Selling remotely is a new concept for many customers and sales representatives alike. I would like to share the insights I have gained from years of selling remotely as a field sales rep. For 8 years I worked at SolarCity and then at Tesla (2010-2018) where the only constant was change. I learned to adapt quickly to change and to embrace technology. During my time at Tesla, I sold over 4MW of rooftop solar to customers directly and managed a sales team that was recognized as top in the nation, selling over 25MW.
We were field reps, but to achieve success we employed an “all of the above” strategy to sell deals and had multiple referral chains by selling remotely. In fact, I remember a sales rep on my team, named Doug, who had a referral chain which continued for several years with the first few referrals being sold over the phone and the last several through Zoom. That is how quickly technology changes but is certainly not a sign of how old I am 😊.
Here are a few tips I would like to share:
EmpathyWhile you may have completed remote sales during your career, this may very well be the first virtual sales call for your customer. Ask your customer if they can hear and see you ok and find out how technology savvy they are. Some customers may simply need validation to allow them to feel comfortable during the session. I say something along the lines of:
“Mrs. Customer, I do several video calls weekly with homeowners just like yourself (validation). It is a convenient way to receive valuable information about your energy future and about protecting against the rising rates of electricity while being in the comfort of your own home. Is this your first zoom call?”
Depending on the comfort level of the customer, I may continue with a validation strategy. When rapport is built, I begin the session and dive into the sales part of the call. The rapport piece is important. It allows the customer to ask questions comfortably and ultimately make an informed decision. The sales portion should flow organically into the conversation.
Embrace their world
People are busy, often juggling multiple facets of life all at once. If the customer is interrupted on the call, be sure to acknowledge the change. For example, when a dog is barking, you can say, “What a great dog; what kind is it? He sounds like he needs your attention, do you need a minute to work with him?”
The best thing that could happen during a video call is a disruption. This is the “walkaround” aspect of the in-home presentation. The disruption is the ice breaker you need to get the customer talking about things they are passionate about. This builds the aforementioned rapport further. Keep this dialog going. It is the best way to understand your customer’s personality, which in turn will help you customize a better presentation for them. If you can use your sales acumen to weave solar into the personal discussion, you can often find out the “why.” What is their motivation to go solar?
Some examples of positive disruption are kids, animals, the background noise of cooking, flags, awards, and pictures hanging on the wall in the background.
Shake up the status quo
The number one objection I hear about remote sales is that close rates tend to be lower. I certainly do not dispute these reports, but I would like to point out that these numbers may be skewed, and times are changing. With the advent of COVID-19, video conferencing has become more normalized. A customer who wants to learn more about a product without an upfront intention to purchase it may be more willing to commit to a video call than to speak to you in their home. A “mini yes’s” strategy can be employed during your work up to this initial sales call.
What are “mini yes’s?” These are steppingstones that allow you to gauge the customer’s interest and collect data which will help you build your material for the remote sales call. In your work leading up to the sales call, try to get “mini yes’s” from your customer. For example, ask for a copy of the customer’s energy bill or establish who will attend the call.
“Can you send me your latest energy bill? How long will you be available for the call? Would you like your spouse to attend? If your spouse is not able to attend, are there any questions I could answer for them?”
If you are not receiving a positive response (a “mini yes”) from the customer, you may not have a very qualified lead. If you are receiving “mini yes’s” as you work toward establishing the sales call, there is a greater likelihood that you will close the sale remotely. Do not forget, it can sometimes be the quality of the lead that can skew the close rate of a remote sale. By getting “mini yes’s” along the way, you can focus on customers who are serious versus those who are curious.
It’s important to let the customer participate in the sales process. Use of a software tool that offers a complete view of the process assists in this endeavor. Show the customer the roof of their home and your solar panel design. Explain why you placed the panels in the customized design and ask the customer if they would like to change it. Solargraf allows for real time offset, so when you move the panels around you can show the customer the effect on the energy production simultaneously. Helping the customer feel involved will keep them engaged in the project and will make it easier to transition into the commitment phase at the end of the presentation.
After you complete the sales portion of the call and before you ask the customer for a commitment, assess how the customer felt about the presentation and answer any questions they still may have. Was the customer comfortable with the process? You should then outline the next steps in the process to help set expectations for the customer.
This is where software technologies make a difference. Using Solargraf allows for the benefit of integrated e-sign and integrated financing, so there are not multiple web pages that the customer needs to access. Everything can easily be completed in the Solargraf platform.
It is important to point out to your customer how convenient the remote sales call was, how it was a positive experience for the customer, and then you can seamlessly flow into the commitment portion of the sales call.
“I know you are busy, Mrs. Customer, so I am glad I was able to save you some time with a virtual sales call. Fortunately, our platform is all-inclusive so If you are comfortable, we can complete the credit check and the e-sign of the agreement right inside the web quote you are looking at.”
The all-inclusive platform at Solargraf is continually growing. We are soon enabling a virtual site survey tool which will specify what pictures the customer should take to be ready for a virtual site survey. With these tools, (and a cooperating AHJ), you can be ready for solar install without needing to be on-site. This saves your company time and money, which allows for more sales for you and a more efficient industry which will create more solar for everyone.
I have found great success with the above tips. Please share feedback if you implement any of these strategies and are having success. My personal mission is to see solar on every rooftop in the U.S. For more information on Solargraf and remote selling, please visit https://get.solargraf.com/remotesalestoolkit
Don has been in the Renewables field for 10 years. He has worked on sales teams that sold Solar, Storage and Microgrids. Currently, he is working at Sofdesk, where he is delivering Custom Software Solutions for enterprise clients to enhance their portals and create an end to end software solution for their dealers.