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Shorten Your Sales Cycle in 2023: The Smart Solar Rep's Handbook

May 17, 2023
Solar rep showing homeowner's information on tablet.

As a solar sales rep, time is your most precious asset.

Managing and investing your time as a salesperson is critical to your professional success. To be most effective, you need an approach that actively shortens your sales cycle with:

  • Proven reliability
  • Access to continuously up-to-date information
  • Actionable insights that accelerate sales

Want to learn more about how to shorten your sales process and close deals faster? This guide offers practical steps you can take at every stage of the sales cycle to drive up your top-line revenue and enhance sales productivity. We'll also spotlight how Palmetto puts this understanding into practice, so solar reps are supported to sell more, earn faster, and build more rewarding careers.

Stage 1: Generating Leads

We know the solar market is rapidly maturing. Poorly planned prospecting and marketing efforts simply don't cut it: bad paid leads, unfocused door-to-door, and blind cold calls are a waste of time, effort, and money.

High-performing sales teams operate within a data-led approach that generates qualified leads that more easily turn into sales. Powerful data tools and a productivity platform can help you find the right customers and get them excited about their own clean energy potential.

Here's what a data-led approach to generating leads looks like:

Defining your ideal audience. Customer profiling allows you to gain a more actionable understanding of your audience. Demographic data is only the beginning: customer profiling digs deep into the numbers, to understand expectations, recognize pain points, and segment them into the right buyer groups.

Data organization. Too much customer data can make it difficult to know where to begin to find insights. A custom database and appropriate tools help ensure the right data is spotlighted, while all data is maintained accurately and without redundancies.

Multichannel advantages. Homeowners' attention today is divided in more ways than ever. That means making a connection requires meeting them across multiple touchpoints. Whether it's via email lists, lead magnet strategies, door-to-door, or cold calls, make sure you're taking advantage of all the channels available to connect.

Identify critical metrics. Lead scoring helps you understand the value of every prospect. Developing the right scoring metrics allows you to prioritize high-value leads and sell more efficiently.

Measure performance. Continuous assessment supports continuous improvement. For lead generation, this means tracking:

  • Conversion rate
  • Time to conversion
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA)
  • Average revenue per customer (ARPC)

Understanding these numbers allows you to track performance and make necessary adjustments to optimize your sales.

Traditional lead-generation strategies

A data-driven approach can work seamlessly with leads sourced through traditional practices:

Referrals. Sales referrals are among the most valuable methods available to generate new leads. The added personal connection from a satisfied customer warms up cold prospects and gets your foot in the door. The time right after installation day, for example, offers a prime opportunity to solicit referrals from happy customers.

Trade shows. The upside to trade shows is volume: you can meet more motivated buyers in a weekend than you could otherwise in a year. Efficiently processing that volume is the challenge, which is where the right data platform can make an impact.

Business partnerships. Partnership marketing is a core strategy across almost every business segment. In the context of solar sales, this can mean working closely with other enterprises connected to the residential and small business marketplaces: home sellers, lenders, services, and more.

Here's how Palmetto streamlines lead generation

Palmetto's innovative digital platform streamlines & optimizes lead generation for solar sales – supercharge your ability to identify ideal targets.

At Palmetto, superior sales results begin by leveraging the capabilities of machine learning and Big Data. Let us introduce you to our innovative customer relationship management (CRM) tool, the Energy Intelligence Platform.

We use the Energy Intelligence Platform to make the lives of our salespeople easier, faster, and more rewarding. It’s powered by MIT-licensed algorithms and geospatial targeting that assess and segment the marketplace to make net zero opportunities easy to identify.

At Palmetto, our Energy Intelligence Platform CRM provides a 360-degree sales view that delivers data-generated insights that reduce wasted time and effort. We actively help you connect with new customers, with an approach that effectively nurtures leads, removes process bottlenecks, and supports your ability to maximize earnings.

Stage 2: Qualifying your leads

solar sales professional qualifying leads

Many solar EPCs take a hands-off approach to sales: they contract with sales teams and expect them to do all the work. That’s frustrating for the sales teams and doesn’t allow them to earn to their highest potential.

