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Understand Your Customers

Introduction

Focussing on the customer should be a primary goal when trying to sell anything. Mistakes are often made because people try and sell using stories about value and benefit from their own perspective. Often, too much focus is on the product, not what is ‘in it’ for the customer. This may seem straightforward but simple things can often be forgotten. Here’s how you should approach understanding your customers when selling smart solar.

Understand the cross section of different buyers

Buyers have a set of wants and needs and a ‘one-size fits all’ approach doesn’t cut it anymore. In fact, a survey by Evergage and Researchscape International of 206 organizations of all sizes found that respondents almost unanimously believe that personalization helps advance customer relationships (96%), and that their prospects and customers expect a personalized experience (88%). This is just one of the many reports and articles that highlights the need to deeply understand your customers.

Now let’s take a step back and look at your potential customers. Not all residents see the same benefit in solar as another, so it’s important to place yourself in their shoes. A good place to start is to develop customer personas for the different types of customers that are likely to buy from your business.

We’ve included an example customer persona and a customer persona template for developing your own at the end of this document.

Each person your business interacts with will have certain traits, and be receptive of certain value messages. For example, a married mother of two in her mid-thirties will have very different reasons for thinking about installing solar than a money savvy business professional in his sixties.

This is not to say that every potential customer will fit exactly into the customer personas you create. But, developing the personas will provide a much better understanding on the types of customer you’re serving, the reasons they may have for considering solar, the challenges they need to overcome and their potential objections. This in turn enables you to craft different messages for different types of customers and improve your chances of making the sale with that customer.

When creating each persona, it’s crucial to define their ‘pain points’ (aka ‘challenges’). With this knowledge, you can later work on how your product addresses these pain points or challenges.

Instead of asking yourself:

  • How does this PV system perform better than others? What are its specifications?

Try asking:

  • If I were this person, what would be my main concerns in life right now?
  • If I were this person, how would this PV system benefit me?

Although important, driving factors to buy solar may not necessarily be just to save money or help the environment. Some may want solar as part of an investment for their property. Others may install solar as a starting point for grid independence. If you’re looking to target middle-income earners in outer suburban areas, a key motivator in getting solar is obviously rising cost of utility and affordability.

Once you’ve defined the customer’s pain points and drivers, it is much easier to highlight relevant benefits of solar to the potential customer than simply listing the advantages and specifications of a PV model. Then you’re ready for the next step.

Forming your value propositions

Once you know the different types of customers your business will be targeting, you can begin to form value propositions or statements that are relevant for those customer types. Use your understanding of their pain points as a guide, and highlight the outcomes for them.

A value proposition is a statement that your company should use to outline why a consumer should buy your product or service. This statement convinces a potential consumer that one particular product or service will add more value or better solve a problem than other similar offerings (Investopedia). You should consider both short-term and long-term benefits and solutions.

two men converse over a diagram on a whiteboard.

Here’s an example:

  • Your potential customer is concerned about the rising costs of utilities. The obvious value proposition is around how solar can reduce these costs.
  • You can strengthen your value propositions with offering them smart solar. Smart solar will help your customer to see how much money they are saving and improve the performance of their solar so they can save even more.
  • For example, you could calculate the potential savings for the customer and show the difference they will make in a month, then a year, then 5 years with solar, and with smart solar. This way, the benefit is also personalised for the customer. For such a customer, it may be less important to place emphasis on the environmental impact and benefits of solar.

Keep in mind that most interactions will not be flawless, and in many you will encounter various objections from your potential customers. You can overcome this challenge with good preparation. We suggest you prepare answers to tough questions and material to address any common concerns that may arise.

Here are some common objections to buying solar and how offering smart solar can help you to deal with them:
Price

“Another solar company sells cheaper panels” or “The price is too high”

When price becomes a hurdle, which it often is, you need to justify the investment in solar. You may compare your price point with other prices in the market, or focus on a unique value, such as the warranty of the solar panel or other differentiating product offerings, such as premium panels, or including an energy management device such as carbonTRACK in as a package.

Provided that the HEMS is geared primarily to save the user money, key considerations in electricity use management will include grid electricity rates, whether the customer is on time of use billing, and whether there is solar power or batteries available on site.

carbonTRACK can also help your customers speed up the return on their solar investment – so while your panels may cost more at the outset, they are paid off faster and perform better in the long run.

 

Complacency

“I’m waiting until the technology gets better” or “I’m waiting until the time is right for me/my business”

If complacency is an issue, then highlight the disadvantages of not acting. Use real-data to create personalised examples of increasing electricity tariff (you can get this information from reports such as the AER’s State of the Electricity Market Report). With this information in hand, you can then talk about average return on investment times for your solar products.

By showing these customers a demo of the carbonTRACK platform, you can highlight to them that the technology is very advanced, and they can always start small and use carbonTRACK to size up for the perfect solar and/or battery system to meet their needs.

 

External input

“I have to talk to me partner about this”

If a potential customer wants input from their colleague or lifepartner, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Help facilitate this decision-making process by providing reference materials or take part in it later. Try to make sure all decision makers are present when discussing your product.

Straightforward brochures outlining your products with their value propositions are good to have on hand for distribution, in addition to personalised quotes for solar. This gives your potential customers talking points beyond price and something to refer back to when they are thinking it over.

 

Return on investment

“How do I know it will pay itself back?” or “How long is the payback period?”

As solar is a substantial investment, a common concern is when (if ever) it will pay itself off. When faced with this objection, you can show prospective customers how to verify their solar generation via the inverter or an energy management system (like carbonTRACK).

This information can be translated from an average day’s generation to its real savings potential. You can then give the customer an estimated period for the payback based on their consumption, location and electricity tariffs (Solar Choice’s solar calculator is a fantastic resource for generating this information).

We have found that when carbonTRACK is installed with solar it can reduce a customer’s bill by up to 30%. This is achieved through our insights and switching capabilities that allow customers to use their solar even when they’re away from home.

 

Lack of choice

“I don’t think this option is right for me”

When offering your PV systems, you may need to be flexible with the packages you offer. Consider providing two or three options so that potential customers have an increased chance of finding a solution that fits with their needs. Providing different offerings ensures your customer won’t feel cornered into either buying the product as is, or not buying it at all.

You can offer carbonTRACK as an add-on to your solar (turning it into ‘Smart Solar’), and we even have different options for carbonTRACK packages that range from monitoring only, to monitoring and mains switching, to monitoring and full home automation.

Offering flexible options can give customers a sense of control in their decision making. However, we warn against offering too many different kinds of packages though – to understand why look up the paradox of choice, which explains that people can be overwhelmed by choice and, as a result, are then unable to make a decision at all (we’ve all been there).

 

three people sit in an office space, pointing out differences between notes on paper and diagrams on a computer.
In summary

Once you are armed with a strong foundation of customer research, personas and strong value propositions you are in a fantastic position. You can respond to customer concerns quickly and easily, and provide them with the information they need to make the decision to go with your company. Next we look at understanding the market and where you fit into it.


In the next chapter, you’ll learn how to outsmart your competitors.

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