This month’s vet, Scott Sullivan, is one of the most well-connected, experienced marketing professionals in solar. He’s currently director of inverter sales and marketing for Growatt, but has worked in energy for more more than 20 years. He’s also one of the most personable people you’ll meet.
In this podcast, he shares what he’s learned about sales and solar marketing from being employed in many different sectors of solar.
You’ve been in sales your whole career. What do you love so much about it, and what advice do you have for solar contractors?
Sales and marketing is definitely where my heart and soul are. What I really love about it is that I want to be a resource for somebody. For example, I sat next to a guy on a plane who owned a recumbent bike company. I knew nothing about these bikes, but the guy was super cool and we exchanged business cards. Just a few weeks later, I’m on another plane and sitting next to the largest bicycle dealer in the state of New York. I mentioned the first guy to the second, who got really excited and said he’d love to have their business. So I send both an email and introduced them. I just put those two people together, and they ended up doing business and were grateful to me. I translate making those kinds of connections into being in sales and marketing in solar. We’re connecting people, either through a product or a service.
A mantra I live by is that people buy from people they know, like and trust. When was the last time you bought something from someone who was rude to you? Build that repport. Take 15 minutes and actually try to get to know the person that you’re trying to sell to. Keep track of that kind of information, such as in a CRM, and be personal rather than making everything look like everything is a Xerox copy.
You are very active on social media. How does it help you with business and keeping up on technology?
Linkedin is a fantastic platform. I have a lot of people in my network and it’s really hard to keep track. With Linkedin, I’m able to keep track of where past colleagues are and then I have a relationship at that company. And even people that don’t know me personally can see on my profile that I have some credibility.
Another example is, at SPI, I can take a quick selfie of me and past coworkers and post it and it kind of shows the camaraderie of our industry. Supposed “competitors” can still spend time together and be professional and social, and still be ruthless when it comes down to business.
Another example at SPI, I took a quick photo of an innovative product someone showed me at our booth and posted it and tagged my friends who are engineers. It got 600 replies. I would never know some of the really interesting technologies out there until a conference, if it wasn’t for social media. That is revolutionizing our industry. Another example is webinars. You can do a webinar on a subject that 90% of people won’t care about, but for that 10% that does, it gets in their hands easier on social media.
You’ve worked in so many areas of the solar market—panels, monitoring, inverters—what insight does that provide for you?
There are segments of the renewable energy space to be an expert in. You can build an entire career in just finance, or how the solar is attached to the ground or the roof, or just the panel and power generation. I like to think of myself as a generalist. I like to be that person who has the full view. So when someone asks, “What do you know about solar?” I can be uber geeky about the panel technology, to the other end of what your financial return is going to be and why you should do it in the first place. For me, that has been part of my education. I have wanted to be that from the very beginning. Eventually I see myself as being the overall generalist who helps large organizations move in the right direction, and we’ll find the specialists when we need them.
Check back monthly for a new episode of Ask a Solar Vet, in which editor Kathie Zipp brings you the unique perspectives and insights of those who have spent more than a decade in solar.