Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Selling Value vs. Price - The Eternal Struggle

The mark of a good salesman is identifying customer needs and providing them the products they need to fulfill those needs.  I’m taking a break from design posts to take a look at the sales side of solar and some of its unique challenges.  I've enlisted the expertise of our resident sales guru, Tim McGivern.  Tim is a seasoned veteran of sales with a firm grasp of customer interaction, and he comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience.  Today’s challenge is how to sell quality and value versus pure cost in a solar project.

Find the right solution for your target customers and the products you use, and focusing like a laser on them to efficiently and effectively grow your business while leaving your customers satisfied.  In dealing with your customers, it is your job to make that value proposition and demonstrate the unique quality of your products.  The pitfall in the value vs. price relationship is when you try to sell someone purely on the price of a solar system.  This is a battle that you will never win in the long run.  If your customer is a price shopper, they will have zero loyalty to you and fail to appreciate your integrity and good faith in delivering them a quality product.  If you get the sale, you are left with low margins and no room for error in the installation.  If you don’t, it’s more time spent on someone that’s just going to shop your quote to competitors.  It doesn't make sense to do price-driven sales when you are using high-quality solar equipment. Nor does it make sense to install low quality equipment that will cost you future labor in repairs and stressful customer service.

The value inherent in tier one solar panels, inverters, and racking cannot be overstated.  It can be the difference of all solar cells being lined up on mono-crystalline panels, a sturdy module frame, or higher efficiency cells.  A company like Hyundai offers quite a lot in added value because they are a diversified company that makes an efficient solar panel and isn’t affected by potential tariff issues.  Canadian Solar, while made in China, has unique value that differentiates it from other Chinese modules like Trina or Yingli, for example a high PTC/STC production ratio which points to excellent real-world performance.  While Power One doesn't have the track record Enphase does with Microinverters, they have unique value in being a bankable company that you can have confidence will be around for years to come.  Unirac combines excellent pricing with extremely robust engineering and long-term performance that no competitor can match.  These are just a few examples.

Finding the unique value in the products you use is the best way to compete against cheap competitors that sell lower quality solar equipment.  Let it shine!


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