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How do I get started in the solar industry?

Since we get requests from plenty of you that want to make the jump into the solar industry each week, we figured it’s about time to address how that may be achieved. In this article, I’ll review steps you need to take if you wish to become a solar salesperson. Understandably, others of you will be interested to learn how you can become a solar installer or perhaps form your own solar contracting business. If that’s the case, hang tight, we’ll get to that in a subsequent post.

1.  Be informed. Perhaps the most pressing concern of any solar hiring manager is that you, as a prospective sales employee, don’t know the ins and outs of solar. Meaning, you don’t know what net-metering is, how energy usage relates to system sizing, why shading considerations are so important, what the purpose of an inverter is, or measures installation crews take to prevent roof leakage. From their perspective, they want to spend as little time training new employees as possible, especially if you are unproven and may soon quit.

Currently, there’s a push to get deals approved before federal tax credits expire at the end of the year. Therefore, free time to train new solar reps is at a premium. It’s up to you to gain as much knowledge and experience on your own, before you contact any installers for a job. Simply reading about all of this will not suffice. Why? Because when you are reading about the basics of solar from any other source, content is being delivered to you regardless of your curiosity about the interplay between different solar system components. You need to actively learn for any of this stuff to really sync in.

For me, I didn’t know an inverter from an invertebrate. So, I wrote about this stuff for over a year and learned a whole lot that way. A similar suggestion will follow for you in a bit, but I first recommend calling a solar installer in your area, asking to speak with a salesperson, then offering to buy them a really nice lunch or two for letting you ride along for a half day. That way, you can ask very basic questions without being judged as a peer. Your basic questions should lead to more complex questions. If not, you haven’t been asking the right questions.

While solar energy technology is relatively elegant and simple, there’s a lot to learn. Even seasoned professionals are learning heaps of new information at conferences, networking sessions, and classes. Once your most simple questions have been addressed, read through blogs and use google as your friend to get answers to the rest of your questions. Better yet, post them as a comment here and we’ll answer them for you.

2. Be persistent. Solar power installers get reams of resumes each week. Really, they do. I’ve seen them. It’s a little depressing. Clearly, you aren’t alone when thinking that solar is a good career move. Even if you’ve got a great looking font, some sales experience, and your paper smells like lemon squares, your resume most likely will not generate a phone call on its own.

Once you are somewhat solar knowlegable, have demonstrated you know concerns customers have when faced with an investment decision like this one, it’s time to pick up the phone and set some interview appointments so you can show what you know, and suggest ways in which you can help out. That’s right, ask for an interview up front. Your persistence and follow-through in this process can demonstrate a lot to your potential employer about how you will handle communications with stalwart customers in your sales funnel. Now, you need not only to be persistent but you need to…

3. Be professional. The days of hippy, weed toking, earth hugging solar fly by night installation outfits are over. Clean-tech is now one of the few well capitalized Wall Street investment sectors. While a lot of cash is flowing into solar, suppliers expect their installation partners to handle themselves with integrity, conscientiousness, and accountability. Otherwise, they will simply restrict their access to panels which are already in short supply and cultivate steadier relationships with other installation crews. Expectations for professionalism trickle all the way down to the point of contact with each prospective client, also known as, you. Therefore, dress sharp, be organized, prepare to be a consultative friend, and be alert (perhaps well caffeinated) before you speak with anyone about solar.

4. Sell your character. Investing in a solar energy system is not like buying a car. They are fundamentally different purchases, and you will not build a solid referral base without treating your customers with the utmost dignity, respect, and honor. Proof of outstanding customer service builds loyalty not just to you, but to the organization you chose to affiliate yourself with. 85% or more of your business will derive from referrals. They are gold. If it isn’t clear to any customer or business that you aren’t a stand up person with their best interests in tow, I don’t care if you’ve had experience and are facile with high pressure closes, you aren’t going to build a solid referral base, period. And you will flounder.

People do business with people they like, people they trust. In any interview, you need to be able to demonstrate through past behaviors ways in which you went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure your customers had positive experience with any service you were delivering. Doesn’t even matter if it is food-service. While solar hiring managers may not ask you these types of behavioral interview questions, make it a point to communicate how your past actions resulted in remarkable outstanding experiences that clients felt compelled to share with others.

5. Be in the industry. Hiring managers look for candidates that “get it”. Meaning, you understand the financials as well as the environmentals behind an investment in solar energy, have a handle on “net present value”, can speak carefully and accurately about depreciation expenses, tax credits, and renewable energy portfolio standards.