Qualifying leads is one of the stages where support from the top can make a definitive difference in quality of results. A reliable approach to qualifying leads makes your life easier and more profitable. Common techniques include:

Phone screening. It may seem old-fashioned, however, phone screening remains an effective tool for qualifying leads. It also offers the benefit of a more personal touch with prospects, compared to other techniques. Picking up the phone can be fast and effective, which goes a long way to shortening the overall sales cycle.

Email screening. Connecting by email offers the benefits of reduced effort and time, although the 

trade-off may be that it's more difficult to create a meaningful connection. Email screening is best used in conjunction with other techniques, to provide comprehensive coverage for lead qualification.

Online tools. Something as simple as Google Maps can provide you with a bird's eye view of homes, to see if there are any roof issues or on-site obstructions that may be disqualifying. It also reveals general details about roof size, facing, and potential surrounding obstructions, or even if the potential customer already has a solar system installed.

Easier & faster lead qualification

Streamlining lead qualification is just as important as removing workflow barriers and productivity bottlenecks in other stages of the sales process. And just like in those other stages, an optimized, technology-led approach delivers easier, faster, more successful sales operations.

Some of the most essential functions include:

  • Automation that adds AI capabilities, for an efficient & effective solution to nurture leads at scale
  • Integrated connection tools – surveys, forms, assessments, popups – that allow you to rapidly understand customer needs & pain points
  • Productivity & collaboration tools that support your ability to work efficiently as a team

Support for managing your sales pipeline

Optimally managing your sales pipeline requires a CRM-led solution for two essential operations: tracking and prioritizing leads, and lead follow-up and nurturing. An ideal solution offers support for these critical jobs:

  • Automated, data-driven targeting & canvassing saves you time at every step
  • Collaborative sales planning tools help you support sales success, spur growth & retain your sales leaders
  • 360-degree view of sales operations provides a single, consistent view of relevant processes & metrics

Here's how Palmetto simplifies lead qualification

Palmetto supports you with the digital tools you need to quickly understand which leads make the most likely customers.

Palmetto makes it easy to get customers started on their clean energy journey. Program qualification requires only:

  • Proof of home ownership
  • Current utility bill
  • Basic roof information, including design, material type & age

We put our Energy Intelligence Platform to work for you. The platform’s fast performance and scalability mean it's always up-to-date in dynamic market conditions. A robust 360-degree view of sales operations allows you to easily capture all of your pipeline’s earning opportunities. As your territory expands and your team grows, Energy Intelligence Platform responds with expanded capacity that precisely fits your needs for performance.

Our tools include access to the MAPDWELL and SmartCanvas platforms, which provide high-level data for a deeper understanding of solar viability for potential customers. These insights give our sales teams a leg up on the competition and bring high-level sales performance within reach.

We're harnessing the power of Big Data to close more deals and create more accurate, consistent, and rewarding sales experiences. Gain access to the comprehensive sales resources, planning tools, and management support you need to grow your business.

We're invested in the success of our sales teams – Palmetto is a partner that works to fully empower your ability to scale your business.

Step 3: Presenting solutions

Sales presentations can often be tricky for solar pros. However, the ability to show savings, spotlight green impact, and meet homeowners’ needs is an essential skill in the sales toolbox: even if you don't love them, you need to have your sales presentations honed and ready.

Getting to this stage means you've already done an outstanding job of connecting with leads, qualifying them, and transforming them into genuine prospects. Here are some general tips to make presenting solutions easier, better, and more comfortable:

  • Create presentations that feel genuinely customized for each customer; make them feel special & they will respond with greater enthusiasm
  • Have a defined, logical structure that prompts customers to understand where you're going & what it all means
  • Use data visualizations, including charts & graphics, that make understanding intuitive
  • Use your words: text-heavy presentations are an easy way to lose your audience
  • Give your customers a peek before the presentation: this gives them a chance to understand the big picture before you dive in together
  • Focus on value instead of features, so that your customers have an immediate picture of how your solution impacts them
  • Sales presentations should be a conversation: the more you can inspire your customers to talk, the greater the connection you forge

Crafting your sales pitch

Here are three quick tips to help you craft a sales pitch that keeps customers interested and engaged:

  1. Use an understanding of the customer's needs to frame a compelling value proposition. Always lead with solar's value ahead of features or pricing: your customers need to understand what's in it for them;
  2. Highlight solar's benefits & return on investment. The clean energy conversation hinges on benefits. Your customers need to have a clear & precise understanding of the numbers, so make sure you have data that spotlights how they will see reduced energy costs;
  3. Address common objections. Overcoming objections is critical, we'll have more on this below.

