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5 Reasons Why Solar Seems Sleazy

These are the top five sleazy solar sales tactics that are preying upon homeowners and costing them thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars. I believe they MUST BE STOPPED.

I’m passionate about this topic because:

  1. My very own mother was conned by a solar company.
  2. She has been battling it for many years.
  3. It’s now cost her ~$20,000!

So, my mom’s story is one of the reasons that I was very resistant to solar for so many years. In fact:

  • I sat and observed solar presentations.
  • I thought they were sleazy, gimmicky, false, and misleading.
  • I didn’t want anything to do with it.

Now, however, I recognize that:

  • Not every company does this.
  • I’m by no means painting solar salespeople in a poor light; instead, I’m shining light on the industry and sales gimmicks that I think are unethical (and quite frankly, should be illegal to protect a homeowner).

So, if you’re a homeowner who’s stumbled upon this, welcome. I hope this helps you make an informed decision on who to work with. If you’re a salesperson selling solar:

  • I know some sales training teaches you to do these things, and you may not even realize what you’re doing.
  • I know that there are salespeople in the solar space who check their morals and ethics in exchange for money, saying, “Well, if I can just get the deal, who cares?”

So, I want to put an end to all of that.

Before we jump into it all, I first want to say a quick welcome or welcome back. Adam Bensman, The Roof Strategist, here. Everything I do here is designed to help you and your team smash your income goals and give every customer an amazing experience.

Now, you might be wondering why I’m talking solar since I’m The Roof Strategist. Here’s the fast answer — I finally found a way to sell solar with a roof, instead of selling solar on its own. There are a lot of reasons that I won’t get behind selling solar alone, and I’ll share more on that below.

So, let’s jump in and get to the first sleazy solar sales tactic.

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Sleazy Solar Sales Tactic #1: False Production Expectations

This is the MOST common sleazy solar sales tactic I’ve seen, and it involves setting false production expectations. We see solar salespeople running around, knocking on doors saying, and saying stuff like, “Eliminate your electric bill for life!”

This basically suggests that they will NOT have an electric bill — that they’ll owe ZERO for their electric bill forever.

The truth is:

  1. That’s simply NOT realistic with connection fees and net metering.
  2. There WILL be some bills.

Now, the other thing that can happen is that the system may not be sized appropriately for a home or the homeowner’s needs. If that happens:

  1. The homeowner who was sold on this incredible ROI in eliminating their electric bill will expect a certain offset.
  2. That offset will end up being A LOT LESS because the systems weren’t sized properly.

That’s why it’s so important to set realistic expectations with the homeowner on their actual electric bill and the actual production of a solar system.

Sleazy Solar Sales Tactic #2: False Advertising for New Monthly Expenses

If you see or prepare a solar proposal for a homeowner — and you’re using financing — there will be a monthly amount listed.

That monthly amount makes an assumption that is NOT obvious to homeowners unless the salesperson communicates it. The assumption on your monthly investment assumes that you’re going to take the tax credit for the system.

Here’s some simple math to show you how that works.

Example: Let’s say it’s a $40,000 system with a 30% tax credit. That’s $12,000. So, this monthly payment assumes the homeowner’s going to take this $12k and pay down the loan. But if that’s not communicated, that loan will re-amortize. That means they’ll recalculate it, and it’ll suddenly shoot up because of the $12k that was never put toward the loan. This can happen because the lenders are trying to entice borrowers. They say, “Hey, your loan amount will be this $X, and we’ll keep it at $X, assuming you make THIS CONTRIBUTION by a certain date. If you don’t, the amount goes up.

So, without communicating to homeowners that they’re required to contribute that tax savings towards the loan:

  1. They end up with a SURPRISE bill.
  2. Their bill is FAR MORE EXPENSIVE than they expected.
  3. They can end up in financial trouble because they already spent this money on a new hot tub or something.

Sleazy Solar Sales Tactic #3: Taking Advantage of Retirees or Low-Income Households

With this sleazy solar sales tactic, we return to the false payment expectation concept and how it can be applied and misused with lower-income households and folks with a tax-free retirement income.

Let’s look at a specific example here to see how this tactic “works” and take advantage of the homeowner.

Example: Let’s say a homeowner has a $40,000 solar system put on their roof, with a $12,000 tax credit. If their tax liability does not meet or exceed the 30% tax credit amount ($12k in this case), that homeowner does NOT qualify for the tax credit. They can only apply for how much of their tax liability there is. So, let’s say you sold a massive system, with an $18k tax credit, to someone with a $5k/year tax liability. They’ll only be able to deduct about $2k, and that will change their monthly expense.

So, this part of the message often failed to be communicated to homeowners. They are NOT often told that their tax liability needs to meet or exceed the tax credit to qualify for it.

It’s that simple, and many solar sales reps don’t communicate that key fact. Instead:

  1. They’ll sell a solar system to a retiree.
  2. The retiree hands the paperwork to his or her accountant who does their taxes.
  3. At that point, the retiree finds out that they do NOT qualify for that tax credit.
  4. Now, that monthly payment that they were banking on shoots up even higher, and they have to cover it on a fixed income.

That is NOT cool at all, and again, that’s why it’s SO important to communicate this upfront.

Sleazy Solar Sales Tactic #4: Putting Solar on Old Roofs

There’s a general rule of thumb in the solar world that solar can be installed on a roof as long as that roof is 10 years old or newer.

Now, if someone sells a solar system to someone with a 10-year-old roof, yes, we WILL put solar on it, and there can still be an amazing ROI and significant savings.

