Service teams with high quoting volumes are looking to the solar industry for lessons on how to make the most of market volatility.
As an emerging market, the alternative energy sector has seen major forces at work over the last decade. Most recently, this has taken the form of tariffs. While tax incentives have seen a downtrend in availability, offsets are becoming more readily available through utilities.
These forces create unique challenges for solar installers, leading to a more competitive, rapidly changing sales and marketing landscape. However, other factors like the decreasing cost of high efficiency panels and the obvious appeal of clean energy technology have helped sustain demand.
By the end of 2018, Hawaii, California, the District of Columbia, 104 cities, 11 counties, and 51 American companies all over the United States made commitments to 100% clean power.Source: National Renewable Resource Laboratory (NREL), Jan. 2019
The popularity of solar is about a lot more than affordability and convenience. Supporters see the long-term value in maximizing their potential and are willing to make a reasonable investment to produce their own power.
In 2018, a new solar project was installed in the U.S. every 100 secondsSource: Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), 2019
Despite the challenges, residential solar is seeing growth in states with well-established and emerging solar markets. Though we will certainly continue to see market shifts, projections show that solar is here to stay.
As the market begins to stabilize, equipment installers are using it as an opportunity to double down on improvements like leaner processes and competitive pricing strategies. Systematically reducing pre-sale costs and increasing efficiency during the slower months, allows them to set themselves up for growth and the maximization of long-term profits.
Re-evaluating Your Sales Process
If you feel like you are spending too much time on sales quoting and not closing enough deals, implementing some of following suggestions can help tip the scales in your favor.
- Set up a concise customer intake form on your website, to help convert organic traffic and save time gathering critical details for a quote.
- Store information about all of your customers and opportunities in one place, so that they are easy to reference when you’re on the go. This is also a good way to make sure your team has access to all of the details in case of emergency.
- Catalog all of your regular fixed costs in one place to allow your team to quickly calculate sell rates, especially when costs change.
- Keep track of every version of a quote that gets sent out. You may want to refer to it during a meeting with the client or for a similar opportunity down the road.
- Differentiate target margins for labor, materials, and contracted services to keep bids competitive.
- Use an e-signature tool to cut down on human error and hard-copy files, while keeping a reference of what was accepted from a legal standpoint.
- Set up simple task automation and text message notifications that triggers when important activities take place, for example when a proposal is signed.
Implementing these suggestions can help turn your sales workflow into a high efficiency machine. Still, it is worth considering ways to leave your potential customer in the best possible position to move forward with the project.
The Finishing Touches
There is no substitute for good communication and industry expertise in closing a deal. Understanding the availability and intricacies of solar tax incentives and local grants is one of the best ways of showing your customer that you have their best interest in mind. When you understand your customer’s motivations, you can better craft your language to speak to them.
Handing off a well-designed, easy-to-read proposal is one of your last big opportunities to leave a good impression. Be sure to include information about available rebates to ensure your customer understands the expected out-of-pocket expense. After that, it’s up to your customer to decide if the value makes sense for them to proceed.
Streamlining Your Workflow
Modern software tools are relatively easy and low-cost to set up and try. Once you’ve learned the new system, not only should it save time, but it should also better position your team to scale in the future.
All of the optimizations recommended above can be accomplished with Ascend and its network of supported integrations. Ascend is one of the most flexible and time-saving quoting systems available for solar equipment installers. Try it free or get a free demo to see if it will help you improve your bottom line.