Door-To-Door Solar Sales Warning From CEC

Door to door solar sales

Door-to-door sales haven’t been a good look for Australia’s home solar energy sector at the best of times. In the current situation, the practice would be just plain dumb.

Door-knocking solar has always been problematic due to predatory tactics some engage in and consumers not knowing their rights. At the moment, it also brings other risks.

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has sent out a couple of reminders in the past week about door-knocking practices. In a communication yesterday it stated:

“The COVID-19 crisis means that door knocking is no longer an acceptable way to sell solar. Not only does it put workers and customers at risk, it increases the risk of solar being included in the next round of restrictions and could cause an industry-wide shutdown.”

The argument could be made door-knocking has never really been an acceptable way to sell solar power systems, but anyhow.

It’s not clear whether the CEC’s warnings are based on reports it has received of the practice continuing. While the lure of so many Australians being at home with bigger electricity bills on the horizon as a result may be particularly enticing, a company would have to be pretty stupid to be engaging in such practices in the current situation. But its often said hydrogen and stupidity are the two most abundant materials in the universe (or something along those lines), so the warning was warranted to discourage anyone planning to do so.

Perhaps in a post-COVID-19 crisis world, door-to-door solar sales will cease to exist – but maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Buying Solar Doesn’t Require Close In-Person Contact

As we detailed earlier this week, the good news is buying solar power and having it installed doesn’t require being in close physical contact with anyone  – social distancing can be observed. Thanks largely to the internet, the discovery process through to handover after installation means going solar is a very low-risk activity; assuming relevant guidelines are observed.

The Clean Energy Council and Smart Energy Council have been providing advice and resources to Australia’s solar industry regarding customer interaction, performing site visits, paperwork, work arrangements and sanitising issues. The CEC has previously stated Australia’s response to COVID-19 needs to clearly recognise the essential nature of renewable energy and energy storage.

It’s in everyone’s interests that Australia’s home solar industry can continue to operate during this time if it can do so safely – and here’s eight good reasons why now is a particularly good time to install solar panels.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. Dan Walker says

    Michael,

    Your suggestion that door knocking should ‘cease to exist’ is galling to read. No doubt there are institutions out there that get untrained and unknowledgeable backpackers/students to spread misinformation, whilst at the same time paying them terribly and offering no justification for being in the industry other than to make a quick bit of govt money, just as alot of these setups did with the VET-Fee Help scam. Whilst operations like this are being weeded out more and more by online review sites/forums, lets hope that with increased exposure customers see right through their scherade.

    With all that said it is stills a complete blight on your journalistic integrity that you completely lack balance in your assessment of door knocking, and I cant help but feel such a gutless hit piece is better served being printed on NewsLtd trash rags, instead of this often impartial and informative site.

    When writing on this issue in the future, perhaps you could consider the highly ethical and driven solar sales reps that use door knocking as a means of marketing the product? Perhaps if you understood the toil and problem solving ability that is needed to ensure this form of marketing is effective, then maybe you wouldn’t be so biggoted about the topic. If we work for CEC Approved Retailers, then who are you to call into practice the ethics of our operation? Isn’t what that very standard is for? Many companies that are well reviewed on this site and use products that are well reviewed on this site, use door knocking as a means of attaining business, often with fantastic results. Are you saying that the 1000’s of homes we’ve seen save money off the back of a initial door knock should feel bad for doing so?

    Thanks,
    Dan.

    • Dan, which door knocking company do you work for?

      • Chris White says

        Michael Bloch and Finn Peacock,

        I want to start off by saying that I do agree that direct selling door to door during this pandemic is unethical and solar companies should halt this method of generating business until doing so is no longer a public health risk.

        With that being said, I agree with Dan’s sentiment, in this article when you state that door knocking should “cease to exist” it is painting the entire direct sales and marketing industry with a broad brush to say that every solar business that uses door to door sales to get business for there company is unethical by doing so. As Dan rightly said you support many solar businesses and even recommend them on your website that do use door to door marketing to book consultations with home and business owners to generate business.

        For you to recommend these companies and accept money from these companies for you providing them with solar leads is hypocritical of you if you believe these are unethical companies just for simply generating business through door to door channels as many honest companies do.

        If you want to hold onto your belief that all companies that practice door-to-door are unethical then you should not support companies that use door-to-door appointment setters on your website or accept the money from those companies that pay you to recommend them to consumers. You provide a lot of informative free content on your website to build trust and credibility in your brand. You then use the trust and credibility of your brand to sell the information of consumers interested in solar. If you sell customers information to companies that use door-to-door appointment setters you are supporting companies that you imply use “problematic” marketing strategies that you would like to “cease to exist.” How can you speak out against these companies yet also recommend them to consumers that use your service and directly profit from those companies that use your platform?

        There are honest companies that employ and contract thousands of people all around the world that take great pride in there work. Yet you disparage the entire direct sales and marketing industry. I have seen first hand honest people lose there jobs as these companies have done the right thing and stopped there door-to-door marketing in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. You state that it is “wishful thinking” that these people will never re-gain the jobs they have lost once COVID-19 is over. I don’t believe that you considered this when making that statement and hope that you reconsider the hard stance you have taken against the entire direct sales and marketing industry and by extension your stance against the integrity of that the honest and hardworking people that are employed and contacted in the industry that would feel hurt by being lumped in with disingenuous and unethical operators that exist in every industry. From mechanics to carpenters, to companies that use online advertisements on platforms on Google and Facebook such as yourself.