Negotiating & closing the sale

Here's the bread-and-butter of your job as a salesperson. Always keep these tactics in mind to streamline sales negotiations and closing:

  • Understand where your customer is coming from. If you know what they want most, you can appeal directly to their needs with a solution.
  • Let your customer talk. It's not so much a clean energy pitch as it is a clean energy conversation. Develop a connection that supports dialogue.
  • Keep the focus on each customer's motivations. When objections arise, remind your customer of the value & benefits they'll reap.
  • Always have data ready. Your data should tell a very compelling story about benefits & value. Let the numbers do the talking.
  • Add some urgency. Your customer is paying too much for energy NOW. The faster they make a change, the more they can potentially save.
  • Keep a positive vibe. Some customers look at any negotiation as a competition. Keep the vibe positive, so it's easier for them to accept a win-win result.

Here's how Palmetto makes presenting solutions easier & better

Palmetto lets you streamline each customer's journey with our custom digital sales funnel. You begin the clean energy conversation, we'll make sure your leads fully understand the program & the benefits.

High-converting sales content is key to our solutions strategy. Our Energy Intelligence Platform provides you with a custom presentation that makes a powerful impact on potential customers:

  • Prioritized support to attract, convert & retain customers
  • System visualization using advanced CAD tools that demonstrate precise panel configurations & placement
  • Extensive in-house library of customer education content, including interactive solar tools & calculators
  • Instant quotes, to help nurture & convert leads
  • Accurate estimated customer savings, backed by proprietary data
  • 1:1 mentoring support that coaches you on best practices for presenting solar solutions

Palmetto is passionate about making it easy for you to present our program and its benefits in a way that impresses customers and shortens your sales cycle. Our detailed and rigorous approach for transforming leads into prospects makes your job easier and more rewarding compared to other solar companies. 

Stage 4: Overcoming Objections

solar rep addressing lead's concerns about panels

Sales objections are a classic challenge solar pros face. An objection can be any concern from a potential customer that represents (in their mind) a barrier to their ability to buy. Developing skills to understand and overcome objections is a critical element in building a successful sales career.

What does this mean for solar salespeople? Here are the three most common objections you're likely to hear, along with strategies to overcome each of them:

  1. “I can't afford solar.” Affordability is high on every consumer's mind when it comes to purchasing anything. This is an opportunity to reframe your pitch around the pricing and savings benefits. Speak about no upfront costs, rebates and incentive programs, or the simple appeal of monthly energy savings Take the big numbers and break them down into smaller ideas that are relatable in a monthly budget context.
  2. “I don't need solar.” If this is followed by a door shutting in your face, there's not a lot you can do. However, if it comes late in your pitch, it's a sign of interest that you can respond to. Hone in on where it felt like you most had their interest: the energy cost savings, participating in the clean energy evolution, being first on the block with solar, or something else. Focus on the area of agreement and build buy-in from there.
  3. “I need to talk to my spouse” or “I want to think it over.” When you've covered all the points in your pitch and it's clear solar makes sense for a prospect, you can still get hit with this and wonder what went wrong. It's likely that there's a point that still needs clarification and the prospect has an unanswered question, or there's an unresolved trust issue. Now is the time to address concerns directly. Ask open-ended questions to dig into the specific hesitation the prospect has. Be sure to listen actively and address rather than dismiss concerns. This fosters trust and can help to close a sale. 

Here are three helpful tips to overcome solar objections:

  • Address objections directly. Careful listening & understanding provides you with an opportunity to address the objection in real-time. Don't ignore the objection or try to minimize it: respond in a way that lets the prospect know you're invested in their viewpoint & sincere.
  • Have clear data & evidence. Your data should precisely explain program features, opportunities & benefits. Back it up with evidence or testimonials that clearly demonstrate the advantages of buying.
  • Reframe objections. Reframing asks the prospect to look at the barrier from a different perspective. Get to a space where they're looking at why solar might work, instead of why it won't. Ask questions, rephrase the objection as an unfulfilled need (i.e. answer “I can't afford solar” with “Let's look at what you're already paying for energy”) & turn an objection into a reason to buy.

