Wouldn’t you think that if you paid more for a solar sales lead than the other guy, that you’d put a high value on each lead that came in?
When it comes to American solar installers, apparently that’s not the case.
It may be expensive to get solar customers in America but that doesn’t mean that solar installers are jumping on each lead that comes in. Au contraire. According to a new study from Velocify, a maker of software to help salespeople, lots of solar companies seem to be taking a pretty chill attitude towards customer inquiries, letting hot leads go cold.
Expensive customers, but who cares?
On the one hand, it costs about 49 cents a watt to acquire a solar customer in the U.S., which works out to about $3,000 for a typical six kilowatt residential system, according to GTM Research. Meanwhile, over in Germany — a country where gasoline is now selling for $6.28 a gallon and not known for its bargain-basement deals on much of anything else — it costs less than 7 cents a watt to get a customer, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
On the other hand, many solar companies are making their sales process less efficient and more expensive by failing to follow up more effectively — or even to follow up at all — with qualified sales leads.
Whether the sales department totally blows off a homeowner who’s requested a quote on the company’s website or the company can only be bothered to send out a couple follow-up emails to prospects before salespeople get discouraged, it looks like too many American solar installers are acting like the grumpy guy who puts in hardwood floors and won’t return your call because he has an eight-month waiting list and doesn’t plan on hiring any help anytime soon.
Two ways to screw up a perfectly good solar lead
Maybe solar installers are just too busy with current customers trying to beat the federal tax credit deadline to care about new customers.
Velocify’s secret shoppers found that, across the industry, solar sales is not generally what you’d call aggressive, as shown by the two big mistakes that solar installers are making in the way they treat new customer inquiries:
- Solar companies aren’t responding to qualified leads. “Nearly 40 percent of prospective solar customers waited weeks for a quote response, and many never received a response at all,” writes Julia Pyper at Greentech Solar. “When companies wait an extended duration before responding to requests from prospective buyers, it has been shown to put them at a significant disadvantage compared to companies that respond within minutes.”
- When solar installers do respond to leads, they’re not following up enough. Nobody likes salespeople who pester them endlessly about something they don’t want. But when a homeowner contacts a solar company, just making that contact shows that the person is very interested in solar and may even be ready to buy. It may be just a question of whether they’ll buy from you or from your competitor. But 77% of solar installers contacted prospective customers by phone four times or fewer, which just isn’t enough. Velocify says that six calls is what’s really needed to close sales across a variety of industries.
Don’t become the “no-call-back” solar company
Even if you have all the new customers you can handle now, it will hurt your brand if you just let qualified leads go cold by ignoring inquiries. You’ll get a reputation as unresponsive and inefficient.
Meanwhile, competitors who know how to handle leads better than you do will eat your lunch. Then, when you’re not so busy, you may wonder where all the new customers have gone. But once you’re known as the “no-call-back” solar company, it’ll be too late to fix your damaged reputation.
If your installation crews are really so maxed out, I’ll leave it to your management to get out and do some hiring quick. Last time I heard, Americans still need jobs. And “green jobs” are hot.
But as a solar marketer, you should take responsibility for working with your sales department to respond to qualified leads in a timely way and to follow up enough to give you a chance to make the sale.
You can get help streamlining your sales process from companies like Velocify, or other companies that help you automate key sales response tasks like tracking leads and sending out a chain of automatic email responses spaced out over a couple weeks.
Software company HubSpot uses the goofy term “SMarketing,” which sounds like a new snack food but is actually an OK way to talk about how sales and marketing need to be better coordinated in order to close more customers:
SMarketing is the alignment and connection between sales and marketing. Since Sales and Marketing work closely together in most organizations, it’s often typical for these two revenue generating groups to be in conflict with one another. The typical battle looks like this: Sales complains that Marketing isn’t generating enough quality leads, and Marketing criticizes Sales for not working their leads hard enough. But if you improve SMarketing at your company, you’ll spend less time bickering and more time closing business.
Front page image: Donovan Graen/Flickr CC.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group