For many years, there was large growth in the solar industry. More recently that growth has turned around and recently reversed.
That’s partly due to COVID, but it’s not about to go away anytime soon. That’s because the slowdown is also related to the price of electricity which has actually fallen in recent years, as has the feed-in tariff. And there are also factors relating to the remote control of systems and difficulties connecting to the grid and export limitations.
Before you get too scared, don’t worry. The industry has bright sunny future ahead of it for many years to come. The annual forecast for this year and next coming years is actually the 10% growth.
So perhaps just view this as a soft patch (for now).
And yet we’ve been through worse before. What we saw happen from 2014-2017 was those electricians that could return back to air conditioning installation and general electrical work did so, but there was plenty of solar businesses that also went under.
We don’t want you to be one of those that go under. So listen carefully to what I’m about to say.
The 2 Key Issues: Leads and Conversion
The main issues that people are reporting now are that lead volumes are down and that it’s getting more difficult to close sales.
SunWiz market intel shows the slowdown in leads quite clearly.
Right now we see that there is significant economic uncertainty that was already there due to COVID, sick days, and reduced amount of stimulus in the economy, plus constraints in our ability to get products and install them and everywhere the economy is stretched quite thin. This is coming off the back of some summer holidays where people were let out of their houses (and state) for the first time in a long time. The industry already had a soft start to the year.
Then on top of that, there’s floods along the east coast, and war in Ukraine, both having an inflationary effect on fuel prices and food prices that will ripple through the economy.
This is actually ultimately an opportunity for solar sales, which still represents the smartest place to put your money as nowhere else can offer you such a fantastic return on investment or cashflow positive outcome when financed, resulting in more dollars in your customers pockets. And storage sales benefit from a focus on resilience.
That’s all well and good, but what do you need to do for your own business to get through this slump?
What To do To Get Through This Slump
Re-think and Re-invent your approach
Your old approaches may have worked while the industry was growing, but in these current conditions, you need to reinvent your approach to business to squeeze every drop of money out of customers, prospects and your business operations.
So it’s time to reflect on how you do things and think how you can do them better. And now is the ideal time to reinvent yourself when you actually have more time to make a lasting difference to your business.
It’s time to take a fresh look at businesses such as SunWiz and Solar Analytics too, which have undergone massive transformations. Solar Analytics goes well beyond monitoring solar system performance, it can now save your customers hundreds of dollars extra each year thanks to its Plan Optimiser feature. That saving is exactly what people need right now.
And SunWiz has gone well beyond providing market analysis to the big companies and its PVsell software – we now provide a full and remarkable solution for solar retailers that differentiates, automates, and advises your business. Here’s what we’ve been advising our clients in recent months.
#1 Convert Well
With fewer leads, every opportunity counts. Every lead counts. You need to develop excellence in converting every lead, in turning every opportunity that you get into a sale. If you’re not converting those opportunities, then you’re doing yourself a disservice and shooting yourself in the foot.
#1a: A proposal that stands out
That means having a proposal that looks different to your competitions.
If your proposal looks exactly the same as your competitors, but just has a different company name at the top, different panel name in the middle, and different price at the bottom, then a customer won’t be able to tell the difference between your company and another company. They’ve got no idea what the difference between Jinko and Trina panels are, and so they will revert to comparing you on price and price alone.
If you want to increase your likelihood, they will choose you, then you need to be masterful at describing what is unique about your business and why they should choose you. And I’m not talking about points such as we’re CEC accredited, or claiming that we only do quality installs – just like everyone else. That’s not enough.
#1b: Demonstrate your claims
You need to also be demonstrating your claims, whether that be through your Google reviews or your badges, from being an approved solar retailer or master electrician something along those lines and really spelling out what is your story and why they should buy from you in pictures as well as words.
To do that, you need to have a customized proposal that looks different to the others. Check out PVprosell, which comes pre-loaded with a proposal template designed by solar sales trainer Dean Mannix.
Solar Analytics can also demonstrate your claims. Log into a favourite site (our the demo fleet) and show your customers a real site where you have accumulated savings for other customers
#1c: Convert with automatic engagement
The next thing you need to do is help converting those customers without requiring a lot of effort. And for that we recommend autoresponder customer emails where you send your prospective customers a series of five to seven emails to tell them the story of why you are good for them to choose. When you are doing that again, make sure you are educating your customers about what to look for in a solar company, providing them some great resources to help them to make a decision, not just forcing them to choose you. Sunfluence does all this for you instantly and effortlessly.
It’s also a great time to get some sales training because you really have to be able to win business by closing business, closing sales. SunWiz’s Sales Guru is a partnership with Dean Mannix that includes 24-7 sales training plus an exclusive monthly Q&A session.
#2: Generate More Leads
Let’s now look at generating more leads.
A lot of SunWiz’s clients are thinking, we can’t get as many leads as we want from our lead providers – so should we be switching to generating our own leads?
But we do not recommend that you go and invest in advertising on social media sites or Google display results. Because these strategies take a lot of mastery, that takes time to develop and quite a bit of money before you see results. They may be good for the medium term but won’t get you through the short term. In fact, they’ll make your cashflow worse before it gets better.
#2a: Engage with your happy customers
Instead, we recommend that you use your own database of existing customers to generate you some referral work, and while you’re at it, get you some additional reviews on Google and ratings too. Again something Sunfluence does for you instantly and effortlessly.
Solar Analytics also has a great tool for helping you cross-sell using their Battery Calculator. Look at any site without a battery and it will automatically use real data to calculate the battery size and economics. Use this to calculate a quote before you ring and, use the Cumulative Total Savings to show how good the solar investment was and that the time is right to re-invest
#2b: Leverage the situation
So this is a good opportunity to be sharing the message with your customers that – as witnessed by floods and war and energy escalation prices – it’s an important time for customers to be fully self reliant, that they should be considering energy storage if they haven’t already and to get in touch with you to have a chat about it. Surely they have friends and family who are also in similar situations to them but don’t yet have solar who could be financially better off in their circumstances by putting a solar power system on. Emails such as these are also contained in Sunfluence which has a special journey for re-engaging your old customers.
#3: Automatically Reduce Overheads
We next need to consider reducing our business operational costs at the same time as improving our systems. To that end, you should be integrating your solar software with other software platforms such as Xero and your CRM. We recommend using a free software platform like Open Solar, which is also very powerful and comes with its own inbuilt CRM functionality too. SunWiz and SolarAnalytics are OpenSolar partners.
Integrating your software platforms is also an opportunity to reduce costs of administrative work such as double entry, reduced mistakes which cost time and money, and to implement best practice business processes that deliver greater customer satisfaction. Learn more about SunWiz integrating and automating your business.
And if you’d like to implement everything we’ve discussed, plus expert advice and coaching, We Do It All For You in our effortless business elevation program, SunBiz Accelerate.
Wishing you all the best getting through this rough patch. I’m confident that the months and years ahead will be lucrative for the businesses that apply these recommendations to pull through and emerge better.