Here’s where I am going to make an offer to anyone who wants it. If you’re really smart, if you can write, and have the burning desire to land that solar sales job, send me an email. Attached to this email, add a writing sample of at least two paragraphs. I will use my network to put you on an assignment in your state to get some hands on experience. While that position will not pay, it isn’t that time intensive, you will be published, and your experience writing about how homes and businesses in your area went solar will be able to set you apart from 99% other candidates for any solar sales position you are after. However, I’m expecting a solid effort from you and want some more ammunition to fire when colleagues at dinner suggest that our educational system is in shambles.

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65 thoughts on “How do I get started in the solar industry?

  1. Ryan says:

    I am currently looking for a business partner and/or investors for a solar energy startup company in the U.S. In the beginning the company will focus primarily on residential installations. Right now the solar industry market is exploding in the Midwest region of the U.S. because there are very few companies offering solar installation services. I have personally seen a small company make over $100 million in sales in the first 2 years of operation. And this growth will only continue over the next several years. My goal is to start out with 1 small company, but then eventually branch out in other cities/states that have little competition. I am only looking for serious investors and partners who can invest their own money and time into this project. I have a professional certificate in Residential & Commercial Photovoltaic Systems from Solar Energy International, a Mater’s Degree in Renewable Energy, and 5 years working in the solar energy industry. I am very serious in finding a business partner or investor. The business partner must have extensive training and experience in the solar industry sector. Serious inquiries can contact me at OrangeSunSolarEnergy@gmail.com

  2. Danny says:

    Trying to reply to some of these comments. If your interested in getting into the solar industry … contact me at info@americanenergybrokers.com

  3. Farshad says:

    Hi. I have been in the residential and commercial financing for more than 15 years and involved with many others as a partner. I know many homeowners, municipalities and developed in the NYC, Nassau and Suffolk county area who are interested in solar energy. I would be a great asset in this industry

  4. Ramprakash gupta says:

    There are lot of solar products. I want involve to sell product specially solar related at particulsr shop at my home town. please suggest how can i start?

  5. Shawna linn says:

    I want to start a buisness selling and installing solar and wind power. How should I start? Any thoughts on good wholesale manufacturers?

  6. Muctarr Kamar says:

    I want to be a solar business person,so where do i start?

    1. Ben Zientara says:

      The big solar companies are almost always hiring salespeople in good solar areas. Look to SolarCity, Sunrun, Vivint, and others and check out their websites for job openings. Many solar sales positions are door-to-door canvassing-type job, but there are some sales positions stationed at retail locations like Home Depot and Lowe’s.

      If you don’t live in an area with good solar policies, it might be difficult to find a job like this. In that case, you’ll want to find a local solar installer or general contractor that installs solar on the side, and get involved in their organization.

  7. Maia Hariton says:

    This is a great article. I also found the video course on how to get a job in the solar field very informative – bit.ly/solarjobcourse

  8. PRey says:

    I like to know how can I Open a Solar Panels Store online!

  9. Yoni says:

    There’s also a great course for people looking to get a job in the solar industry on Udemy bit.ly/solarjobcourse. Highly recommend!

  10. Owen says:

    I’m from nigeria. A country were over 90% have no means to electricity, a country were we need alternative power supply were your company can go global and your solar energy is affordable. I would like to be one of the pioneer your company to greatness in nigeria and africa at large. please I would like a response. enlose is are my email addresses.[owendaz1234@gmail.com] [owendaz@googlemail.com]

  11. Jorge says:

    Hi John De La garza, your email did not came up, i think it is a problem with this page.I am interested in your businees model.My.email is jneyras@gmail.com..I am in Southern California.

  12. Jorge neyra says:

    John De La garza i did not get your email…

  13. John De La garza says:

    We are a southern California based solar installer with over ten years of installation experience. We offer individuals the opportunity to run their own solar company without having to go through the process of starting a solar company. You don’t need to have any solar experience, you just need to have the desire and work ethic to run your own business as well as the hunger to drive you. We provide all of the training to get you up and running without any of the start up costs AND we payout the highest compensation in the industry. Email me if this is something you may be interested in.

