Hira Wajahat – September 14, 2017

As an energy service provider e.g. a solar systems retailer / supplier, you are approached by a customer who has very little knowledge of electricity generation. You share information, prepare a quotation and respond to trivial questions. While you are confident that you have perhaps secured business, much to your dismay, your customer acquires requisite services from another service provider. Familiar situation?

Now try this!

As a potential customer, looking to acquire energy services, you have very little knowledge of electricity generation. You hear some fancy terms from people you know who are early adopters of new technologies and have for example installed a solar system in their residence. You set out on a quest to seek information, get quotations and ask questions on what you think is important.

Armed with all this information, you feel you have critically identified all the information you never knew and had to find out from potential suppliers. You have your system installed as decided per quotation (of course you select the lowest quotation, if someone guarantees you more from less than why not?). After months of completion, you realize that you have obviously missed out something – your system is definitely not delivering on promised performance. Now when you go back to your supplier, you are unable to get a satisfactory response or obtain their interest in providing support / service, as much as they were interested in closing the deal and deploying the system.

This is a general situation but one that has been communicated by several solar suppliers and customers (from their respective perspectives). When a supplier obviously has a superior, branded product with relevant warranties and guarantees, why will a customer opt for compromising quality at the expense of cost. Conversely, why will a customers not realize they are paying for quality and peace of mind in addition to the service they are acquiring. Why does this gap exist so significantly?

Analyze it a million ways, eventually it comes down to one basic challenge: COMMUNICATION.

Suppliers perhaps assume that customers are well aware of products / technology and that carrying quality product is a definite unique selling proposition. No doubt, carrying quality assured product is a plus point, but unless you talk to your customer, educate him/her, impart knowledge that will create your credibility and ensure that your customer trusts you, whatever product / service you are offering does not make a difference.

The key word here is TRUST. If you want to build trust and credibility with your customers, and hold on to them for life, follow these important tips:

  1. Avoid selling a solution that isn’t in the customer’s best interest.

As a supplier, you may not have the right solution at the right price. It is always best to be honest with the customer, instead of proposing something that you know will not fully deliver the outcome the customer is looking for.

  1. Features, advantages, benefits of a product or service – never misrepresent the FAB.

Customers don’t want a product or solution that does not function properly most of the time or only comes close to meeting their needs. Give them the whole truth, and let them decide if the proposed solution will work for them.

  1. Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver.

Some suppliers find it very difficult to say no to the customer about anything. When you know you can’t deliver, telling the customer that a certain solution with specific features and benefits will be delivered by a specific deadline, is a recipe for disaster.

  1. When problems develop after sale, don’t make excuses and don’t place blame; fix the problem.

As a professional, it is your duty to deliver on the promise you made. You are the face of the company.

  1. Don’t withhold bad news.

If you think the customer will be upset when you tell them the bad news, just imagine how much more upset they will be when they find out you knew the bad news three weeks ago and hid it from them.

  1. If and when you must speak of the competition, be respectful at all times.

Some solar suppliers think that “trash-talking” the competition will make their own products and services look better. Usually, it only makes them look petty and immature in the eyes of the customer.

  1. And finally: integrity – make promises and keep them.

Above all, you must do what you say, when you said you would do it. This one skill alone will put you head and shoulders above your competition.

Developing skills and strategies that help suppliers build credibility and deepen trust with customers is essential to differentiate your organization from your competitors by creating a strong brand based on collaborating with the customer to help them achieve their most important objectives.