December 7, 2017

Selling solar is different than selling other home upgrades. Home repairs address a specific and often immediate need, such as a heating system that dies in the middle on winter, while non-essential home improvements such as a new kitchen with upgraded appliances are prompted by a desire to update or expand.

Solar, like most energy efficiency upgrades, is a tougher sell: there’s no urgency (if anything, as prices keep falling, there’s an incentive to put off the decision) and the thousands spent on it don’t change your customer’s quality of life as directly. While insulation may make your customer’s home more comfortable, solar and energy efficiency upgrades such as LED lightbulbs or a more efficient furnace have less tangible benefits and take time to offer financial benefits.

So why do homeowners go solar? For the majority, it’s a question of the bottom line: solar is largely sold for the savings it offers whether leasing, borrowing, or paying cash. The promise of clean energy is, for most homeowners, a secondary consideration. And while talking about solar’s savings is uncontroversial, talking about clean energy can be laden with political challenges. If you pull up to give a quote and find a Pruis in the driveway, you’ve got a good chance that “save the planet” messaging won’t be out of line, but what if it’s not clear whether an environmental pitch will help or harm your sale?

The good news is that there is not only a lot of common ground but also a lot of neutral language that resonates on both sides of the aisle. An excellent source of data on which messages resonate across the aisle is the Shelton Group’s ecopulse™ 2017 Annual Report United We Understand. Interestingly, it shows that the divide is much less extreme than the media would have us think: 65% of Americans agree that climate change is occurring and primarily caused by human activity, and the group who disagree with that statement has declined from 26% of the population in 2008 to 14% in 2017. But there are still some who will take offense, or at least be less inclined to do business with you, if you get it wrong, so you can stick with messaging seen as more universal where needed.

Examples of words or phrases that are more likely to divide include “carbon footprint” which 33% of people viewed negatively and “regulation” which 23% viewed negatively. Other terms such as “conservation” and “sustainability” were much less likely to offend, with only 5% viewing them negatively. Perhaps surprisingly, “science” receive the lowest negative rating at 4%.

Ultimately, when you’re selling solar, the safest bet may be to lead with the financial arguments and let the customer’s questions direct any information you share about the environmental benefits of going solar. Of course, every sale will differ and for some, it’ll be about technology, about your company’s track record, or even about offering solar as part of an integrated system that may include storage and EV charging. Whatever the customer’s perspective, you can never lose by listening more and responding to their cues versus assuming you know why they are interested in clean energy.