  14. Frank chidi says:

    I am very much interested in having a career on both installation and as a sales rep. Nigeria will be a great market for a solar power installation and marketing due to the nation high need for a quality and consistent power supply. . . I am very much interested if I can get a link or serve as a sales rep in nigeria enclose-in is my email:chidiokaigbe @gmail.com

  15. Dan says:

    Hello, I am interested in the designing and manufacturing of Photovoltaic panels, arrays and modules. Do you have any information on the requirements , laws, licenses for the sole purpose of designing and manufacturing solar panels? Living in West Texas, I have seen an increase in the Solar Energy market.

  16. jeremy says:

    i would like to bring solar power to my area

  17. Diana says:

    I was referred by a friend to a solar company who is currently presenting a Sales Job Opportunity. However, I don’t have any experience selling a solar nor much knowledge about it besides the basic ones. I had a 3 years experience with xfinity/Comcast. We sell Internet, cable, home phone line, home security. My numbers were outstanding at Comcast but I do understand that selling solar is beyond far from these products that I just mentioned. The scary part is the employer called me right after I sent him the text today and set up an interview appointment with me tomorrow. Do you have any recommendations for me to do well on my interview tomorrow? Thank you!

    1. Ben Zientara says:

      Diana-

      The main things to know about solar are that prices are falling fast, solar installations last for decades and offer very compelling financial returns, the federal government has an excellent tax credit for solar (that expires at the end of 2016), which reduces the cost by a ton after just one year, and oh yeah, Solar Power Rocks!

      Good luck on that interview!

  18. solargetgreen says:

    Much obliged to you for posting useful and technical article on solar field. I am very passionate about the solar system that provide green environment, also learn new technology of solar system. Sour Oorja is going to surpass fossil powers as the main supplier of natural and free sun light energy around the globe.

  19. vishal kumar chourasiya says:

    How can i make a career in solar enargy. I am post graduated in commerce????

  20. Vaughn Patterson says:

    I wanna become a sales consultant I’m selling car’s now selling up to 20 cars a month

  21. David says:

    Hi, I have experience in solar sales in my country, Spain, since 2008. I have been number one in sales for the last two months in my current job from a sales force of more than 10 people. I would like to share my sales skills with some relevant installer in the US. Someone knows a company interested to discuss with me some professional agreement which permit me to work in Solar Sales in the US?

  22. pradeep says:

    intrasted in soler energy want work in solar energy industry

  23. paul masiello says:

    I am very impressed and know marketing quite well. I have a keen interest in this field

  24. Anonymous says:

    My wife works for an amazing company that educates and allows you to make money by helping homeowners and businesses acquire solar panels for zero out of pocket. She is currently making a comfortable 5 figures per month and hopes to double that by next year.

  25. Anonymous says:

    First if like to start by thanking you for all the tips and guidelines. I have been curiously interested In solar power ever since I got my first solar powered calculator. You do not need to be a scientist, economist, or even work for the E.P.A. To know the world needs a new and better yet continuously renewable energy source. If it’s not the Sun then it’s methane gas from pig farms and land fills but I’m sure that is an un-pleasant day at the office. I have been tempted to get into sales for years but I havnt found anything, until now, that I can be proud to sell. Not vehicles, not insurance, or even shoes and jewelry. I honestly believe that this is the future of energy for homes if not more. A few things I know or at least think I know about solar is a pro and a con. The former is with enough panels the customer could produce a surplus of energy and get paid by the power company and the later is storing energy for days when the sun is not out shining. I plan on researching every thing I can find and talking to any solar professional I can find that will listen. I live in a rural part of central Louisiana that I believe is prime for this kind of thing and I am, or We are just the people to bring it to them. Please email me with any advice or criticism you may have.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Great article ~

  27. Our Web Page says:

    Heya i will be for your major time the following. I discovered that board so i to locate It really helpful & them solved the problem out and about a great deal. I’m hoping to offer you something once again in addition to guide other people that you taught me to be.

  28. Richard Opteynde says:

    Hello Dan,
    I am looking for a change, and have decided to pursue a career in solar sales. It is inevitable that one day – within my life time – solar is going to surpass fossil fuels as the leading provider of energy around the world, which makes it an appealing industry to be in. Not to mention going to my grave knowing that I did my part to make this world a better place.

    It has been a while since I have landed a sales position, and my knowledge of the intricacies of solar are miniscule, so I have been looking for some quality training to get me up to speed. I discovered a training institution called Clean Edison, I am wondering if you would recommend them?

    Regards,

    Richard Opteynde

    PS Thank you so much for your hard work, it has definitely helped motivate me in the right direction.

