Summer is a busy time for solar installers. In fact, for companies operating in states that are heavily impacted by winter weather, the months of July, August and September can account for a large portion of their annual sales. But these months are busy even for states with warmer weather year round. Summer tends to be the peak selling season since it’s when many homeowners choose to make home improvements and when the impact of high summer bills is the most motivating.
Installing solar panels and adding battery storage can help ease grid strain to avoid blackouts. This allows homeowners to store energy and be prepared to operate as an independent power plant in the event of an outage. But these projects have an added appeal in the summertime when they can also help lower utility costs during times of heavy usage. This can contribute to a spike in customer demand, which of course you want to be in a good position to take full advantage of.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to keep your business running smoothly this busy season.
Keep good communication with customers
It’s important to set clear project expectations with your customers to maintain a good relationship and build a reputation that continues to generate business. Your customers may not be aware of the seasonal demand that might cause delays in sourcing materials — not to mention the additional strain that supply chain shortages have caused.
If you’re having trouble with equipment shortages, you might want to consider working with new suppliers. You may not be able to select the brands you want or have access to the modules that are in the highest demand, but it might ease the strain slightly.
Even so, there will still be some delays that are completely out of your control. For instance, depending on the jurisdiction you do business in, you might only have one or two models of disconnect boxes that the local utility company accepts. If you can’t track down either model, it’s best to be upfront with your customers about the limitations of the current market.
During a module shortage in 2011, the company I worked for adopted a policy of holding no internal meetings on Fridays so that every week we could call each in-line customer to let them know that we hadn’t forgotten about them, even if there was nothing we could do for them at the moment. This practice helped us assure our customers that we were doing everything we could on our end to keep the installation moving forward.
Offer financing options
Along with supply chain shortages, increased inflation and the possibility of a recession are causing some consumers to be more conservative with their spending. But that doesn’t mean you have to lose out on potential customers.
There are a number of financing companies who specialize in the clean energy industry and make it easy for solar installers to offer financing options to customers. A recent Mosaic survey found that over a third of homeowners said they would require financing to take on bigger home improvement projects, while 60% rated financing options in their top three considerations when choosing a contractor.
Being able to offer affordable monthly payments will no doubt become a more essential part of your sales toolkit as market conditions remain uncertain.
Take care of staff
Rooftop solar technicians are in high demand, and during peak solar season, the demand will only rise. If you want to hang on to your team when you need them most, it’s important to look out for them. After all, they’re the ones waking up early to be on a rooftop and fitting in a full day’s work before the summer heat becomes dangerous. Every day they risk falls, cuts, electrocution, sunburn, dehydration and more. Make sure your company recognizes their hard work and rewards it.
- Keep them safe — Safety benefits everyone, so go the extra mile to invest in it. If ensuring your employees have autoregulating fall protection attracts higher caliber talent, maintains the health of your workers, the quality of their work and the speed in which it gets done, then the extra investment will pay off.
- Bonuses — Longer daylight hours and less disruptive weather means your staff can put in longer hours to meet increased summertime demand. Obviously in that case, overtime pay is a must. But you can also find ways to reward productivity. Give your team bonuses for reaching 100 days without injury or offer incentives on a per-kilowatt-installed basis.
Invest in project management
SaaS (software as a service) solutions are quickly becoming an essential part of any business. Increasingly, these software tools are integrating with each other to automate and streamline workflows. With the cost of everything going up, finding places to optimize your business can make a huge impact.
There are a number of point of sale platforms (SaaS) that you can use when contracting with customers and that sync with CRMs like Salesforce so you can seamlessly nurture the relationship with those customers and manage their project’s progress. A financing partner’s API should be able to integrate as well to create one smooth experience for both you and your customers.
This point-of-sale technology might seem like a perk rather than a necessity but it’s increasingly industry standard, and the reward is well worth the investment. An automated project management system makes you more efficient and less prone to error, which means your business is set up to scale and your customers are getting a better experience. They’ll be informed at every step of the process, which will save you time and keep them happy.
The big picture
Summer is a prime time for selling solar. And while some aspects of your business may be outside your control, you can choose to communicate effectively with your customers, treat your team well and make the point-of-sale process as fast and simple as possible. Your staff will thank you, your customers will thank you and hopefully you’ll see more sales as a result.
It’s especially important in today’s market to provide reliable products and quality service, and find creative ways to keep installation time frames from slipping to the point that customers opt out of their solar projects. And it’s important that we all work together to keep the solar industry vibrant and successful for the long haul.
As I heard at a conference a few month’s back, “Someday in the future, every home will have a solar system — and then what?”
If you want to begin to engage the new energy consumer and keep your business competitive, it’s time to rethink your post-install strategy. By following these three tips, you can begin to capture (and deliver!) value to your customers long past their first system.
Original article posted here.