The Art of “Explain-ee-ology” (and why it’s crucial for the solar industry)

By Matthew Wheeland - March 26, 2013

In concept, going solar is simple: put solar panels on your roof, lower your utilities bills, and do some good for the planet. Sounds easy enough. But unfortunately it still isn’t that straightforward. I like to think of going solar as similar to buying a car in the 1900s. How do you sell a car to someone who’s not only never had one before, but never driven one and is paying a not-insignificant amount of money on something that’s still relatively new?

One of my customers, Sharon in Texas, introduced me to a great term: “explain-ee-ology.” It was actually coined by her young son who uses it to describe someone that can explain anything. I can’t explain everything, but I can explain what it takes to really help people understand why solar might be a great option for them. Because we’re all in it for the greater good, here are a few things I’ve picked up that I think should be standard practice among those of us on the front lines of solar.

  • Don’t overcomplicate it. Shocking that solar can be overcomplicated, right? Part of it is because some solar consultants either don’t get what they’re selling you (hey, it is complicated), or they want to make it sound loftier than it is so that they seem smarter. We call BS on that – just keep it simple. And, of course, know your stuff.
  • Listen. The best way to find out the most seamless way to help a homeowner who’s interested in solar is to just listen to what they have to say. For example, life goals play a huge part in a person’s decision-making process. Are they planning on moving soon? Having children? Maybe their job isn’t as stable as they want it to be, or maybe they want to get a jacuzzi. You don’t have to ask a litany of questions to get this information. Just listen, be sincere, and have your customer’s back. If they can’t make the solar leap right now, maybe down the road they’ll look you up when they’re ready.
  • Don’t focus on sales numbers. You know that saying, “a watched pot never boils?” It’s true. If you focus on numbers only, then you miss out on the fun part – and the reason so many of us do what we do – and that is fighting the good fight. And guess what? People know when you’re treating them like a number, and they really don’t like it.

Everybody has their own style, of course, and that should always be allowed. But think about that car salesman in the 1900s trying to convince someone why they should try something totally new and wild – how did he get them off the horse and into the automobile? That’s what selling solar is all about.

Marcus Joo is a solar consultant at . He is strongly considering adding “explain-ee-ologist” to his business cards. In the meantime, follow him on Twitter (@marcusjoo) or get to know him on Google +.

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