Solar energy is a fast-growing sector in South Africa. Due to chronic supply issues, South Africans are quickly diversifying from the national power grid supplied by Eskom.
Although this blog is directed at SA's growing team of Solar installers, the same principles apply to any forward-thinking contractor. With some anecdotal storytelling, my knowledge of CRM systems, and some short videos, I hope to convince you to implement a CRM for your Solar company.
My day job
I run a company that sells CRM systems for sales, marketing and support teams.
My side hustle
I bought a house in Johannesburg, South Africa, about six months ago. It's been a job...
If you're South African, or you know anything about South Africa - you'll know we have a unique set of issues in our country - Electricity supply and price issues, property price decline, and looming water supply problems on the horizon.
Taking advantage of the space we have here in South Africa - my home is on 4000m2 of land - so relying on the municipal water supply would cost a fortune every month.
I sunk a 90m borehole, added 20,000 litres of water storage and a solar energy system that takes my property mostly off grid.
In addition to the solar energy and borehole contractors, I had roofing, electrical, gardening, painting, fireplace, security, pool, pond, and networking contractors on site. We're blessed with some fantastic contractors and artisans in South Africa.
No CRM here
None of these businesses used a CRM. I know - because I asked.
I also know that all these contractors had visions of growth, but were struggling to keep up and manage their current teams.
When I think of the current demand placed on our solar system installers in particular, (especially with the rapid rise of rent to own solar and solar project finance in SA) it's incredible how these teams get the job done using WhatsApp, email and a receptionist (for the lucky few) to keep track of everything. And then they still do a great job of installing a solar system!
To grow a business you need systems and processes, and a means of reporting on them. This is exactly what modern CRMs are built to do.
Below I'll outline how I would apply a CRM to my business if I ran a growing Solar energy installation business.
The same principles apply to any contracting or SMB business.
Select a CRM: We suggest HubSpot
Subscribe to a good all-in-one CRM like HubSpot CRM Suite Starter. Why HubSpot CRM Suite? It provides a suite of tools for your solar business and only costs €30/mo (around R600/mo).
To help you quickly evaluate how a CRM for solar business could be set up and work - I've created some videos that cover the basics.
HubSpot will support lead generation, sales tracking, project management, post-installation service, and more, specifically tailored to the solar industry.
- Sales tracking: With enquiries coming in from many sources (in-person referral, website, WhatsApp, telephone call), a busy contractor needs to save these on the fly and then focus on the best leads first. For the larger solar businesses, the sales team will benefit from a repeatable process and pipeline.
- Support & Project Management: Clients can log support queries in a pipeline efficiently without calling you. And you can use the support pipeline to manage the status of multiple jobs.
- Website Lead Generation: Form submissions on your website go directly into your CRM. Marketing automation will notify your team and send a form submission confirmation to the client.
- Mobile App: Get a call from a client in the field, and log a ticket or note directly in your CRM. Or add an opportunity after a call from a good referral. Update contact details on the fly.
- Email marketing: Email your clients occasionally to ensure you stay top of mind. Secure more referrals and upgrade work.
Demo videos of HubSpot CRM Starter Suite
Support & Project Management
Website lead generation & tracking
Common Objections to implementing a CRM
Customisation & Flexibility: HubSpot is not built for my industry
Solar CRM systems for build specifically for the solar companies do exist, but they are pricey products. With some easy configuration, HubSpot can become purpose-driven solar CRM software. This 'Solar CRM' will cover lead generation, sales tracking, project management, post-installation service, and more, specifically tailored to your solar business.
Complexity: Is looks difficult to set up
With a few hours of work you can be set up and running. Your system will evolve over time., so expect it not to be perfect off the bat. HubSpot is user friendly, so changes can be made as the business requires them.
Cost: CRM's are expensive
Yes, they can be. But if you stick to HubSpot Starter, then you can get away with all the functionality (and more) presented in the videos above for €30/mo (around R600/mo). You will be presented with options to upgrade to more expensive levels of HubSpot, but only do so if the ROI case for the business will cover the monthly cost. For most businesses HubSpot Starter CRM Suite is
Time and Effort: I don't have the time
Yes, implementing a CRM system for your Solar or contracting business will take up some time to setup, start using, migrate existing data, and train employees. But the advantages of staying close to both current and past customers and keeping them happy will quickly bear dividends.
To grow your business in a stress free and sustainable way, you need repeatable systems and processes You need easy to use means of communicating with your customers that the entire business has access to.
You don't need expensive solar CRM software. A small monthly fee and some simple customisation of HubSpot CRM Starter Suite will provide you with a solar CRM hardwired to make your business scale. The same principals apply to any contracting business.