If you’ve been keeping up with the renewable energy industry, you know that the solar sector is hot—no pun intended. The once-expensive power source has become incredibly cheap in recent years, and the federal government has recently announced ambitious plans for the country to convert half its energy production to solar by 2050. Things are looking up, which means that growing your solar business should be easy, right?
Not so fast. With great growth comes increased competition, and the solar industry is no exception. More and more companies are deciding to venture into the renewable energy space—including one of our clients. After over 30 years in the commercial roofing space, this Southwest-based company decided to venture into solar in March 2020—right as the pandemic was sweeping through the nation. They quickly realized how steep the competition was and enlisted our help in May of 2021.
Despite the tight competition and oversaturated market, we set appointments with more than a dozen potential customers in three months. Now, our solar client is in the running for over $15 million of solar projects. Here’s how we got our client three major proposals that have the potential to completely transform their business.
There is no secret formula to B2B lead generation success, even in industries achieving rapid growth. Sometimes, our clients attend their first appointment and clinch a six-figure deal within the first month of our B2B appointment setting program. In other cases, it takes months. Even if you think you have the sales process down to a science, it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen. Why? Buying is just as emotional as it is transactional—you can’t separate the two.
B2B buyers have logical reasons for wanting to purchase solar panels. These reasons include saving money, reducing their carbon footprint, and having a backup energy source. Then, there are emotional reasons—namely, being frustrated with increasing energy bills. You never know which leads will be emotionally motivated, but you can target those that fit the logical criteria.
Even when you’re strategic about the leads you target, it takes 57 days and nearly 10 dials just to set an appointment with a solar prospect, and there’s no telling if that appointment will turn into a proposal or a deal. In this client’s case, within 57 days, we had set over 15 meetings, four of which quickly turned into proposals. Though some of this quick success had to do with our leads’ motivation, we can attribute most of it to work we did in implementation month.
When a homeowner or commercial property owner decides to switch to solar, they can’t just call up a provider and get their panels installed in a day. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into installing their new energy source.
First, an engineer has to scope out their roof and electrical system to make sure both can withstand the installation. Then, they have to get the proper permits and fill out paperwork to get the right tax incentives. After that, the provider has to order panels and schedule the installation. Without this extensive prep work, a buyer might end up with a solar system that doesn’t work or goes against city code—forcing them to start over from scratch.
The B2B appointment setting process isn’t all that different from the solar panel installation process. When our clients first call us, they don’t immediately start getting appointments. It takes a month of preparation before we can narrow down our lead list, hone our pitch, and hit the phones. Without these few weeks of research, we would end up with an unsustainable sales pipeline that doesn’t yield the results we expect.
To prepare for our new solar lead generation program, we collaborated with our client to identify their ideal future customer. We came up with the following criteria:
- Location: Our client worked out of a major city in the Southwest, and they preferred to work in surrounding counties. They gave us 11 nearby counties to target and one to avoid. However, if the right opportunity came up, our client was willing to work anywhere in the state.
- Industry: After over a year spent building their customer base, our client had a good idea of the industries they preferred to serve. Their top five industries were food service, manufacturing, hotels, developers, and biological laboratories. We could also pursue schools, hospitals, and private medical practices.
- Company size: Though our client worked with both residential and commercial customers, they wanted us to focus on larger companies. Qualified leads would have at least 5,000 square feet of building space or over 60 full-time employees.
- Key decision-maker: In B2B lead generation, the key decision-maker (KDM) is the person who can sign off on major decisions, like installing new solar panels. Our target KDMs were facilities managers, building directors, operations managers, or C-level executives.
Once we had a good idea of our target buyer, our data team started compiling and cleansing a list of potential leads. When we finalized our lead list and implementation month was over, it was finally time to start selling.
During the first month of any B2B appointment setting program, we usually focus on getting as many leads in our pipeline as possible. To do so, we focus on our first impressions before asking qualifying questions. If we get enough information to move a lead into the nurturing process, we do so. It’s rare to set many appointments during the first month in a solar program, but it happens occasionally. In this case, we set five, one of which immediately went into the proposal phase.
How did we set so many appointments so quickly? First, we asked the right questions. When we got a lead on the phone who seemed interested in installing solar panels, we asked some probing questions to gauge if they were an opportunity worth pursuing. These questions included:
- Who is your utility provider? This first question helped us immediately weed out certain companies. If the lead’s utility provider was known for having poor solar connectivity, we didn’t move forward with them.
- What is your energy consumption? If companies had low energy consumption, they probably wouldn’t be motivated to switch to an alternative energy source. This question allowed us to determine how big a potential project our client would have and how likely a lead would be to sign a contract.
