The Trump administration’s 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels represents a significant obstacle for the U.S. solar market. SEIA predicts that the tariffs could reduce this year’s domestic solar growth by 18 percent, and could lead to the loss of 23,000 jobs. But one game-changing innovation could give solar firms just the edge they need to attack the tariff: we’re talking about utility data.
What can utility data do for your bottom line?
Accelerate the sales cycle
According to Eric Reinhardt, Sunrun senior director of software product management, it can take from three to six months for solar customers to go from the initial consideration of a solar panel installation to an actual completed project. Automating as many things as possible throughout that process ensures a closed deal and a happy customer.
Today’s sales cycle is so long, in part, because it’s time- and resource-intensive to evaluate prospects that are a good fit. With utility data on the backend, a solar installer can access a prospect’s actual address, electric usage, costs and tariff. This means that, before even sending someone to the property for a site visit, the installer can assess system size, project customer ROI, and determine whether they’re a good candidate for solar. With this information in hand, installers can expect more efficient sales cycles and, ultimately, higher revenue.
Simplify the customer experience
While simplifying the customer experience drives the sale itself, it continues to improve customer satisfaction afterward. According to Velocify Research, when it comes to solar sales, contacting prospects within a minute after a lead is generated increases lead-to-sale conversions by nearly 400 percent. In contrast, contacting them within five to 24 hours only increases conversions by 17 percent.
Utility data can help to speed up the process of putting together and returning a quote to not only keep prospects engaged, but also produce a quantified effect on sales. Rather than asking a customer to dig through and upload 12 months of utility bills — or worse, manually enter monthly estimates of usage and cost — installers can simply ask a customer to link their utility account to automatically provide the information directly from their electric utility provider.
Build brand trust
The solar industry hasn’t always had a sterling reputation with consumers. “There’s a common association that many homeowners have with solar,” says Luke Richardson, digital marketing specialist at EnergySage. “It has to do with pushy door-to-door solar sales reps that pressure consumers to sign a 20-year solar contract before they explain the full scope of the offer or the credibility of the solar company.” Utility data can help here, too, by providing the opportunity for solar installers to generate accurate, trustworthy cost estimates.
Building proposals on actual data, rather than estimates, results in savings for the homeowner that live up to expectations. Installers can use utility data to show homeowners that they understand their specific circumstances and are confident about the actual benefits a solar installation will provide. Not only will using accurate data enhance the credibility of an individual installer’s brand, but it will also enhance trust in the solar industry as a whole, supporting long-term solar revenue growth.
This administration’s solar tariffs will inevitably hurt the industry. That’s an economic fact. But, armed with the right tools, solar firms of all sizes have the power to fight back. With utility data, installers can continue to grow their customer base, establish brand awareness and trust, and cultivate revenue streams – now and well into the future.
Matt Kuo is VP of Product Management at Urjanet.
— Solar Builder magazine