The 4 buyer personas of solar customers

How to use video game design principles to identify & appeal to solar customers’ underlying emotional drivers

Have you ever taken those online quizzes to decide what type of car is “right for you?”  You know, the one that asks you a few questions like “What do you value most?  Price or safety or performance?”  

Well I did that recently, and I was like “What?  A minivan?”  So I took the quiz again, changing my answers until I got the recommendation I really wanted.  It took a few attempts, but yes, a sportier SUV is really “me.”

It turns out many people do this.  It’s just one example of how people can say one thing overtly but deep down really harbor other thoughts.  In our first post on the behavioral science of solar consumers, we looked at how solar sales reps can use empathy to dig deeper into customer’s motivations to go solar.  In this post, we’ll dive into a method taken from game design theory to help systematically identify the underlying emotional drivers of a solar customer and how best to appeal to the four solar buyer personas.


Going deeper than “Save money.  Save the environment. Be independent.”

The standard sales pitch in solar is generally “Save money.  Save the environment.  Be independent.”  These are all great value propositions.  The problem is that most people will say “Yes” to all three of them as to why they’re interested in going solar.  However, people still pass in the end.  They don’t just pass on you and your company.  They just pass on going solar at all.  They choose the status quo which is not to save money, not to save the environment, and not to be independent.

We need to take a lesson from the car quiz. Even though I said I wanted the characteristics of a minivan, I’m sure I’d leave the dealership if that was suggested to me.  

Similarly in the case of solar, your customers’ stated reason to go solar may not be what they told you.  

It’s important to go a level deeper to uncover the underlying motivators that initially drive their interest to look into solar and reach out to you. 

How game design theory can help

Imagine being able to effectively uncover these emotional drivers in a way that can be systemized and embedded into your sales process.  And with this insight, have a prescribed set of ways your sales team can approach and appeal to the customer.  This is especially important for solar companies that are scaling and need best practices to be shared across the sales team.  

This is where game design theory comes in, in particular Bartle Player Types. Taken from game design theory, Bartle Player Types is a classification method developed in 1996 to characterize video game players.  Players are divided into 4 groups, Achievers, Socializers, Explorers, and Killers, that are based on their preferred actions within the game.  Or in short, what really motivates them to play a game.   

Because of its simplicity and how it looks at a fundamental quality of the customer outside of the context of solar, Bartle Player Types can provide a way to understand and appeal to the underlying emotional drivers of solar customers.  


The 4 “Solar Bartle Players”

We’ve adapted the Bartle Player Type taxonomy and created four buyer personas for solar customers which we are dubbing Bodhi’s 4 Solar Bartle Player Types. 

As you read about them, I’m sure you’ll say, “Oh I know that kind of customer.”

In practice, your customers will be combinations of these 4 different player types.  However, in almost all cases, one player type will dominate. 

The Achievers

These solar customers are driven by achieving goals from points, to awards, to social status.  Furthermore they want to and like being able to show and boast to their friends about these achievements.  This type of customer responds particularly well to incentives.  

For these customers, here are a few examples of how to appeal to them:

  1. Speak to achieving 100% offset or $0 balance on the utility bill.  They won’t be satisfied with just 80% or a $10 balance.
  2. Speak to how they can be 1st - first with the newest technology, first in the neighborhood.
  3. Offer them a perk or promotion.  Better yet, make it a limited time offer.


Look out for
- These customers will be evaluating your sales approach in a similar manner.  They will be comparing your proposal versus others to see which one gives them the best deal - however they’re defining “best.”


The Explorers

These solar customers are driven by seeing new things and discovering new secrets.  For them, it’s the journey, not the destination. This type of customer responds particularly well to nuance and uncovering what might be “optimal” to them.

For these customers, here are a few examples of how to appeal to them:

  1. For the technical type, go into detail about the system specs.  For the financial type, go into detail about the economics and assumptions built into the estimate.  
  2. Send them resources that they can review on their own
  3. Invite them to interesting and informative events like Fully Charged.  

Look out for - These customers will inevitably ask for multiple proposals to understand the boundaries of your quote and potentially any holes in your proposal.  Be warned!


The Socializers

These solar customers are driven by the fun they have interacting with other people.  They love to collaborate rather than doing it on their own.  This type of customer responds particularly well to collective action that they can be actively involved in or “being part of the solution.” The majority of people fall into this category.

For these customers, here are a few examples of how to appeal to them:

  1. Speak about the solar community and other solar customers in their neighborhood
  2. Give them something they can talk about, something they can share like an interactive 3D model of their proposed solar system.
  3. Invite them to participate in events that they could participate in like solarize campaigns.


Look out for
- Because they are social, they will not be making the decision to go solar in a vacuum.  They will be influenced and advised by many people in the evaluation process.


The Killer

These solar customers are driven by delivering anxiety to others.  They’re competitive like achievers, but they in particular like to see other people lose.  Sometimes they can come off as bullies or the customer where you say, “I don’t want any part of this.”  But with the right approach, they can be sold too.  Fortunately, they are by far the least common among the four player types.

For these customers, here are a few examples of how to appeal to them:

  1. Speak to how their system is better than those in other proposals or better yet, better than their neighbors.
  2. For the environmental activists, speak to how going solar will help bring down the fossil fuel industry or the utilities.
  3. If they’re being demanding, give them a small win.  

Look out for - These customers will apply the same approach in their interaction with you.  You might think you’re competing against other solar companies for this deal, but in actuality this customer is competing against you.  They will be looking to get the best of the interaction in order to be the “winner” and you the “loser.”  For you to win the deal, you have to make them feel like they’ve won.


Conclusion

Solar customers can sometimes be irrational.  However, if you’re able to understand their personality and identify what drives them, you’re now:

  1. Speaking directly to the emotions of the customer
  2. Building strong rapport
  3. Differentiating yourself from other sales reps that may be competing against you.


One important aspect that we have not addressed yet in this post is a good method to determine what player type a customer falls into.  For example, wouldn't it be awesome if before a sales visit, the customer receives a short survey that cleverly identifies the customer’s Bodhi Solar Bartle Player type?  The sales rep is then loaded with a playbook that’s properly tailored to that customer type?

If you’re interested in going deeper into Bartle Player types and seeing if we can develop a “Solar Bartle Player Quiz”, contact us.

And to find what type of player you are, take this quiz: Bartle Player Type Quiz