When we began to hear rumblings of the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 heading West in March, businesses in all industries rushed to pivot their strategies to support remote sales and no-contact options for their customers.
We, at Solargraf, were no different - we recognized that our software is of great value to anyone looking to manage teams and generate quotes from everywhere. We jumped at the opportunity to put together as many resources as we could to make sure our clients had all that they needed to stay afloat in a time where everyone around them was sinking.
Now, a few months of quarantine, mandatory lockdowns, and remote work later, it’s time to take stock of where we are, and where we will be in the future. Whether we’ve reached the end of the Coronavirus pandemic or the worst is yet to come, here are some predictions as to where the solar energy industry is headed once restrictions are lifted.
Remote sales are here to stay
Can you believe that a few months ago, people were out in full force knocking on doors, shaking hands, and meeting in people’s kitchens to close solar deals? After spending so much time working indoors and communicating through screens, it seems almost unnatural to go out and meet people up close and personal anymore.
People are also beginning to realize that not everything needs to be done in person to be done well. Video calls are just as good as flying to a new city for a meeting, and 77% of remote workers have been reporting that they’re much more productive while working from home than they are in the hustle and bustle of an office.
For solar sales representatives, it’s important to keep in mind that while you may be ready to get up and out as soon as social distancing requirements are lifted, it doesn’t mean that your leads and clients are.
Sure, people who put their solar projects on hold will slowly start to get back to you about continuing work, but they will likely not want to be anywhere near you for a while. This means that you will need to continue on with video calls and screen shares when necessary to make sure everyone is comfortable.
At the end of the day, remote work isn’t going anywhere any time soon. What was slowly being adopted in certain industries was unintentionally thrust in front of people all over the world for everything from work meetings to birthday parties and Zumba classes. Not only are the more technological companies comfortable with doing business from home, but so are your clients. Capitalize on this and save on travel time and gas money!
An unexpected boost in solar sales
In a pre-pandemic world, 2020 was expected to be a great year for the renewable energy industry. Now, people are less sure but still hopeful. While supply chain breakdowns and install postponements were expected as the world started to go into lockdown, this won’t last forever.
We’re already seeing solar materials beginning to ship out from China as stay-home orders are being lifted and work at factories is resuming. According to SEIA, North Americans are still under lockdown but many governments have explicitly stated that “the solar industry ensures critical electric generation infrastructure to U.S. utilities, businesses, and homes nationwide, and installations can be done safely in accordance with federal and state guidance”. Essentially, as long as the work is done according to local safety guidelines, it may continue.
An almost complete end to transportation, manufacturing, and commuting has also led people to acknowledge the impact of fossil fuels on the environment as wildlife begins to thrive, and skies are clearer than ever.
This has led voter support of a $2 trillion green stimulus package that would “create millions of family-sustaining green jobs, lift standards of living, invest in a low-carbon future” to skyrocket. While the price of oil and gas has dropped to new lows throughout this crisis, people have also become increasingly conscious about their effects on the Earth and are more open to renewable energy sources than before.
An increase in buying local
With most of the world’s manufacturing based in Eastern countries like China, the United States was quickly hit with material shortages before the virus even began to take hold of its citizens. As factories began to close, solar installers were faced with having to postpone their installs due to a lack of supplies.
Now that the pandemic has hit our shores, many of our own manufacturers have had to reduce production if not stop it entirely to protect their workers. Once shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted, we predict an increase in buying local. Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen people become more supportive of local businesses, be it small restaurants or mom and pop shops.
This newfound want to support local businesses to “open up the economy” could translate well both in terms of homeowners interested in solar power choosing smaller, more local installers. Solar installers may also choose to use North American panel brands, inverters, and batteries, especially if it means getting their supplies faster.
What solar businesses can learn from the pandemic
Companies were made to innovate. Whether that comes from a simple spark of an idea or they’re forced to make changes due to circumstances out of their control, every major societal, political, or environmental change is an opportunity to grow.
For solar businesses, that means sometimes you’ll have to throw out the old ways of doing things and try something new if you want to continue making money. As mentioned above, a good example of this is learning that remote sales can often be easier/faster than door knocking.
There should also be more word-of-mouth and retention-based activities in your playbook. Even though we’ve all been separated, many could argue that we’ve been closer than ever. Use the human side of your business to focus on getting referrals from happy customers, keeping those customers happy with their systems and service, as well as using word-of-mouth in your favor to nab new deals.
What help is available to keep businesses afloat
What remains to be seen is if there will be any more government aid in the weeks/months to come. If you operate in the United States, you can access up-to-date information on tax relief and economic impact payments at this link. Canadian solar installers can view information about Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan here.
While we’re very much still in the early stages of getting things back to normal, it’s important to look ahead and prepare for what changes may occur in the industry in the future. No matter what happens, Solargraf is here to help you stay on top.
With features like speedy permits, custom live proposals, e-signatures, and project management capabilities, we have all you need to sell from anywhere, whether it’s at home, at the office, or in the field.
Article by: Christine Hannivan for Solargraf.