Energy Case Study: Selling Solar Roof Shingles

The Dow Chemical Company, a Fortune 50 chemical conglomerate.

The Dow Chemical Company approached Sales Partnerships to lead the field sales efforts for a new business-to-consumer product producing electricity from solar power via innovative roof shingles. The shingles were a different type of sale from the company’s legacy products or the industry’s traditional panels, but established an incredible market opportunity.

The sales challenge was so unique that Dow looked to Sales Partnerships, a contract sales firm with 20 years of experience setting up and deploying field sales teams, to deliver a successful, quick, and scalable nationwide sales program.

Rapid market capture, controlled cost of acquisition, and brand integrity were some of the variables Dow wanted maintained so the brand could continue to be looked at as the gold standard in the solar industry. The sales force had to not only match this reputation, but help ensure the channel dealers would do the same.

The Dow team wanted to work with an outside sales firm to build a field solution solely dedicated to selling the Power House line of solar shingles. Working with an outsourcing sales team would allow them to:

  • Save time to market in a competitive photo-voltaic market.
  • Work with partners who understood how to represent a brand.
  • Preserve focus and revenue of their legacy products.
  • Custom-build a field sales program quickly.
  • Provide immediate access to all the largest US markets for solar sales.

The Client’s Problem
The legacy sales channels from Dow weren’t ideal for this solution, and the new model proved to need a great deal of custom development. The field sale was complex due to the higher up-front price point as well as the unfamiliar technology to buyers and roofers. Dealer/roofer/builder adoption of the product was also limited, so the value proposition had to be translated into formats they could leverage through their sales forces. A process that takes the average Fortune 500 company 12-18 months (with an industry failure average rate exceeding 50%) needed to be mastered in less than 6 months.

Customer objections in the sale frequently came from association with legacy solar products. Issues included price competitiveness challenges, industry sales forces focused on price selling rather than value selling, and having limited established vehicles for successful sales of a high-end value focused system. While the Power System provided a viable value story – it challenged how one of the biggest emerging markets in the world would be sold.

The Sales Partnerships Solution
We launched and ran a field sales team targeting legacy dealers, new home builders, and similar distribution vehicles. The solution had to be fast, cost-effective, nation-wide in scope, and present a viable value story that went beyond the traditional “price-play.”

Field sales teams were recruited using Sales Partnerships’ award winning SPRecruit process which uses metric-based interviewing and testing, as well as professional headhunting for the best talent. Sales Partnerships then conducted training to help distill the product and process into something readily usable in the field.

The team was launched alongside Sales Partnerships’ field CRM solutions (including GPS tracking) to promote accountability across all activities as well as management oversight to further make sure sales goals were met. Development plans based on observation and field data benchmarking identified how to improve performance of every representative.

By partnering with installers, field sales representatives were empowered to help them build their business. Solutions were created for the installers, roofers, and builders that drove new business (both solar and non-solar) and gave them entry into markets they previously had no access to. Rather than being viewed as a limited part of a catalog, Dow became prioritized by these partners as a critical piece of their business strategy.

The target sales channel was expanded by re-envisioning who the referral sources should be. The product has a visually appealing nature – which was leveraged to penetrate a completely untapped customer base: architects. Field sales representatives were furnished with tablets that contained customized content so they could appropriately demonstrate how the product would look, feel, and operate for each potential customer.

A more detailed reporting system was designed to improve activity in the field, and enhance accountability of the sales process that extended through consumer deals being closed. The predictive funnel solutions increased the accuracy of the pipeline and allowed for better allocation of manufacturing resources (i.e. lowering costs and speed of product to market).

The Sales Partnerships field sales team increased sales by 240% per representative compared to prior models, and beat the industry average by more than 100%. The cost of sale was cut by more than 50%, and the cost of manufacturing was also reduced. Sales revenue is now up substantially per rep at a higher profit margin, and market capture more than doubled with a continuing acceleration.

Simultaneously, resources Dow would have had to previously have pointed toward the development of an even more sophisticated internal sales channel were redirected at R&D and product development. This sped up the new product development cycle by more than a year with groundbreaking new products and solutions coming to market in 2016.

Perhaps the best representation was the following testimonial from our main contact with Dow:

“Sales Partnerships has a bias for action and being pro-active, whether it’s following up on our questions and needs, or calling us with new ideas and initiatives to make our sales plan better. They do a fantastic job of mentoring new hires and integrating the Sales Partnerships sales team with our legacy sales team. Sales Partnerships really understands how to complement our culture and tailor their program to meet our goals and objectives. Sales Partnerships is key in helping us to expand our program.”

– Marketing Manager, Dow Chemical

About Sales Partnerships, Inc.
Sales Partnerships continued growth as the market leader in field sales outsourcing in 2015 and 2016. During this timeframe, our clients’ profitability in field sales outsourcing to us, at minimum, doubled when compared to their prior sales outsourcing vendors or internal programs. Sales Partnerships was responsible for more than $1B in revenue closed for our clients with deals “stickiness” doubling our clients’ industry averages.

When competing head to head with other sales outsourcing firms. With a program success rate of almost 90% (measured as beating quota during the proof of concept period then sustaining beating quota every quarter), our 2:1 out-performance of our competitors set Sales Partnerships as the standard for the market.

Sales Partnerships’ recognitions include several past Stevie awards (top outsourced sales team, top field sales team, top training systems, top recruiting systems, finalists for sales representatives of the year/sales managers of the year), various industry awards, and 3 Inc 500/5000 wins.