  29. Graz Perrelli says:

    Hello,

    I enjoyed the article very much and it’s really spot on. In fact, your principles may apply to really any industry. I’ve actually been in solar sales and worked in Arizona for about a year ending in March of 2012. Took a job in the Chicago area, but unfortunately, it appears this company may be on it’s last leg.

    I am looking for a company I can get right into and in front of faces. My numbers were outstanding in Arizona. I would go back there, unfortunately, my employer had not paid me past due commissions and want nothing to do with that particular outfit. I’m ready to go, just need the go ahead!

    Warm regards,

    Graz Perrelli

  30. Dag says:

    I would be grateful for any information on how to start my own solar business. At the present day I have my own- hand mounted, small solar panel system on the roof of my house . I also have wind turbine, which works very well. I would like to start a solar business on a large scale but do not quite know where to start. Would greatly appreciate for any advices.
    Thank You

  31. J says:

    There is a great book on Amazon.com called Smart Solar Sales (by Spike Andrews) and it instructs a reader about the industry, the ups and downs and the basics of the systems. I know of several reps in the industry who read it and found it helpful.

  32. Abel Fierro says:

    I have been working in the social services field for approximately 15 years, but am looking for a change now. I’m a people person, so I am primaruly interested in sales rather than installation. I understand the solar industry is growing and I want to be a part of that. It sounds fun! I have a B.A. in Behaviral Science. Thank you. abe_fierro@sbcglobal.net

  33. Tim Fromhart says:

    We are a local installation company in the Las Vegas area and are interested in your lead program. Please contact us.

  34. Hypothetically, if I were looking to break into the industry from the ground floor in a sales or canvassing position, anyone know what the best solar companies to work for in Los Angeles are? There seem to be a handful soliciting new employees on craigslist.

  35. I live in LA, have a hybrid engineering degree, and am interested in making a career change into solar…but I’ll save sending you the email solicting internship opportunities for when I’m super ready to make the leap. In the meantime I just wanted to include a link to a video that Dan might find compelling enough to make an individual post about: http://www.topdocumentaryfilms.com/theres-no-tomorrow Enjoy!

  36. Paul says:

    How much $ can a Solar panel sales rep make a year??

    1. Dan Hahn says:

      Hi Paul,

      Sky’s the limit, this is sales! Most positions offer commission, some establish companies offer a base salary as well. I would guess the average salary for a solar panel salesperson is about $60,000.

  37. After 25 years in the H.V.A.C field I find solar energy to be a perfect segway into my current field air conditioning and heating.our marketing skills are simular I would love to get into the solar market.It’s as green as clean air is to HVAC

  38. Judy Martin says:

    I m moving to S.W. Florida in the near future and want to find a residential community already set up for solar usage.
    I want to live energy free and hopefully sell
    back some of my earned energy, get fed, credits, and state credits/rebates and anything else I can get to do my part to have
    an energy efficient home. Any comments/suggestions will be greatly appreciated. I m even interestsed in investing in a solar power business.

  39. Scott says:

    Dan, looking for current information on solar industry; skills required, investment amount, license, grants, TIFs etc. Any marketing information or sources would be good as well.
    thanks.

  40. Burnell Williams says:

    I have enjoyed the automotive business for 30 years but I understand that the world is moving forward and I want to be apart of that progression.

  41. David Swindler says:

    I am interested in getting into the solar energy field. Where do I send my resume?

    David Swindler

    1. Dan Hahn says:

      David, if you could be a little more specific about what you’re looking to do, it’d be helpful.

  42. Aric says:

    To get forward in life, one must take risks. In this current moment, I am making plans to enter community college to pursue an associates in renewable energy. The focus is on solar.

    I’m afraid I won’t be able to get a job after I finish school.. I’m desperately looking everywhere for companies that are seeking “solar technicians” but can’t seem to find zilch in my state (* New Mexico *).

    I really don’t want to have to be forced to become an electrician to get the job of my dreams, however, if necessary… it may be my only venue.

    To any others who are reading my comment, don’t get discouraged. Obama is pushing a “green” movement here in the U.S, or, at least he was a couple years ago – alternative energy is supposed to have received alot of funding from govt sectors.

  43. Greg Fogarty says:

    I just moved to the Phoenix, AZ area and want to become involved in solar panel systems sales. I have over 25 years of experience as a construction superintendent and independent contractor. My people skills are excellent. I carry professional and general liability insurance policies. My resume and references are available upon request.