What they do NOT communicate is that the average cost to detach and reset that system is roughly $8,000.

So, people who commit to swapping one bill for another generally don’t have an extra $8k laying around for a roof replacement. Again:

  1. That part is NOT communicated.
  2. It’s why our system — offering a roof with solar combo — truly does offer the HIGHEST possible ROI for the homeowner.
  3. If the homeowner has to replace the roof, even in 5 years, there’s barely any ROI for the solar system.

Now, if you get a quote for your roof and you see an extra $8k as a line item, you can see ALL of those savings get flushed out the window. That is NOT ideal.

Personally, I don’t believe in selling solar to a homeowner unless they’re putting on a roof at the same time (of course, there are obviously exceptions to the rule).

The point is that 10 years is WAY TOO OLD to put solar on a roof and still serve the best interests of a homeowner.

Again, if you do decide to do that, you NEED to communicate that to your homeowner, so there’s no issue.

Sleazy Solar Sales Tactic #5: Selling the Emotional Benefit of “Going Green”

This is a BIG can of worms, and I think it’s going to stir the pot the most because it’s about selling homeowners on the emotional benefit of “going green” to help the planet.

Now, if you start looking into what it takes to produce solar panels, you’ll find that:

  • There’s a tremendous impact on mining our environment, which requires fossil fuels.
  • There’s an incredible foreign dependency on fossil fuel consumption to ship solar panels.
  • Once installed, solar panels have a finite production life, after which they have to be disposed of or recycled. Again, that expends more energy.

So, selling this green concept plays into folks’ emotions because we know that people make buying decisions based on emotion.

Now, I don’t necessarily agree with this because, looking at the reality, it’s very hard for me to see that that is actually green and good for our planet (and I recommend you check out a documentary called, Planet of the Humans, for more on that; it’s a Michael Moore film, and I know he’s a very controversial filmmaker. I don’t love everything he’s done, quite frankly. We’ll leave it there).

Now, all that being said:

  • Do I think that providing solar to a homeowner is a good idea? YES.
  • Do I think that providing solar to a homeowner is a great way for them to break the monopolistic handcuffs that the utility company has on them? YES.
  • Do I think solar is a great way to provide more energy freedom? YES.
  • Do I think solar is a great way to grow beyond our grid capabilities? YES.

I totally agree with all that, and there is a very valid argument for solar energy.

What I’m not quite sold on is selling people on the idea that they’re making this incredible move to save the world together.

Recap: Top 5 Sleazy Solar Sales Tactics

Summing everything up, here are the five sleazy solar sales tactics that I want to put an end to:

  1. Setting false production expectations
  2. Establishing false monthly payment expectations related to the tax credits and the loan
  3. Taking advantage of retirees or low-income households that cannot take advantage of the tax credit
  4. Installing solar on older roofs and not communicating the true cost of getting that roof replaced with the detach reset
  5. Playing homeowners’ emotions and telling them they’re helping the planet when that really may not be true

Why Solar with Roofing Sales?

Now, here’s why I am covering this topic. For many, many years, I resisted getting into solar, despite many folks using my sales system in the solar space. In fact, some of them were BEGGING me to get into solar and adapt my teachings for the solar industry.

I didn’t jump in until I met up with Cody, my partner, to co-develop the system and test it behind the scenes. Cody’s company is currently using it, and we’ve rolled it out with a handful of other companies.

Of course, we have other folks using it now, beyond the beta testing, and:

  • It’s been widely available through our platform.
  • It’s focused on selling roofs and solar together.
  • It creates an AMAZING experience for a customer, giving them the chance to get the highest return on investment for a roof with solar.
  • It provides an INCREDIBLE way for that customer to deal with one central point of contact, as opposed to multiple contractors or professionals.
  • It provides a way for the roofing salesperson to nearly DOUBLE their income without having to run more sales appointments (because we’re in front of one customer and able to add the solar offering).
  • It provides an opportunity for a roofing company to avoid the pitfalls of starting a separate “solar division” (in fact, that’s really just a second company that requires separate operations, separate marketing, separate sales, and more).

When you offer roofs with solar, you’re able to train your team to offer solar to every qualifying homeowner right at the kitchen table. That’s a HUGE add on the retail front, and it could open up alternative financing vessels.

In fact, those vessels can be much cheaper than roof financing, even though the ticket price is higher, by leveraging solar financing and factoring in their monthly electric bill.

And believe it or not, the monthly investment total of their roof loan payment plus their electric bill is often higher than a roof with solar combo. So, there’s tremendous economic value there.

On the storm damage side, there’s tremendous economic value because the homeowner has the opportunity to:

  1. Pocket all the insurance proceeds
  2. Get the work done and fully financed.

So, as long as all the work on the scope of loss is done and invoiced ethically, fairly, and in a way that’s 100% compliant, that homeowner can now do whatever they want with the money. They can:

  • Buy a pool.
  • Take a vacation.
  • Invest in their kids’ college fund.
  • Make other home improvements.

The point is that’s a TREMENDOUS value add for them to take those proceeds, especially if they need deductible help.

So, instead of saying, “We can help you,” say this:

Hey, what if I just put money in your pocket?

If you’re short on cash, we have this other vessel there.

Again, depending on where they’re at with their electric bill, you might be adding a few hundred dollars a month, but you’re offsetting the electric bill by adding in a roof.

Many homeowners recognize this as a tremendous opportunity. That’s how we help roofing companies nearly double their sales without having to get new customers — and without having to compete in the solar landscape where an average acquisition cost is $2,000 to $3,500.

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Thanks for joining me, and I look forward to sharing more with you in the next blog.