- What is your goal for solar? Asking about our leads’ goals enabled us to nail down our lead nurturing strategy. If the KDM wanted to save money, we could send a case study about how our client helped a past customer save a certain percent on their energy bills. If they wanted to install solar for environmental reasons, we could send an infographic on how solar would reduce their carbon footprint.
- What is your budget? This last question was probably the most important. Solar isn’t cheap—companies can easily sink six figures into a new solar installation. Asking about a lead’s budget helped us determine if they could make a deal in the near future. Companies that didn’t have the budget right now were still worth keeping in touch with, but we focused most of our sales efforts on immediate opportunities.
After asking these qualifying questions, we had a pretty good idea of who would eventually set an appointment. Plus, we could predict what their timeline would be. For example, one of our sales development representatives (SDRs) spoke with a recycling center facilities manager who was frustrated about their energy bills. Within a few conversations, we could tell that this KDM was very excited about the tax incentives and future savings solar could provide. By mid-June, we set an appointment, and our client drew up a proposal for nearly $250,000 soon after.
By the end of the month, we set four additional appointments with qualified leads. We wrapped up our first month live with five more appointments than expected and a potential deal worth a quarter of a million dollars. We and our client were excited to see what the next few months would bring—and we weren’t disappointed.
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When we continued making calls for our client in July, we followed our usual routine. We introduced our client’s business, followed up with qualified leads, and set appointments when they were ready. Our SDRs had no idea they would get our client in front of two tremendous opportunities worth $2.6 and $12.2 million in one month.
Our experience with both leads started the same way—no one would answer the phone. When they did, they would brush us off. Either our KDM was in a meeting, walking to their car, or experiencing some technical problem that meant they couldn’t speak to us. We could have taken this as a sign that things weren’t going to work out, but we didn’t.
A large portion of the sales process consists of being told “no.” Bad sales reps will take this at face value and move on to their next prospect. Good sales reps will keep trying to get in touch so they can see if that “no” is for a legitimate reason or just an excuse to get off the phone. In many cases, once the KDM realizes that they could benefit from your services, they go from giving you the cold shoulder to being an eager future customer. That’s what happened with both of our initially frosty leads in July and August.
After four unanswered calls throughout early July, we connected with a lead at one of the largest medical complexes in the area. With 300,000 square feet of facilities, this lead exceeded our qualifying criteria 60 times over.
During this one phone call, we connected with the company’s maintenance manager and learned that they were unhappy with a prior solar provider and wanted quotes to install solar at their main facility. After a few minutes, we secured an appointment for July 27.
When our client wrapped up their meeting, they immediately let us know that not only was this likely to turn into a deal, but it was with one of the top 10 power users in the state. As a result, the solar proposal they drew up was for a $12.2 million solar installation project—by far the most profitable project they had ever come across.
As of September, our client has submitted an additional design proposal and is now waiting for the project to progress. There’s a good chance our client will secure the deal, which would pay for their B2B appointment setting program for over 200 years.
We first tried to contact a lead at another local medical complex only 10 days into our B2B appointment setting program. Fast forward two months and six phone calls, and we finally spoke with the maintenance director. With over 90,000 square feet of building space, this lead was more than qualified. Plus, the company was spending a big chunk of their budget on electricity each month and they were eager to save money. So, we set an appointment for Aug. 12.
The meeting went exceptionally well and our client submitted a $2.6 million proposal within a few days. The lead expects to move forward in October, which means our client could have nearly $15 million in new revenue within a month.
If you’re trying to grow your business in a competitive industry, it can be tempting to look for shortcuts. There are plenty of companies out there that will force you into restrictive contracts, promise unbelievable results, and stop answering the phone once you realize they duped you. These gimmicks aren’t worth it. In reality, there is no foolproof secret to sales success, but there’s one thing you can do to get ahead of the competition: follow up until you get someone on the phone.
Our SDRs could have hung up the phone and stopped calling when our two leads kept making excuses in July and August. Instead, they stayed persistent, set appointments, and got our client in front of two deals that could dramatically change their business.
Are you too busy to spend your days following up with elusive leads? Let Abstrakt handle prospecting for you. With over 10 years of experience serving businesses in the solar industry, we have the tools and expertise needed to grow your market share. If our Southwest solar client is any indication, our process works—it can turn nos into multi-million-dollar proposals within a matter of weeks.
The solar industry is only going to get more competitive. If you’re not actively trying to grow your business, it’s time to start. Get in touch with our team today to learn more about our B2B lead generation services.