Warning: You might need a shower after reading this article.
The Solar Panel Sales Industry Is Sleazy
Our colleagues may not like this airing of dirty laundry. Call it what you want – sleazy, shady, deceptive, disgusting. The solar panel sales industry has become extremely messy. There is a huge cash grab going on in the growing industry, and the charlatans are standing on every corner peddling solar panels.
They’re called “home energy consultants,” “energy advisors,” and “efficiency specialists.” Whatever you call them, they’re out to do one thing – pick your pocket.
I regularly peruse job offerings on the major job sites to see who’s hiring in the area. This email of new solar energy job listings I received perfectly encapsulates everything that is wrong with solar panel sales today.
The first job listing is for a “canvasser.” This is what we call a door knocker. Some might call it a door-to-door “salesperson.” In reality, this is just someone who goes around generating sales leads. They have no clue about solar energy. At $12.50/hr, can you really expect them to add any value to a conversation about an important investment decision? They are simply responsible for setting appointments for the next job listing…
The dreaded “In-Home Solar Consultant.” The “aggressive” canvassers are setting so many appointments that this company needs people who can swoop in and extract money from your wallet to support their six-figure income. These “consultants” are independent sales representatives that do not actually work for the licensed solar contractor. They are independent for a reason. They have one goal in mind – to seal deals so they can collect their fat commission. $300,000 per year?! Think about that for a minute.
How Solar Sales Works
My description above may sound embellished, and perhaps a bit cynical. But it’s largely true. There are relatively few truly professional salespeople out there in our industry. There is too much low-hanging fruit, and not enough people to pick them. That leads to an influx of peddlers who chase the lowest hanging fruit, looking out for themselves first, their clients second.
To be clear, the industry needs to generate sales leads and find people who are genuinely interested in solar panels. And a professional salesperson who provides real value to clients deserves to be handsomely rewarded. No industry succeeds without sales and marketing, and dedicated people in this field should make a good living. With so many myths and misconceptions plaguing the industry, consumers need sales advocates to steer them in the right direction.
But the industry seems to have steered itself into a stereotypical used car salesman approach. Lure people in with an unbeatable offer on the cherry Corvette out front. Then sell a monthly payment on a questionable Chrysler LeBaron convertible in the back of the lot. Most solar panels are sold as a monthly payment. The initial offer by the canvasser is “no money out of pocket” or “no upfront cost.” Then the consultant swoops in to sell you on a monthly payment that you can afford. You will make payments to your solar company rather than your utility company. That sounds fine, but the third-party financier makes all of the money, and you get limited savings.
Now there is nothing wrong with financing solar panels. After all, solar panels can cost as much as a car, and most people finance automobile purchases. Not everyone has that kind of cash sitting around, although if you do you will surely make out better on the investment. The key is having a true sales professional who has your best interest in mind. You need someone who will advise you on your options and be truthful to you about the best value depending on your particular circumstance. You need someone who will advise you, teach you, educate you, and most importantly, listen to you.
You Aren’t Dealing With A Solar Contractor
A contractor is a licensed professional who qualifies a company to go out and sign deals with consumers for improvements to their property. They are responsible financially to fulfill the terms of a contract written on behalf of the company. They must professionally make improvements in accodance with all laws and codes applicable to their trade or trades.
Sadly, you probably are not dealing with an employee of that solar contractor. Almost always you are not dealing with the contractor her/himself. If the contractor is doing things right, they are out there making sure their installers are installing your solar panels with the quality and care you deserve. Most likely you are dealing with an independent contractor. Often that individual works for a company that has a separate contract with an actual licensed contractor who installs your solar panels. But the company you are actually dealing with is a glorified sales organization that does no actual installations.
It’s a convoluted system that detaches and insulates the person selling solar panels from the person responsible for getting the job done. The system exists because it presumably allows people to do what they do best. Salespeople focus on sales and installers focus on installations. But the detached nature of the relationship creates disincentives that hurt consumers. The sales arm extracts as much money as possible from consumers and the installers try to get the job done as cheaply as possible.
How We Are Different
We decided long ago that an aggressive sales funnel does not fit our business model. We have worked extremely hard on developing a reputation for honest business dealings, comprehensive client education, the best value in materials, and top-quality installation workmanship. We have been extremely fortunate to have people seeking us out. Some hallmarks of our sales and marketing practices are:
- We don’t knock on doors or employ canvassers.
- We do not buy sales leads from the numerous online lead generation companies.
- We never advertise too-good-to-be-true offers to lure people in.
- You will most likely deal directly with an owner of Florida Solar Design Group and always have this option*.
- The licensed contractor is highly engaged in field operations to ensure unparalleled quality and care.
- Our sales, ownership, office, and operations staff are co-located and integrated, providing a seamless customer experience.
Our clients come to us. There is no better sales lead than someone who has been referred to us by a friend, family member, or neighbor who is a client. Sure, we advertise – we need to let people know we exist. But most of our clients find us after they have already decided to learn more about solar energy. Most have already talked to another solar sales outfit. Many have had second thoughts and were savvy enough to realize that something wasn’t quite right with the independent sales rep they spoke with. Often clients tell us they felt like they needed a shower after meeting with another solar consultant.
You’re probably reading this because you searched for a solar contractor in your area. You are seeking out your best option and doing your due diligence. You may have been approached by a solar canvasser who had no good answers to your questions. Something a solar consultant told you may not have sounded quite right. We are glad you found us and will do everything we can to restore the reputation of the solar industry and help you decide whether an investment in solar panels is right for you.
And guess what – because we don’t pay “scouts” $12.50/hr and solar consultants hundreds of thousands of dollars, we can offer superior products and workmanship for a similar price. We aren’t always the lowest cost because quality products and highly trained installers are more costly. Ask yourself who do you think is more important – the person at your kitchen table with a pen in their hand or the person on your roof with a drill in their hand?
* We do currently have one semi-retired independent sales representative who we trust unequivocally. He never engages in pushy salesmanship. We do this to better serve a particular geographic area and provide timely and local advice to clients in this area. You always have the option of working with an owner directly if you prefer.