New solar installations have been booming for years across the United States and all over the world, making solar sales a sector filled with opportunity. At the same time, the costs of photovoltaic panels and other solar hardware are rapidly falling thanks to improved manufacturing practices and higher-efficiency technologies. While the industry is exploding, profit margins are simultaneously shrinking, leading solar sales and installation firms to look for new ways to lean their operations and stand out from the crowd of competitors now 3,000+ strong.
Customer resource management is one of the most powerful tools organizations in any industry – including solar sales – can use to boost efficiency and carve out a competitive advantage. Unsurprisingly, the adoption of CRM systems has been growing almost as quickly as the market itself. While CRM adoption has the potential to change the way the game is played, choosing the wrong system can be costly in more ways than one.
If you are in the process of researching solar CRMs, you have probably already realized that there are dozens of systems on the market for you to choose from. But not all CRMs are created equal, and many fall short in key areas. Selecting a CRM that isn’t suited to solar sales or one that doesn’t meet all of your needs will undercut the value the system can offer you and, in turn, your return on investment.
With that in mind, the following is a quick review of the three most important areas to weigh-out when selecting your solar CRM: the included features, the ease of mobile access, and the platform’s cost-effectiveness.
1) Solar Sales CRM Features
Features are probably the most obvious consideration when shopping for anything. If you’re new to customer resource management tools, it can be easy to get lost in long feature lists and lose sight of which ones are most important to your success.
At their core, CRMs are all about helping you create better relationships with your leads and your customers while saving you time in the process. This means a platform’s lead management tools are arguably the most important feature. All CRMs will come with some sort of lead management suite, but when choosing, look for a platform that offers:
- Automatic Lead Capture: Your CRM should enable you to capture new leads into the system automatically from web forms, email and text messages, and, in some rare cases, even over the phone. If you’re forced to manually enter each new lead or import all of your leads from external systems, your CRM isn’t pulling its weight.
- Automatic Interaction Tracking: The power of CRM as both a tool and a practice lies in the ability to collect and manage as much data on your prospects and customers as possible. Your CRM should make it easy for your sales and installation teams to add manual notes to lead accounts, but it should also automatically track the key details of each new email, phone call, and even website visit.
- Automatic Lead Categorization: A pool of unfiltered and unqualified leads is impossible to work with. The better you can categorize each prospect, the better you can track their journey through the sales process, and the faster you can convert them into a paying customer. Your CRM should be able to automatically recategorize your leads when possible by tracking their interactions with your staff and even with your digital marketing materials.
Communications and Scheduling
Whether you focus on the sales-side only and subcontract your customers’ installations, or offer complete end-to-end service, a big chunk of the solar sales process happens in the field. From initial consultations to site surveys to installation to ongoing maintenance, your team and installers are going to be out of the office a lot. Seamless communication and scheduling is crucial to efficient operations, and in an industry as competitive as solar, there is no place for inefficiency.
Your CRM should offer enough communications and scheduling features to make using outside tools unnecessary. At a minimum, you should be able to sync all of your team’s Gmail and Outlook accounts with the CRM to provide in-system access to your master and individual calendars, as well as your email communications.
Other features to look for include:
- Advanced permissions-based calendar editing to allow support staff to manage the calendars of sales and installation teams in the field
- Email and SMS-based appointment reminders to minimize last-second cancellations and rescheduling
- Automated follow-up messaging for ongoing maintenance and long-term relationship building
Billing and Payments
Solar sales is an already-competitive market with ever-shrinking margins as hardware costs fall. Getting paid fast is key, because bloated accounts receivable reduce already-tight cash flow – money necessary to maintain healthy operations. If you can find a CRM that helps speed up the payment cycle through built-in billing and payment tools, it has the potential to make your life much easier by helping keep your finances more stable.
Look for billing tools that let you generate and send custom invoices from right within the CRM, including recurring invoices for customers leading their hardware or paying for ongoing maintenance packages. On the payment side, if your CRM can offer you built-in credit card and ACH payments, it’ll save you the headache of having to deal with a separate ecommerce or in-store payment system. Just make sure any CRM you intend to use for payments is fully secure, as payment data breaches have the potential to be costly.
2) Mobile Accessibility for Solar Sales
As previously mentioned, selling and installing solar equipment requires many of your team members to spend time in the field for a variety of reasons. If your CRM ceases to be accessible to them during those times, then you’re not really getting maximum value for your investment. Picking a CRM with a good mobile presence is absolutely crucial for the solar sales environment.
All modern CRMs are cloud-based, meaning your employees could theoretically login to the web-based system you use from your desk. Trying to use a CRM on a mobile phone or tablet that way is a nightmare, however. A good mobile app will instead put your CRM’s key features in your team’s hands where and when they need them, all in an interface designed specifically for mobile use. This ease of use is important because if using your CRM is difficult or cumbersome, your team simply won’t.
Your CRM’s mobile app should provide access to the following core features at a minimum:
- Lead management: Without access to your stored lead accounts, what’s the point?
- Ticketing: Your sales and installation teams need to be able to add, manage, and update customer support and installation tickets on the fly to ensure seamless service.
- Power dialer: In the rare case your CRM has a built-in cloud-based power dialer, the mobile app should allow your team to access it to both make efficient communications easier and keep the monthly cell bill as low as possible.
For all the incredible benefits a CRM offers to your company, cost is still a big factor. The right CRM will provide you with an enormous amount of utility and pay for itself through its efficiency and the elimination of wasted time and resources. The wrong CRM has the potential to go in the exact opposite direction. Ensuring your new CRM is cost-effective and provides the highest ROI possible comes down to two things: ensuring adoption and minimizing use fees.
Adoption is key because a CRM your team refuses to use is a waste of money. Any CRM you choose for your solar company should offer two key things: an intuitive, user-friendly design, and the upfront training necessary to get your team comfortable right off the bat. If the company providing your CRM isn’t willing to help you with your initial adoption, you could be getting better value elsewhere.
Minimizing fees is important for obvious reasons, but what isn’t necessarily so obvious is what kind of fees you should be looking to avoid. With CRM software, user fees are the ones with the most potential to damage your return. User-based pricing ensures that as your company grows, so do your costs, which is not ideal in a growth industry like solar sales. A much better option is a CRM with a fixed pricing model. CRMDialer, for instance, includes unlimited users, unlimited leads, and unlimited document storage. As your company and your lead pool grow, you’ll never have to worry about a skyrocketing bill.
In addition to its unique unlimited pricing system, CRMDialer also offers everything your solar company needs to carve out a stronger competitive advantage, including advanced lead management tools, fully integrated email and SMS communications, scheduling tools, secure billing and payments, a customer service helpdesk, a built-in power dialer, a full-featured mobile app, and more.
To find out more about everything CRMDialer has to offer, get in touch with a member of the CRMDialer team today. Or, if you’re ready to see the platform in action right away, start your no-commitment 14-day free trial of CRMDialer today.