A must-have checklist for your solar company in the slow season

How to use this time to work on the business, so you’re prepared when the solar busy season hits
Author : 
March 6, 2024

The slow season doesn’t have to mean stagnation for your solar business.  While sales may be slower, this isn’t the time to take your foot off the gas.  In fact, this time is a prime opportunity to work on strategic initiatives that will position your operations for success when installation demand peaks again.

Our friends at StraightUp Solar are a prime example of this.  In a recent webinar, Val, their Project Manager team lead said this:  “In our busiest seasons, we’re working for the business, but in the slower seasons we’re working ON the business.”

During slow periods, the StraightUp team tasks their more senior PMs with auxiliary roles and responsibilities, which can include everything from reviewing subcontractors to updating their permitting database.  The takeaway was that while you may not be generating record revenue, maintaining focus now can net your business more profit later.

The slow season gives you the breathing room you need to: 

  • Reassess your business and its core value proposition
  • Build new operational processes
  • Research new potential lines of business 

In other words, now is the time to get operations ready to really profit when things ramp back up.

However, we know that a mandate like “work on the business” can feel intimidatingly broad.  That’s why we’ve broken it down for you.  Below you’ll find a checklist for each of your departments, with the top three things they need to do during the slow season so they can set themselves up for success when things (inevitably) get crazy again.


Task 1. Review and update the language in all your automated emails

From lead nurturing sequences to post-install communications, auditing the messaging across all automated emails can help ensure a consistently excellent customer experience.  But it’s also something that’s hard to get to when you’re in the thick of a busy install season.  Here are some of the common issues we recommend checking for:

  • Do your emails have any outdated references?
  • Are any links broken?
  • Does the language still align with your brand and processes?

Doing this task often also helps PM teams identify new automations that need to be created.  And by making these discoveries now, you can ensure they’re done before project loads go back up.

Task 2. Put a referral link in everyone’s email signatures 

While the marketing team quarterbacks referral campaigns, team members don’t have to work in marketing or sales to play their part in driving referrals — literally every email from your business can help remind your customers to send you leads.

Adding a referral link to each team member’s email signature is an easy switch to implement that helps ensure your customers are never “stuck” when trying to submit a referral. 

You can also consider this a nudge to implement automation, if you haven't already.  You don’t want to rely on a member of your team acting on an email that’s easily lost in an inbox.  By integrating a link in your signature, you demonstrate to your customers that you've done the necessary work to set up a lead capture system and a backend workflow to efficiently manage those leads.  So make sure that system is actually in place!  

If it doesn’t already exist, take comfort in the fact that this automated flow can be very simple.  At the end of the day, you just want to ensure your automation creates a new deal and assigns the same salesperson to it.  There should also be a note or association automatically applied to this deal with the referrer’s details, so they can receive whatever payout or thank you your company promises. 

If your business already has an automated referral process set up, consider making these additional updates:

  • Set up new referral reminders to go out on solar anniversaries and holidays (such as eclipses, solstices, etc.)
  • Print branded QR stickers and train your team on how to use them to prompt reviews
  • Review your incentives to see how they compare to other solar businesses in your area, or the value of a referral to your business today

Task 3. Turn off your lowest-performing ad channel (and turn on a new one)

Marketing is expensive, and there are a lot of different platforms vying for your marketing budget.  Take this time to assess what’s performing and what isn’t.  Then, turn off what isn’t, and consider turning on a new experimental ad channel.

Google, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, ads in the local paper, direct mail advertising, bus ads, billboards — the list of ad channels goes on and on.  Chances are, your business invests in at least a handful of these.  If you’ve been unhappy with the results, it’s time to spice things up.

Calculate the cost of customer acquisition (CAC) per channel, and be sure to assess quarterly and yearly to see if there are any trends.  Determine which has the highest CAC (AKA your least successful channel), turn it off, and reallocate that budget to a new experimental ad channel.

Solar customers are complex and marketing best practices are constantly changing.  It’s good practice to try a new strategy every now and again — you never know what might be the new best thing for your business.  And, after all, regularly testing new strategies keeps your lead engine primed.


Task 1. Update your proposal templates

Now’s a good time to check that your proposal templates accurately reflect your current pricing structures, and that they include any new incentive programs or promos.  Consider making any design changes you’ve had in mind, too — does anything look dated?  Are the graphics and branding elements feeling fresh and consistent with your website?  (Do you even have graphics?) 

Beyond these technical and visual reviews, you should also check that the language matches what’s on the website and how you talk about your company today.  It’s easy for these two things to fall out of sync with one another — after all, the name of the game in sales is iteration and persistence.  However, you really want your solar customers to have one, consistent experience of your brand.  While they may seem minor, these verbal or stylistic disconnects can make the sales-to-operations hand-off even more fraught.

