Contributors from members of the Copper team
About Sigora Solar
Ranked as one of America’s fastest growing private companies in Inc.’s top 500 list, Sigora Solar is a Virginia-based solar energy company whose mission is to provide the United States and the world with convenient access to clean, reliable energy at a fair and reasonable price. In order to achieve this clean energy goal, Sigora Solar currently offers a wide variety of utility, commercial, and residential scale solar installations that utilize the photovoltaic conversion method. As part of their burgeoning social enterprise, Sigora Solar has also recently opened an office in Haiti, where they plan to provide clean, reliable energy at a fair price to over 2 million people by 2025.
Sigora Solar is fully vertically integrated, efficiently managing every aspect of their business from permits and processes, all the way to complete installations and final commissions. Although it still remains uncommon for most solar energy companies to vertically integrate, Peter Guilford, Director of Residential Sales, explains their overall strategy—“We feel it works well for us as a whole, as we control all aspects of the business, all the way from county permitting to utilities.”
Sigora Solar’s strategy of full integration includes employing a motivated, well-qualified workforce that has passed the company’s own rigorous training, safety and certification standards, which results in high quality work every step of the way.
As Mr. Guilford, who also oversees the safety and compliance department, further elaborates—“Pretty much everyone, from the president to the newest hire, goes through our comprehensive training and safety program. That’s how we can ensure our costs remain stabilized. And that’s how we can then transfer that savings to the customer.”
Today, the demand for residential solar panel roof installations (roof-mounted systems) is increasing and at present, the majority of Sigora Solar’s clients are residential customers. However, in a land-rich state like Virginia, there’s a steadily growing market of homeowners with substantial amounts of acreage attached to their property, so Mr. Guilford anticipates the residential solar trend will shift to an increased demand for ground-mounted systems in the coming years.
“Lo and behold, Copper came around and it's the CRM we have been searching for”
Finding the most effective CRM for Sigora Solar had been Mr. Guilford’s priority project as prior to switching to Copper, the Sigora team had been using a proprietary system. However, as the company rapidly grew, the in-house system was quickly overwhelmed and so it became absolutely vital to find a new, more efficient solution. Their immediate priority was to find a cross-functional, cloud-based solution that integrated seamlessly with Gmail and other Google Apps.
“We’d grown 700% in six months, and there really were no other solutions that fit the bill, and we went through a lot of headaches...” and in reference to Salesforce which Mr. Guilford had used in the past, he stated, “...it simply wasn’t very intuitive or functional. And then, lo and behold, Copper came around and it’s the CRM we have been searching for.”
Sales & Operations Pipelines
Much like any other business, Sigora Solar’s sales process starts off with prospecting for an initial lead, then turning that lead into an opportunity, and then attaching a monetary value to that opportunity.
The company’s typical workflow starts with a Pre-qualified/Followup/Initial Contact Process, in which they conduct a Satellite Assessment and Initial Financial Analysis.
The Initial Financial Analysis is derived directly from a production calculator developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which designates a reliable production factor for any location in North America—factors include, but are not limited to—the expected average amount of sunshine on a particular location throughout the course of one year. Sigora Solar then plugs in their own parameters along with the fixed numbers for latitude and longitude in order to calculate a hard production number. That production number is then applied to a formula that provides a cost analysis for a working system capable of producing a 100% offset, given a client’s specific energy consumption history.
After the cost has been established and the proposal is delivered, Sigora Solar conducts a Physical Site Assessment, which includes sending a project manager or sales manager out to the site to record physical measurements and ensure the home is suitable for installation of the photovoltaic solar panels.
Once the site assessment is complete, a contract is signed and the deposit is collected.
“It’s a little like buying home, without all the mortgage nonsense,” Mr. Guilford adds, “financing plans are certainly available but in most cases in this business, customers decide to pay up front.”
Once the deposit is collected, the Sigora sales rep drafts a ‘Read Me’, which is the official document reviewed by the project manager to fully grasp the entire scope of the project. After the project manager goes through the ‘Read Me’ document, the opportunity moves into the next pipeline—“Operations”—in which it gets assigned to the operations project manager. Using Copper's multiple pipelines feature, they are able to create a streamlined workflow between the sales and operations.
The project manager then performs a Secondary Site Assessment by using the design from the sales rep to double-check and confirm all the technical details before designating the project as 100% feasible.
Once the project manager approves the Secondary Site Assessment, installation is scheduled and the installation crew then travels on site to begin construction.
Once the installation is complete and the opportunity is designated as ‘Installation Complete’ in the Operations Pipeline, it is reassigned back to Sales. A sales rep then ensures that all the county inspections and utility net metering agreements have been completed before he finally officially commissions (turns on) the system.
At this point, the opportunity moves directly into the final ‘Post Installation Completed’ pipeline stage.
The basics of the process flow is as below:
- Financial assessment
- Final Commissioning of the System
And the workflow moves smoothly from:
- A Final Return to Sales.
Copper’s highly visual pipeline makes it easy for Mr. Guilford and his team to move an opportunity from one stage to another and from one pipeline to the next—with it’s simple drag and drop feature.
Mr. Guilford is currently working on building an even more streamlined communication process—from the sales to operations pipelines—using the Automated Task Reminder, in which the project manager would receive an instant email whenever a project/opportunity is in queue so that it can be immediately assigned to the appropriate party.
Qualifying vs. Pre-Qualifying Leads
Because Sigora Solar’s initial financial analysis involves extensive work, Mr. Guilford and his team are always diligent regarding the qualifying of leads. Through experience, they’ve found that pre-qualifying leads, based on economic factors, has been a very effective technique as the overall cost of a solar energy system installation is not always commonly known or easy for the homeowner to estimate.
When discussing his direct experience, Mr. Guilford shares-
“Sometimes potential clients want to go completely off the grid and believe that to do so might cost them only a few thousand, but for a 100% offset, that’s just not feasible. Pre-qualifying leads is one of the most important tasks that we try to do right off the bat. We have very talented salespeople that are able to give our prospects the information they need, and at the same time try to qualify them on economic scale, to avoid any misconceptions. A lot of what we do to carefully qualify leads comes down to a basic solar energy education.”
Leveraging Copper’s robust and cross-functional toolset, Sigora Solar has created an effective and efficient process for their sales pipeline that any company in the solar industry can take full advantage of. We are proud that Sigora Solar has selected Copper as their ultimate CRM of choice to support their rapid growth and we look forward to continuing to contribute to their success!