Why most commercial PV sales don’t proceed (and what to do about it)…

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It’s a well-established trend: the Australian solar industry is increasingly turning to sales of commercial PV systems. Its doing this because it needs to survive –almost half of the suitable homes in major markets already host a PV system, a household saturation rate that makes new sales difficult to come by. Selling commercial PV also makes sense because of the more energy is consumed during daylight hours than in the residential sector. But most of all, commercial PV sales represent an untold opportunity.
Commercial PV status
The Australian market for commercial PV has grown considerably over recent years. There are now over 27,000 commercial PV systems in Australia, totalling over 550 MW of installed capacity. The following chart illustrates the early growth in small PV systems has now been supplanted by strong growth in large commercial systems.
Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 3.07.40 PM
And commercial PV sales are just getting started – ACIL Allen has calculated the total available commercial roof-top solar capacity in the country is 4.1GW.  By this token we are only 13% of the way towards reaching saturation point for commercial PV sales, compared to 32% of the way to residential saturation. Commercial penetration is highest in South Australia and lowest in Victoria. In summary there is a huge bonanza of potential commercial PV sales awaiting the right sales team.
 

State Current Commercial Rooftop Capacity (MW) Estimated Commercial Rooftop Available Capacity (MW) (ACIL ALLEN) Commercial Penetration Rate Residential Penetration Rate (Suitable Dwellings)
ACT 6 75 8% 20%
NSW 184 1,175 16% 23%
NT 9 42 21% 22%
QLD 93 772 12% 51%
SA 84 243 35% 48%
TAS 10 141 7% 20%
VIC 99 1,141 9% 22%
WA 57 528 11% 39%
National 543 4117 13% 32%

 
What’s holding back commercial PV sales?
Despite the massive opportunity, and despite the considerable interest from commercial property owners, most PV retailers struggle to close sales. As SunWiz has written extensively, the commercial sales process is far more complex than selling PV to households. For one thing, there are typically multiple decision makers involved – business partners, accountants etc – all of whom need to have their attention captured and then to be convinced. Secondly, there are large sums of money involved in commercial PV, so businesses do their due diligence and PV retailers face much closer scrutiny than when selling to households.
SunWiz has spent the past two years consulting to dozens of PV retailers on sensible strategies for winning commercial work. We’ve written extensively on how solar businesses must optimise their sales processes to be targeted and ultra-efficient, to have any hope of running a profitable operation. And today we’re revealing what we believe is the #1 reason PV retailers aren’t winning the commercial PV jobs they deserve.
Here’s the sad truth: most PV retailers are missing out on commercial PV sales because of one reason – a critical part of their initial sales process either underwhelms or overwhelms their prospects. I’m talking about their proposal document – that all-important piece of sales literature that may be the only opportunity you have to convince all interested parties that you’re worth a call-back. Of the many dozen proposal documents we’ve reviewed:

  • Most proposal documents are far too wordy and often way too long. Businesspeople have a very short attention span, and need to understand what you’re offering at-a-glance. Pages of text are scary and automatically wind up in the bin. Lesson: Use visual communication such as infographics, logos, pictures; use brief sections of text with sensible headings.
  • Most proposal documents contain too much technical information. A businessperson cares mostly about looking good to his peers/customers/employees and making a wise financial decision. When buying a PV system they really only investing in a financial outcome (not-to-be-overlooked is their purchasing of an intangible boost to their self-esteem) – they are less interested in the technology itself. Lesson: focus on the financials and upon the non-rational buying motivations (pride/envy/fear of missing out etc)
  • Most proposal documents under-sell the solar company, and don’t communicate your point-of-difference. If your prospect is going to buy solar, they’re going to shop around. Its going to be impossible for them to compare brands of panels or inverters. You need to communicate your company’s story/unique offer in a way that they can relate to. Lesson: communicate the experience you’re offering them, and the satisfaction they’ll feel having chosen you.
  • Most proposal documents fail to establish trust. Nobody buys anything unless they trust who they’re buying from – and trust is critical when you’re spending tens and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars. Your sales proposal needs to establish that you’re professional and that you’ve done this work before. Lesson: Establish social evidence using testimonials and case studies, and have a professional-looking proposal.
  • Most proposal documents contain unbelievable financial calculations. Again, if someone is going to invest a pile of money, they need to trust in the outcome. Time and time again we see proposals that don’t account for the client’s consumption profile or tariff structure, calculations that don’t stand up to any scrutiny by an accountant. Nobody trusts another person’s excel spreadsheet either – indeed most people are scared off by a spreadsheet. Lesson: use industry-trusted solutions that demonstrate why results can be trusted.

What to do about it
When it dawned upon us that most PV retailers are SME’s without access to a marketing team, the SunWiz team knew we had to provide PV retailer with access to best-practice sales proposals. Research has shown us another key to a successful commercial PV sales division is the ability to quickly turn-around sales proposals while customer interest is hot, and simultaneously minimise the cost of customer acquisition by making the proposal-building process take less than fifteen minutes.
With all this in mind, SunWiz redeveloped its PVsell software to enable users to create compelling proposal documents that are 100% retailer-configurable and 100% tailored to the prospect, using impressively-accurate financial calculations and best-practice sales templates… so you can have a winning proposal in someone’s inbox within 5 minutes of speaking with them.
For more information, visit www.pvsell.com.au

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