The good news is that by making these tweaks now, whether they’re minor rate changes or visual overhauls, you can prevent surprises and reworks when closing pivotal deals later.

Task 2. Schedule a product training with one of your vendors

Now’s the time to get in touch with product vendors and ask for sales training to help your sales staff differentiate your business through your product mix.

This could be hardware or software — or better yet, both.  No doubt you’ve got inverter and panel manufacturers banging down your doors, but you’ll also want to make sure sales staff is trained on the latest releases from your software vendors. Could they brush up on their proposal skills?  Does only half of your sales team know how to input customer information into your CRM?  Does all of your sales team have your company’s white-labeled Bodhi app installed on their phone’s home screen?

Another thing to keep in mind is whether your team is equipped to sell based on the current needs of the customer.  As one example, storage popularity is growing, and a one-size-fits-all storage proposal doesn’t resonate the way it used to — using such an approach is bound to result in unhappy customers.  Rather than deal with the 1-star review later, get ahead of it now and use the slower sales cycle to study up on different storage offerings. 

You should also take some time to take inventory of any canceled projects over the past 12 months.  Assess which ones could have been prevented with additional sales knowledge and get your team up to speed.  Were any jobs canceled due to Main Panel upgrades?  The slow season is a great time to make sure your sales team has the know-how to sniff out project risks.

Task 3. Review available financing options

This is something we’d recommend your sales team do even under normal circumstances — but it’s particularly essential now.

The solar financing landscape has changed significantly over the past year. Interest rates are rising, PPAs are growing, and now there are signs that loan prices will fall again.

All of this to say, it’s important your sales team feels prepared to talk about solar financing options and where the market stands today.  Take this time to set up meetings with your different financing partners, and encourage your more experienced sales representatives to share their learnings from previous years.

This is also an opportune time to do market research on what’s popular in your region at the moment.  You may be able to get this kind of information from associations like SEIA, but it may also be worth checking out platforms like Ohm Analytics, which give you access to data like how many systems in your state are third-party-owned.


Task 1. Meet distribution reps in person

While convenient, solely transacting business via phone and email isn't ideal for fostering strong vendor partnerships.  If you’ve never met your rep, now is the time.

Not only will doing so make the business relationship more enjoyable, but you’ll also build a rapport — which might just be the ticket to ensuring that your rep thinks of you first when there’s relevant industry news, or even better, a cool discount opportunity. 

Having this conversation now can also help get you ahead of any upcoming pricing or product changes.  There’s nothing worse than planning a heavy install of IQ7+ just to find out they’re getting discontinued after all your permits have already referenced that model.  Or when you sell a lot of a specific panel thinking they’ll fit within a certain business margin, only to find out their price just went up by $.05/watt. 

This is why rapport is important — your distribution rep can help you catch things like this before they negatively impact your bottom line.

Task 2. Update your standard operating procedures (SOPs)

Operating manuals and processes need periodic refreshing, especially with new services, regional expansions, regulatory updates, or product additions. 

Update your contract information at permit and utility interconnection offices, and audit your SOPs.  Is your escalation SOP current?  Have you added new product lines that render old SOPs outdated?  Have things changed in your service department (or maybe now you have a service department) that require you to create new SOPs?  

If your solar business doesn’t even have written SOPs, the slow season is also the perfect opportunity to transition your SOPs from tribal knowledge to documented record.  Nothing is more needlessly stressful than when a senior PM is out sick or leaves the company and processes have to be recreated from scratch because there was never time to write it down.

Task 3. Inventory your warehouse and equipment

A well-organized and accurately inventoried warehouse can prevent costly job delays and overbuying.  There’s nothing worse than spending $3000 on MC4 connectors — only to realize you already had them shoved in the back of a work van.  Now you’ve held up the project, wasted a bunch of money, and have unnecessary inventory on hand.

The slow season is just the time to clear out any old or unusable equipment.  Consider selling one-off solar equipment on sites like EnergyBin, which allow you to recoup some costs. Those Trina 300s that have been collecting dust in the corner might just save the day on someone else’s panel replacement project and can fetch a fair price!

Stay focused now and reap the benefits next season

While the temptation may be to ease off during the slower months, savvy solar companies recognize this as a critical period for shoring up their operations.

By methodically working through department-level checklists and investing in key areas like marketing optimization, sales enablement, and operational process improvements, your solar business can use the low tide to its advantage.  This way you can course-correct based on previous years’ learnings, realign on strategic initiatives, and thoroughly prepare for the next surge of installations.

Use this time wisely to position your solar business to capture greater market share and long-term success. And if you need help staying ahead of next season’s customer expectations, Bodhi can help. Let’s get started.

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