Selling PV Systems! Educating or Misleading Customers?
Selling has many connotations as well as definitions. These fall into two general categories, educating and misleading the potential customer.
• A properly informed customer will make the best decision and there are a number of ways to inform and educate the customer to the point where they will decide whether or not to make a purchase.
• A misled customer will be missing necessary information and are often given false information; a good decision to make a purchase cannot be made with missing or false information.
The primary cause of a misled customer comes from two sources, unscrupulous sales people and a lack of scrutiny by the customer.
• That’s right, I just blamed the victim. Being a customer in the western world requires research that is time consuming. But that research is not difficult in the PV industry. We have several organizations and companies that provide plenty of information the customer needs. The first one I recommend is EnergySage; they are a lead generator for solar contractors but they also provide a ton of information on product preferences, system performance and pricing. The second one is PVWatts operated by NREL of the Department of Energy (DOE); this is an online PV sizing and performance software that is easy to use and extremely accurate. The third one is the American Solar Energy Society (ASES); they a solar advocacy organization that provides many recourses to the solar industry and consumers; it is a great place to self-educate with solar energy and get a list of questions to ask solar contractors. Customers who take the time to self-educate will recognize an unscrupulous solar contractor quickly.
• Unscrupulous solar contractors are sometime difficult to spot. If they work for a large nationally recognized solar company, a false sense of comfort is commonly felt. They are just as likely to bend the truth as anyone. Don’t assume honesty goes alone with size and success. If the sales person presents something that sounds almost too good to be true, it probably isn’t. For small contractors, be sure their company is state-licensed to contract and insured for liability and workers compensation.
Three important markers when looking for a solar contractor are whether they have a pictured selection of previous installations with some reference contact information, whether they hold a NABCEP certification and whether they are a member of a state chapter of ASES. The better contractors will have all three.
IREC Certified Master Trainer