Every solar company that wants to survive today and thrive tomorrow needs to run two parallel tracks of solar sales.
Why One Sales Track Isn’t Enough
If you’re only working in solar power to get rich quick in the boom and then get out quick before the next shakeout, then you don’t have to worry about building a company for the future. Forget about long-term profits. You just need to rack up a pile of cash now as quickly as possible while the getting is good.
Then, next year or the year after that, you can forget about solar and start selling something else. Maybe aluminum siding? Or, if you like network marketing, you can try Amway.
But if you’re in the solar industry to do more than make a quick buck, you do have to worry about the future. You need to do high quality work now, and then you need to get recognized for that quality to find your next customer.
So, if you are trying to create a solar company that’s built to last, then you need to balance two types of sales.
First, you need cash flow to survive today. You have to pay commissions, order equipment and cover overhead.
Second, you need to achieve long-term profitability. That means creating a big enough margin between your costs and your revenues.
It’s not easy to achieve this balance of short-term cash flow and long-term profitability. Too many solar companies sacrifice profits for cash flow. That is, they invest all their efforts in making sales today and none of their effort in building a customer base for tomorrow.
When the next market shakeout comes, solar companies that are too focused on short-term sales may not make the cut. Competitors who’ve built a machine to generate leads and sales into the future may be the only ones left standing.
Your solar company can maximize your chances to make it through today and last well past tomorrow by balancing your customer outreach. Start by establishing two parallel tracks of sales and marketing.
1. Do Smarter Short-Term Sales for Better Cash Flow
Of course, you need to keep the cash flowing. There’s a smart way to do that. And then there’s the way most solar installers do it.
The usual way, aka, the Dumb Way, is to send salespeople out to knock on doors, buy cheap lists of dubious sales leads and make cold calls, or hire a telemarketer to set up appointments for you.
Maybe back in the 1970s those methods still worked OK. But today, in much more saturated solar markets where every good door has already been knocked on by your competitors, homeowners are not exactly waiting for your sales guy to show up on their street. Instead, when they see him coming, they may hide behind the blinds until he’s gone.
And in the Age of Information Overload, where consumers have less patience than ever for cold calls, old-timey aggressive outreach not only fails to deliver the results but it also might push customers away. That’s one reason why it can cost $3,000 or more for a solar installer to get a new customer.
Don’t stay stuck on stupid just because your competitors are. Instead, generate cash flow and short-term sales the smart way:
If you need to buy sales leads, avoid the usual garbage, and go to one of the higher quality lead generators, including:
Also, do other traditional outreach to make personal contact with solar buyers:
- Hold Events. Make sure they have real educational value and aren’t just a sales pitch with a free lunch.
- Do Targeted Advertising. Buying ads online is a better deal than print or broadcast, and Facebook is a better deal than Google in many cases.
- Seek Referrals from Existing Customers. Offering a referral bonus of $250 or $500 is helpful. But inspiring customers to send your their friends out of pride alone may actually be more successful.
2. Start Marketing Now to Connect with Future Customers
If you want your company to be around in five years and making a nice profit, then at the same time you’re bringing in cash flow to pay your bills next month you also need to do some marketing to bring in customers next year.
Too many solar companies skip this step. They do 100% sales and 0% marketing. As a result, those companies have no flow of sales leads for the future. And once they stop buying leads from somebody else, then their dealflow shuts off.
To create a flow of high quality leads for the future, start building a relationship with future customers. Those are homeowners who aren’t ready to buy solar today, but might be ready in 6-18 months. If you already have a relationship with them, then when they are ready to buy, these solar buyers are much more likely to call you first, instead of just going with your competitor who comes up first in a Google search.
The most affordable way to build a connection with future customers is online. And here are the things you should start now:
- Get a Real Website. Not a just Facebook page. That makes you look cheap and amateurish. Only a real website with your logo, a couple of contact forms, and enough info to introduce your company will build trust in solar buyers. Fortunately, getting a good website today is more affordable than ever.
- Start Building your Email List. Don’t waste your time posting stuff on Facebook or other social media until you’ve started to recruit addresses to an email list that you own. Because it’s more direct, email is still a gazillion times more effective than social media at reaching potential solar buyers. Then, email your list regularly, at least once a month. And don’t just use Gmail or Outlook to contact your list. Instead, get a real email marketing program like MailChimp or Constant Contact so you’ll look professional and comply with the law on spam.
- Create and Publish Educational Content. A website that builds connections with future customers is more than just an online brochure advertising your equipment and services. It’s a place that offers solar buyers helpful tips and advice so that they can make a better decision about solar for themselves. If you help solar buyers do that, chances are better that when they decide, they’ll decide on you. Begin by publishing a blog. Then, edit 6-8 of your blog posts together into a nicely designed ebook that you can use as a lead magnet.
If you can run your sales and outreach program on these two tracks at the same time, you’ll get the best of both worlds.
You’ll ensure enough cash flow to cover your costs today.
And you’ll start building an audience of potential customers that will eventually let you wean yourself off of buying leads, which will make your close rate higher, cut your customer acquisition cost and increase your profitability.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group