  44. louis says:

    My interest is to become an integral part of the solar energy industry I’m a contractor ,and please send me info so i can do this and get started

  45. John says:

    I’m currently in telecommunication sales and I’ve always been interested in forms of renewable energy, and ways to improve our current global warming problem. I would highly appreciate any information I could use to get into this industry as a sales representative and work my way up. I believe in going green, and finding better alternatives to the current fuel sources that we use.
    Thanks,
    John

  46. Thomas Cavanagh says:

    I am an accomplished sales management professional in an industry that is currently in a tailspin. American automobile manufacturers have a huge responsibility to be leaders in the solar revolution, however they are more interested in building bigger trucks, and suv’s than they are in new cleaner technology. I am interested in a challenging career in solar energy. My employment record speaks for itself. If you are inyerested in a dedicated, hard working, sales oriented, manager to help your company reach it’s full potential. I am your man. E-mail always accepted.

  47. G Ferguson says:

    Please send me any companies in the West Palm Beach, Florida area that has home solar sales. Thank you. GFerguson609@yahoo.com

  48. G Ferguson says:

    I, too, would love to get into the solar field because it sounds like a real moneymaker and at the same time helps to keep America green. Could you put me in contack with a sola company in West Palm Beach area that sales to people for solar sytems in their home. I have a tremendous Sales and Managerial Door to Door background. My email is GFerguson609@Yahoo.com. Much thanks.

  49. Larry says:

    I would love to get into the solar field because it sounds really cool to do if someone would teach me i would love to do it until i would retire because solar is the future and i think it would be the best job to do. Please send me info so i can do this and get started to my future. Thanks and have a great day.

  50. Joseph Charles says:

    well/to be honest’ i think global warming is a scam one of the biggest lies that crawled out from under the white house. put that being said, energy crises has become a reality here in a america. we the people will be looking for ways to cushion the cost. and i believe that solar will become a good friend to us all, and i would like very much to intrudes this amazing cushion to the people. thank you, for inviting me to this post

    1. Anonymous says:

      You’re obviously not very smart

      1. Dave Llorens says:

        Hi, Thanks Anonymous. Not sure who you’re addressing this to but we’re both pretty smart dudes.

  51. Hello Mr .Hahn ,
    You right about learning the material from someone that know it first hand . I am very passionate about the Enviorment witch made me want to learn the about solar Tech . PG&E has free classes on solar energy here is their web site http://www.pge.com/energyclasses/. The only issue is that lots of people are singning up for it so it might take a month to get in . You can also learn by viewing the videos on solar energy on youtube.com for example Ken had a comment on making a complex distributer for solar energy well here is a 1974 video that can inspire him to do it wirelessly http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd47JXuz0g8 .

  52. ken says:

    i would like to build a highly powered solar power distribution complex.i mean a large scale company that provides solar power to homes just like the utility companies.

  53. Leo says:

    Informative article. A good read for students who been looking for a way to enter the field,

  54. Leo says:

    Solar energy has always been of interest to me and I would like as much information as possible. I know it is the way of the future and look forward to receiving more information from you.

  55. Annette says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write down these steps on getting into the solar field. This burgeoning market is fascinating and I will do my best to be a part of it!

  56. Philip Morgan says:

    My intent is to become an integral part of a forward leaning strategy and implementation team. I anticipate these contributions will focus on strategic, operational and tactical level activities driving toward tangible deal flow and revenue targets. I’m able to link complex policy considerations, financial drivers, emerging financial conditions (including evolving carbon markets) with emerging energy technologies.You have a ton of great content on your site. Great job keeping us informed…about the sector and industry.

  57. Candace Moore says:

    Succinct. To the point.
    An absolute requirement for anyone who’s even thinking about getting into solar.
    Good Job!

  58. Michael Hahn says:

    I love this article. Very informative indeed.
    Keep rocking.
    I wonder how many people wrote back?
    M.

  59. John Lane says:

    Dear Mr. Hahn:

    My name is John Lane. I am a retired environmental engineer and I am very interested in solar energy. I have an M. S. in Environmental Engineering and a MBA.

    I enjoy sales and have a website (sunjoules.com/home). Please check it out and you’ll find samples of my writng there as well.

    My website is devoted to solar energy applications. The revenue component of the site is somewhat limited to small systems. However, selling larger systems will afford me the opportunity to contribute more to the fight against global warming and to increase my income as well.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely,

    John Lane
    envmgt@aol.com

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