This week, I had another phone call with a solar sales rep looking for an alternative to door-to-door sales. Cindy (not her real name) worked for a big national installer. She told me she knocked on doors about four hours a day and that it wasn’t helping her make sales. Also, she was getting really tired burning shoe leather walking the streets of suburbia in the hot California sun!
So, Cindy wanted to get away from canvassing, and she had a few ideas of what she might try instead. We dissected each one:
- Should she buy sales leads for $30 each? Neither of us was sure that it was a good investment.
- Should she make her own website? I used to advise that, but now I’ve changed my mind. Starting a website may be easy to do these days with website builders like Wix or Weebly, but it’s hard to do your own website well. And once you launch, you have to keep updating it to make a website worthwhile. A good website is the best strategy for a company with a marketing staff to get more solar leads. But running a website is just not practical for your average single solar sales rep who’s busy making contacts with homeowners.
- Should she attend networking events like the Chamber of Commerce? Those are time-consuming and while they may be good for job hunters, they deliver poor results for sales.
What I did advise her to start was an approach that’s become a classic for salespeople in many industries over the last few years: Get active doing “social selling” on LinkedIn.
Why Social Selling? Why LinkedIn?
Social selling is when you use social media services to connect with potential customers.
From your LinkedIn account you can:
- Build your brand as a trusted authority on home solar
- Prospect for leads among likely solar buyers
- Nurture prospects with helpful information
- And even make appointments to talk by phone so that you can close the deal
Many sales reps doing B2B sales have become experts at working LinkedIn to sell business products like enterprise software and IT management services to professional services like law or accounting to machine parts and tools. I’ve even seen reps for solar panel racking and inverters active on LinkedIn.
It’s obvious that LinkedIn is great to reach business audiences. But if you’re selling residential solar, can you reach homeowners and consumers on LinkedIn?
In some ways, Facebook is better for reaching homeowners and other consumers. But since Facebook’s algorithm has given low priority to free posts from company pages, it’s hard to reach potential solar buyers on Facebook without buying ads. Those can work well, if you know what you’re doing. But be warned: solar companies can waste a lot of money on Facebook ads and get very few leads or sales.
You can buy ads on LinkedIn, but you don’t really need to. As long as you get the right level of paid membership on LinkedIn, you’ll have all the tools you need to find and connect with prospects organically.
But the original question remains: is LinkedIn any good to reach homeowners?
The answer is yes, at least according to LinkedIn themselves. And I think they make a pretty good case:
As many brands on LinkedIn already know—professionals are consumers, too, and some of the most influential are on LinkedIn. These “Prosumers” are some of the most sought after audiences—globally we have over 300 million potential brand advocates. Research demonstrates these individuals are an attractive audience for marketers, with more buying power than members on other social platforms and strong influence across many product and service categories. These Prosumers are 152% more likely to be active in online conversations. They are brand conscious, with 80% willing to pay more to purchase from a brand they trust.
I know several commercial solar sales reps who’ve filled their pipeline with prospects from LinkedIn. And I’ve seen residential solar reps connect with homeowners on LinkedIn also, with good success.
How to Get Started with Social Selling on LinkedIn
Just like Cindy, I admit that I’m not as active on LinkedIn as I would like to be. Compared to Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn feels dry and a bit boring. It’s like eating your broccoli. You know you need to do it. But you don’t really want to.
Cindy felt the same way. But she was more excited to try LinkedIn after we talked about how it could help her stop knocking on doors and start making solar sales.
The company also gives good advice to get started using LinkedIn for social selling, with four steps to follow:
- Create a professional brand
- Focus on the right prospects
- Engage with insights
- Build trusted relationships
Learn how each one works in the LinkedIn article “What is Social Selling?”
I’d add that LinkedIn or any social media is not the place for the hard sell.
The last thing you want to look like is a pushy sales guy who just wants to “close” someone. Instead, offer helpful advice that sets you up as an authority on solar who’s also likable and approachable.
If they’ve already known you for 3-6 months or longer on LinkedIn and have had positive contacts with you over that time that have built trust, then when they’re ready to buy solar, they may come to you first.
This means that you can’t rush it. If you need to make a sale tomorrow or next week, then maybe door knocking or buying leads is your best bet. But if you want to build a pipeline of leads and prospects that will help you close sales in 6-12 months — and for the rest of your career after that! — then start practicing social selling on LinkedIn now.
And if you don’t think you have time to get started on LinkedIn, then make time. I told Cindy to take one hour a day away from door knocking and invest it in LinkedIn. If she works on LinkedIn for five hours a week for a couple months, then she’ll be off to a good start building a network that will deliver sales leads for years to come.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group