Here's how Palmetto helps you overcome objections

Palmetto's data-led approach lets you anticipate objections before they happen. Our service quality & trusted reputation mean you have the support & answers you need to break through sales barriers.

Overcoming objections is part of every sales job. What's different about Palmetto? We make it easier for you to move past barriers and close sales faster:

  • “I don't see how I'll save money.” – We provide you with the tools you need to create a superior presentation that will demonstrate program value
  • “I don't know your company.” – Since 2010, we're one of the most respected names in solar, so you're not fighting to gain customers' trust
  • “I don't need solar.” – Our Energy Intelligence Platform has all the numbers that show exactly why clean energy is the right choice
  • “I'm just not ready for this.” – Our sales mentors can share techniques that build urgency & motivate customers to buy

You don't have to fear objections anymore – we'll help you develop a keen understanding of the clean energy industry and your local market, so you can conquer any objections.

Stage 5: Follow-Up & Referral Generation

Capturing all your potential referral business requires having a follow-up-based strategy. With a follow-up system in place, you'll know precisely when and how to approach clients for referrals, and get them.

Here is a five-step system to help you maximize your referral potential:

  1. Commit to consistency. Make it a goal to ask for one referral a day. If you're already prospecting every day, just asking for a single referral will be easy by comparison;
  2. Carefully time your ask. The honeymoon phase right after installation, when your customer is just embarking on their clean energy journey, is the perfect time to follow up for a referral.
  3. Be specific. Be clear about what you're asking for- an introduction to someone in their network, an online review or testimonial, a social media post, etc. You can let them know exactly what types of prospects you're looking for;
  4. Leverage the power of automation & CRM support. A good platform will help you with templates for follow-up emails, a scheduling program, plus collaboration tools that allow your team to stay on the same page;
  5. Show your appreciation. When a customer or a contact follows through, at the very least send them a thank you. Leaving an online review, small gift cards, or an invitation to lunch are also nice ways to show your appreciation. Going bigger can mean creating a referral incentive program with a drawing for prizes.

Remember: you can't lose a sale by asking for a referral, but you can lose business if you're not proactive with your follow-ups.

Here's how Palmetto supports referrals

Palmetto helps you unlock the power of referrals, with a technology platform that makes follow-ups easier to manage.

Warm leads from referrals are the secret to shortening your sales cycle and increasing sales volume. Here's what Palmetto does to help you:

  • Energy Intelligence Platform is a technology service that makes it easier for you to manage leads, automate follow-ups & collaborate with your team
  • Advanced sales tools create a better sales experience for customers, who are more likely to share referrals
  • Palmetto's strong reputation & high customer satisfaction ratings build market trust, which makes cultivating referrals easier

Shorten Your Solar Sales Cycle. Partner with Palmetto.

solar panel installers mapping out collection

Palmetto is committed to plugging customers into a lifetime of clean energy savings, with end-to-end solutions from solar design and financing, to tracking, maintenance, resources, and support. We're making clean energy smarter and more accessible.

That's where you come in. We understand that the success of our business mission hinges on our sales teams. Palmetto is attracting the most talented and ambitious salespersons in the industry because we are a partner that supports them with a highly structured, intelligent approach that allows them to earn to their full potential. It’s simple: we believe that when you succeed, so do we.

Palmetto sales teams enjoy access to an integrated sales analytics and intelligence solution that delivers a 360-degree view of the sales process. It's aimed at delivering two essential results:

  1. Shorter sales cycle
  2. Streamlined closing

Selling with Palmetto means you also get to utilize 1:1 mentoring support, so you're always in touch with experts who understand best practices for solar sales. And you're backed by an organization with national reach that is proven and trusted in the industry, including by high-profile early investors like LeBron James, Drake, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The tools above are just the beginning of how Palmetto supports your success. We've innovated an approach that connects buyers, sellers, lenders, and installers through a single platform. From intelligent targeting and system design to customer support and more, we offer solutions that unlock growth in the clean energy segment and allow you to sell more.

Ready to become a sales partner and accelerate your career? We're committed to bringing you unmatched earning potential in the industry. There's no financial commitment to begin – visit our Palmetto Sales Partner page to learn more and start selling for FREE.

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