money is to create content that provides answers to questions and concerns they have.

If your client was going to conduct thorough research about your solution, what are some of the questions they would ask? If you can address concerns quickly (sometimes even before the client realizes they’re there) you can help them reach the end of their research quickly and help them feel comfortable about proceeding with your product/service.

Obviously they’ll be concerned about price, so be prepared to explain to them every pricing package you offer and clearly articulate the potential savings they’ll receive with each option.
They’ll want to know how solar will directly affect their monthly bill, and how cost-effective it will be. You should already be prepared to deal with these concerns and have a complete answer for them.

They’re going to also want to know about the quality of the company they go with. Some solar companies in particular suffer from bad reputations and there are a lot of people who view salespeople as pushy and aggressive. You can ease that tension by being informative and considerate, and position yourself more as a trusted advisor to their buying process instead of a persuader.

If your prospects are spending a lot of time online researching potential solar solutions, then it would obviously be beneficial to be the one providing them with the information.

But you’ve got to do it professionally. As painful as it may be, remember your school days-- writing teachers would always tell you to cite your sources and make sure they’re good ones. You can’t just cite Wikipedia, since anybody can post whatever they want there. A lot of the online information about solar is the same way-- it’s biased, poorly researched, or unprofessional.

If you come to a customer with word-of-mouth, friend-of-a-friend stories or studies featured on ‘welovetosellsolar.com’ or some other website with questionable credibility, the customer is not going to feel like their research stage is even close to over. In fact, they may start it with some negative bias, since they’re skeptical about your tactics.

But if you can resolve their concerns with reputable, accurate information, you’ll have reached ‘trusted advisor’ status. This is the sweet spot.

Here’s a few examples of powerful, conversation-changing content:

Professionally created case studies. These should feature customer stories that directly address the concerns typically raised during the sales process.

Anything that sets your offering apart from the competition. Better Business Bureau ratings and other third party comparisons are perfect for this. It might also be worth compiling negative reviews directed at your competition. You should also be prepared to demonstrate any significant differences between your tech and your competitors, also ideally through third party sources.

Reputable, third-party material. Share entire articles or snippets that make your point quickly. Here’s some strong examples (all came from a few Google searches): an article from Boston University on cost efficiency, one from the US Green Building Council on the top solar benefits for homeowners, and a quick, digestible read from the folks at NerdWallet.

A company Facebook group or forum. Anything where clients can see that your customers have a place to voice experiences and concerns and have them quickly resolved.

Focus on the problem

Remember, the first step in the buyer’s journey is recognizing a problem. Nobody is immune from the problems that lead most people to investing in solar in the first place, whether they’re rising energy costs, environmental concerns, or desires for self-sustainability. You’re selling a product with nearly universal appeal, so focus on those reasons. The more you can help a prospect recognize and resonate with the problems that your product solves, the more effective you’ll be.

It’s also important to address the benefits of investing in solar now. Remember, a big part of the awareness stage is deciding whether or not a problem is a priority or not. Solar acts a lot like a compounding investment-- the longer you have it, the more power it has to save you money. Emphasize that an early investment is win-win for the client. Even if they don’t see themselves staying in a house long, solar will help them save money on energy bills in the short run and increase the value of the home should they choose to sell.

Become a Trusted Advisor

Being a trusted advisor also requires a stronger product and subject knowledge, as well as a willingness to disagree and correct prospects. This may feel like a counter-intuitive approach. You may have had some success taking more of a relationship-building approach-- you’re a friend to clients, first and foremost. But stats show that those who challenge the preconceptions that clients have are much more successful salespeople than those that focus mainly on keeping everything amicable between themselves and the client.

You can see why the ability to disagree and redirect will be so important in the new buyer’s journey. If clients have done their research, there isn’t a lot of guarantee that they’ve found great information, especially information that represents your company the way that you’d like. Most reviews posted online about a company are negative. Most of the stuff they’ll read about solar is old, partially because the industry is moving so quickly that anything older than a year or two is going to be false. As a salesman, you’re harming yourself if you aren’t willing to challenge what your potential clients have read.

Truth is, a lot of people like to be politely corrected when it comes to financial matters. If I helped you find a bank account that is going to pay you 2% more interest and keep your money equally secure, you’re not going to be offended that I’m saying your current bank is bad. You’ll move your money.

Refine the Process

As you know, the solar sales cycle is a long buyer’s journey. In our example, buying a car can reasonably be accomplished in one afternoon, once the decision has been made. With solar, chances are it’ll take at least a few weeks or months before install.

This leaves a lot of time for losing customers and making mistakes, so here’s what you should focus on doing:

Demonstrate professionalism throughout the process, but especially in the way you manage the deal. Digital forms and contracts, e-signing, and on-the-spot credit checks are all great ways to do this.

Eliminate errors as much as possible. Again, digital forms and contracts are a great way to ensure you’re collecting the right information and prevent any chance of it being lost.

Be unified in all your interactions with the customer. Nothing is more frustrating than having a rep say something that contradicts something that was said by another employee or project manager. If you’re all taking notes on a client in the same platform, this will eliminate a lot of embarrassment.

Be quick to resolve concerns and questions that may arise. It would be smart to develop a resource for those who have decided on a plan but are waiting for estimates or installation. This resource should resolve FAQs, build confidence in the company, and increase excitement for the product/service.

Install a product or provide a service that’s more immediate and compliments your solar offering-- for example, some companies use thermostats or energy efficient light bulbs. By blending the main offering with a low cost, high value item, you provide immediate gratification to the new client and strengthen their relationship with the company.

Last Takeaway

The main message here is that people change, especially buyers. If you’re not constantly paying attention to the needs and behaviors of your prospects, you’re going to find yourself outdated and inefficient. Even the principles outlined in this article will eventually become irrelevant and everyone will be moving on to new selling strategies.

But if you’re really paying attention, collecting data on customer behavior, and creatively finding ways to get their attention, you’ll manage to stay ahead of the game no matter what changes come along and dominate your corner of the market.

For more info on implementing these strategies and other best practice tips for your company, schedule a demo. We’re excited to show you what we can do for your company.

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