You don't need a degree, but it helps to have technical aptitude and an interest in solar. A small percentage of customers are very technical, but the majority don't know much about it. Enthusiasm and the ability to explain technical concepts in layman's terms is most important.
I wouldn't recommend anyone take the path I took, let me explain. My interest in solar started with a class I took my senior year of college called: Consumer Culture. The course opened my eyes to the environmental horrors going on in the world, and I viewed clean energy as the best possible solution. I returned to school to study Civil & Environmental Engineering and went on to get a master's degree in Clean Energy Engineering. Through this process, I discovered a passion for startups, created my own, worked for another, only to go completely broke. I had the opportunity to join an engineering firm but opted to pursue sales because I thought the short-term earning potential would be higher. I was excited by the industry's exponential growth.
I chose All Energy Solar because they had the best reviews of any installer in the Midwest and thought I could learn a lot from the CEO and Sales Manager. Most of my peers don't have extensive educational backgrounds; you don't need a degree to get started. What you need is the desire to improve yourself, an interest in solar, and enough determination to get a sales manager to give you a chance. I cut my teeth as an Inside Sales Rep for six months and got promoted to outside sales after having the team's highest close-rate. I'm one of the top salespeople at All Energy Solar.
I work in sales for a residential and commercial solar PV installer. My workweek is somewhat varied; I usually have 7-13 appointments, which last 60-90 minutes. Sometimes meetings are a couple of minutes away, other times there 90 minutes away, and I'll spend an entire day in that location. I make all of my phone calls from home, but most of the time I'm on-the-road driving. I come into the office for a few hours once a week, but there's not much time to socialize. Since COVID, that's all changed; I spend 100% of my time working from home running webinars. It's anyone's guess on when things will go back to normal.
At my company, 80% of my appointments get generated by our inside sales team. They look at my schedule (which I set) and fill all of the white space; it's my job to go and knock 'em down. It's a great gig if you don't like to spend a lot of your time prospecting. Conversely, when I prospect, appointments come through referrals, trade shows, brewery events, or the rare times I feel like knocking on doors.
When I'm running appointments, I view myself as an educator more than a salesperson. 90% of the people I sit down with have never looked at solar before and have no idea how it works or how it can save them money. The art of the job is explaining things, as simply as possible, while being a great listener creating a proposal that makes the most sense for the customer.
My favorite aspect of sales is the ability to meet so many interesting people. I love navigating different personalities and trying to understand what motivates someone on a deeper level. There's a competitive spirit to selling, with colleagues and yourself; if you're ultra-competitive, you will thrive. Improving sales skills is essential because you can use it in all areas of life, whether you're negotiating a raise, buying a house, or attracting a life-long partner. When I first started, I nearly quit because I feared rejection and often got nervous or intimated. But after your 1,000th dial, fear sort of goes out the window, it becomes a habit. Experiencing that level of transformation is powerful!
Free dental, vision, iPhone, iPad, and sales training. Negative perk is there's no compensation for driving.
If you're not passionate about solar or helping people save money, find a different career. One aspect that's surprised me is how few people honestly go solar because of environmental reasons. 99 people out 100 won't buy unless they understand the economic benefit, which can be demotivating at times, especially if that's what got you interested. Most solar sales roles are predominately commissioned based, so make sure you can weather the storm until you perfect your craft. I see many people try and force themselves to be good at sales, but I know they'd be better off in a career where they have a higher natural aptitude.
A word of caution, there are a lot of sub-standard solar installing companies out there, avoid these companies if at all possible. There's nothing worse than selling a product customers won't be happy with, and these companies can ultimately be detrimental to the growth of solar.
If you're starting in Inside Sales, the pay isn't great, but the experience is invaluable. At my company, this role's starting hourly wage is $16-18 + sales & call bonuses. You're probably looking at $40-55k annual compensation.
In Outside Sales, if you live in a strong market, the earning potential is unlimited, it's possible to make $300k+. The average might be closer to $75-80k. One downside is you don't get paid the majority of your commission until after the installation is complete, which may take 4-9 months depending on the season. If possible, it's good to have a six-month financial safety net when starting the role.
To earn higher wages, you need to bet on yourself and choose a 100% commission compensation plan, with no base. This decision can be scary if you have a family and bills to pay, making sense to start with a base plan.
You can double the commission by generating the sale yourself in most compensation packages versus taking appointments from inside sales. The highest earners have an extensive referral network, work lots of events, and become proficient at closing large commercial sales.
If you're new to Sales, look for a solar company hiring Inside Sales Reps. This is a good way to get in the door. Companies are looking to hire people who are excited to be talking about solar and can explain things very simply. Make sure this comes across during the interview. If you've worked in other sales roles, highlight why you think you would be a good fit and how you can increase sales for the whole organization. Solar is easy to sell, when people understand how it works and how it can save them money.
No certifications are needed, you just need to sell the hiring manager on why they should take a chance on you. Be creative; if your approach is the same as everyone else, you will never get to the top. The best salespeople have a natural disposition to learn continually; they're willing to take risks, fail, fail some more, and try again. Don't get complacent, read books, listen to podcasts, ask for advice, shadow the top performers, and discover a selling way that fits your unique personality. Be relentless; don't give up at the first sign of trouble. Many customers you never expect to buy, buy, and many customers you think are a sure deal will magically disappear. Lastly, learn to be a good listener. Don't try and sell people that don't need what you're offering; it's a waste of time. Pretend you're a doctor; ask all of the necessary questions, so the patient receives what they need. If you do all of this, you will become one of the best in your organization.
COVID's created a lot of uncertainty; sales were low in March and April, but interest has normalized. Installers have the go-ahead to resume inside work, so long as they wear masks and social distance. Whether this continues or not is anyone's guess. Still, my expectation is people are always going look for ways to reduce their electric bill, and solar innovation is likely to persist.
If you're looking at breaking into the industry, it's essential to understand the incentive opportunities in your state or local area. If the market you live in recently had an incentive taken away, I don't care how good of a salesperson you are; you will have a hard time selling. Conversely, if a new incentive gets introduced in your market, reaching a high sales volume is much more attainable.
Overall, Solar PV Sales is an excellent career with high earning potential. If you have big dreams, it can be a great stepping stone or a great way to make a living long-term. If you enjoy meeting new people and have a passion for educating people on the benefits of solar, I would recommend giving it a try.
All Energy Solar Career Page
Do you know if theres certain parts of the country that are better for selling solar? For instance I would think California and the southwest might be quite saturated?
California is probably the most developed/saturated market in the US. Competition is fierce, so if you're going through the job search process, I recommend targeting companies with a clear competitive advantage. If you're unsure how to evaluate an installer's reputation, https://www.solarreviews.com/ is a great resource to compare against one another.The incentives/regulations in each state vary quite a bit and are always changing. That being said, I know people that have been very successful in states with less favorable conditions due to less competition. Top performers in competitive markets are likely to make the most money, but it just depends. I hope that helps.