SolarWakeup has circulated and compiled a survey of how companies in the residential solar industry are being impacted by the COVID-19 crisis each week, and how they’re responding. The most recent results indicate sales levels are improving compared to an average week in February (pre-COVID).
Fifty-eight percent of responses are same or increasing sales compared to February, but overall new sales levels, total sales week of April 27 versus February average, are down 22.8%. There is a deviation based on geography and size, however. If New York and Massachusetts are removed from sample, for example. sales are only down 14.7 percent.
In terms of customer interest though, lead volume is nearing pre-pandemic levels.
• 73.7% are saying that lead volume has increased
• 31% report lead volume higher than pre-COVID
• 21% say that lead volume is declining
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Organic and referral leads still represent that primary channels, social media now the highest paid lead source.
• 72.3% say that they have increased their investments in lead generation
Projects are now closing in new ways and sales rations are adjusting, representing a need for higher lead volume.
• 55% of installers say that sales closing ratio is more than 20% down from pre-COVID sales methods
• 89% are now selling via phone or video
• Installers in Texas report closing deals in person
Even at this early stage in the recovery, higher or increasing sales means growth for many installers.
• 42.1% are now saying that they are currently hiring for sales positions
• Nobody is cutting sales headcount
• Channels report more focus on sales networks, i.e. 1099 sales positions
Positive as this all is, how is it affecting business sentiment? 94.7% report adjusting their 2020 forecast down relative to their original budget (many installers were forecasting big growth for the year).
Yet, sentiment does appear to be favoring a 2020 that is up or even from 2019. Most installers are expecting sales to match pre-COVID levels by August.
• 21% say in June
• 52.6% say in July
• 15.7% say in August
The biggest shift since the last survey: building departments have adjusted their processes in a big way, which is likely to lead to major positive changes in the market.
• 79% of the building departments now have digital permitting
• 68% have adopted virtual inspections or video submittals
• SolarAPP is now targeting Q3 pilots with increased fundraising for the digital platform, being led by NREL
— Solar Builder magazine