How can the solar industry do a better job communicating with the Chief Purchasing Officer (CPO), the keeper of the checkbook in roughly 80% of U.S. households? In other words, what trade secrets can help us reach women to drive solar adoption?
Depending on the source[i], American women control or highly influence the majority of household decisions regarding money. Astute solar sales representatives understand having both partners present expedites closing the solar deal. Beyond the kitchen table, what can the industry learn from the experts in marketing to women?
“Most companies focus on one aspect of the sales process: the in-person meeting,” said Marti Barletta, author of Marketing to Women and CEO of TrendSight, a leading authority on reaching the female consumer. But there aretwo stages before and two after equally — if not more — important to successful customer adoption, she says.
When we understand those stages as outlined in Barletta’s book, we can effectively reach more CPO’s.
Stage 1: Deciding When To Enter The Market.
According to Barletta, women generally decide when to enter the market for a household purchase. She gave the example of a couple considering a new car. At some point in the discussion, the CPO will start the process by suggesting she and her husband go to a car dealership. The opportunity for the solar industry is to develop a sales pitch aimed at meeting the education and need-development processes of the CPO — and then figure out how to convert the information to a move-now action.
Stage 2: The Short List.
“Women want the same things as men, and more,” Barletta said. Through extensive research, the CPO will learn what is important in a purchase. Research shows the higher the purchase price tag, the more research will be done. The overarching goal? She needs to be confident the family is getting its money’s worth. Once the research is done, she will compile a shortlist of companies to pursue. “If you are not on the shortlist you are not getting the meeting,” Barletta says.
Solar contractors must generate sales content that answers key buying-decision questions and create processes, by which their company ends up on the shortlist.
Stage 3: The In-Person Meeting.
During the in-person meeting, direct questions to the husband and wife, without focusing the wife on female-specific questions. “Ask if her concerns are being met,” Barletta says.
In my own experience selling residential smart home and energy options to hundreds of couples, I learned to ask how they wanted to live in the home. Asking lifestyle questions directly of both partners gave them the opportunity to express their particular concerns. This in turn opened the door to build sales value fulfilling each point of view.
Stage 4: Paying The Bills.
The CPO has the responsibility to pay the bills. She wants this to be as easy as possible and take the least amount of time away from her other duties. Changes to how the bills are paid are important. She needs to understand the paperwork. If she gets frustrated, not only will she not purchase again, she will not refer new customers — a critical source of leads for the industry.
Stage 5: Word of Mouth.
Here is a key point for the solar industry. According to Barletta, women are more protective of their friends than the companies referred to them. Consequently there are other ways to encourage the CPO’s referrals than the paid referral fee. Surprise-and-delight is a more effective way to encourage advocacy, Barletta says.
Glenna Wiseman is the founder of Identity3, a marketing services company leveraging the unique marketplace identity of solar, renewable energy and green economy companies to fuel their growth. Wiseman is a marketing and business building professional with 6 years’ experience in the solar industry. Email her at GWiseman@Identity3.com.