- Mark Swift, Owner at The Solar Professionals
Solar sales professionals know from experience that one specific type of lead rises above the rest to deserve their immediate and unwavering attention - a referral. Solar pros won’t be surprised to hear that “Customers are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend,” (Nielsen) and that’s because “word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions." (McKinsey)
- Marlaina Hunter, Customer Experience Manager at SunCommon
Work to develop a culture within your organization that values and respects your customers during both the pre-sale and post-sale stages of their journey. Solar homeowners expect regular project updates, and once the project is commissioned, digestible performance summaries to validate their energy production versus their sales proposal. If there is a handoff from sales to operations, ensure that your operations staff is empowered to represent your company well. If you feel like you need to “shine a light” on how your customers at large perceive their experience with your organization, integrate and track Net Promoter Scores into your post sales process.
- Charlie Saginaw, Regional Account Manager at BayWa r.e.
To declare that your referral program “works,” it must be measurable. A simple and valuable metric to determine how well you're doing on referrals is the ratio of “referrals per customer.” Take your total number of referrals over a given time period, and divide it by your total number of new customers over that same time. You should expect a lag between when customers close and when they begin making referrals. To take that into account, offset the time period of referrals and new customers by the number of months it takes to go from contract to PTO.
- JD Smith, Business Development Coordinator at Arch Electric
Offering an incentive to your customers is a critical component of a scalable referral program. Common referral incentive structures include:
Single-Sided - The individual who makes the referral is rewarded.
Double-Sided - The referring individual and the referred prospect are both rewarded.
Non-Monetary - The referring individual is incentivized by self-enhancement.
A gift, thank you note, or just the ability to broadcast their achievement may be enough to provide your Champion with the self-enhancement they desire.
Double-sided rewards are effective because it’s less likely to take away your champion's sense of self-enhancement if they know their friend is getting something of value as well.
- Jody Bannister, Client Support Specialist at AM Sun Solar
Ask, “How can I make it as easy as possible for my customers to send me referrals?” Work to remove the barriers that may inhibit your customers from submitting referrals. Do not assume that your glowing customer has your email address memorized, your phone number saved in their contacts, or even remembers the name of your company at the moment they want to provide the referral.
Effective referral tools include:
- Ryan Mosel, Director of Sales & Marketing at ATMA Energy
A referral program won’t do any good if your customers aren’t aware of it! Take advantage of your existing website, social media channels, and email lists to inform your customer base of your great referral program. Follow-up with your customers at positive milestones. We’ve found the following times to be most effective:
- Rachel Finn, Solar Sales Professional
View your referral champions from the lens of the 80/20 rule where 80% of your referrals will come from just 20% of your customers. Identify the 20% of your customers who will generate the majority of your referrals and keep track of them. Then show your appreciation to your Champions and provide them with a sense of fulfillment that a payment does not. A short phone call as simple as “Hey Champion, thank you for sending your friend our way, they just signed their contract for an 8kw system, so we’re going to provide you X reward, and more importantly, your solar community grew by another house because of you. Thank you!"
- Emmett Miranker, Head of Business Development at 17Terawatts
Generating a referral is half the battle, you still have to close it! Develop an airtight sales process that is designed to prevent referral leads from “slipping through the cracks,” and also ensures a timely introduction from your company. Acknowledge that your new sales prospect was a referral to re-up the trust inherent in a referral lead. Take a moment to mention your referral program here. Ultimately, you will want this new prospect to send you referrals of their own, begin laying the groundwork immediately.