        Yes, it is true that there are companies that use door-to-door for there marketing and do a poor job installing solar systems and use low quality products. There are also companies however that advertise online through Facebook and Google advertisements. Arguably there are substantially more companies that have wracked up thousands of consumer complaints selling cheap and nasty solar systems through online advertising in a race to the bottom for the lowest price. However, it would be unfair for me to imply that EVERY solar company that uses online advertisements to generate business for there company is doing so unethically when there are many solar businesses doing the right thing that advertise online.

        Finn Peacock, you yourself spend thousands of dollars advertising your service to consumers on platforms like Facebook and Google. Would it be fair for me to say that your company Peacock Media Group is unethical because the methods that you use for marketing are also used by unethical fly-by night solar installation companies and scammers and unethical operators in in businesses all over the world? Or would you say that it would be unfair for me to lump your marketing company in along with dodgy unscrupulous companies simply because you use the same methods of those companies for marketing purposes?

        Lastly, I will say this, Dan wrote almost 300 words raising several points that you did not address simply saying. Dan, which door knocking company do you work for? Not only did you fail to address any of the points that Dan raised in your reply but it is also unfair to imply that Dan simply work for a “door knocking company.” Most companies that use door-to-door to set up consultations with interested consumers will also advertise online like you do, some will run radio or television advertisements or use billboards to advertise.

        Is it really fair to simply label a solar company that employs or contracts door-door appointments setters “door knocking companies” when they do so much more then that? on your website you describe your business as a “popular solar quoting website.” Which is fair enough I would say that is an accurate succinct description of your business. But if I described your business as simply a “Facebook and Google advertising/marketing company” would that be fair to say or would you say that’s just simply a part of your business and does no even come close to encompassing everything that you do.

        I really hope that you address my comment with something meaningful to address the points that I have raised. I can only hope that you either see that my points are valid and retract your statement that paints every company that uses direct marketing and is proud of how they conduct themselves with the same brush or you can keep your opinion that it is “wishful thinking that door-to-door sales will cease to exist in a post-COVID-19 crisis world.”

        If you do decide to keep your opinion, I believe I can expect you will stop profiting from companies that use door-to-door by recommending those companies to consumers if you really believe that they are bad for doing door-to-door. As you state on your website you are “very fussy about which installers we allow to provide you with quotes.” As such it would be fair to say that surely would not recommend companies which use marketing strategies you believe should cease to exist given how fussy you say you are?

        I have done my best to defend the direct sales and marketing industry and the people that make an honest living doing it. I hope that anyone reading this comment that works in direct sales and marketing or has family or friends that work in the direct sales and marketing industry and was hurt by the sentiments in this article by being lumped in with a group dishonest predatory people. Any reputable company that employs/contracts sales representatives has in-place and routinely re-train and even test there sales/marketing representatives on compliance to best represent the integrity of the company they are working with.

        You would see this if you spent anytime working with a reputable company that hires and trains sales and marketing representatives. If you have never spent time working alongside sales and marketing teams or been through direct sales/marketing compliancy training then it is my belief that the opinion you expressed is uninformed.

        I look forward to hearing your reply and hope to have a productive dialogue.

        • Chris,

          Your post is chock-a-block with false equivalence and straw man arguments.

          Just an example. Online advertising invites enquiries from only those that are interested – solicited contact. Doorknocking is unsolicited. Totally different.

          And please feel free to advise which SQ recommended companies do unsolicited door-knocking.

          Finn

          • Chris White says

            Finn,
            I disagree that my argument contains any false equivalences or straw man arguments. I was careful when writing my argument to not include any logical fallacies. In your counterargument you say that I have holes in my criticism because of logical fallacies without even stating what points are logical fallacies and why they are flawed points. You have made it impossible for me to further elaborate on any points I made that you disagree with and make my case for why the specific points you state you disagree with are valid criticisms.

            I re-wrote my argument multiple times to make sure that my arguments were fair, in my original argument that I decided not to publish I wrote that on trustpilot.com which is business review website you have 9 pages of highly negative 1-star reviews of your business. On each page on trustpilot.com they have 20 reviews.

            In total 180 people that have given your business solar quotes the lowest possible rating and wrote extensively about their negative experience in dealing with your business. You can find even more negative reviews on social media and other review websites. Despite this, It would be a “false equivalence” for me to say that just because hundreds of people have had a bad experience getting quotes through your website that nobody should use your website or enter their personal information into your advertisements that you run on Facebook and Google.

            That would be a “false equivalence” in the same way that it is a “false equivalence” to state that direct marketing through door-to-door appointment setting “has never really been an acceptable way to sell solar power systems.” Even though you have no inside experience with sales and marketing to make such a bold claim. What you have done however is you worked for the CSIRO and yes that is a great organisation and I am sure that your experience working with them has provided you valuable insights into solar technology.

            However in your entire career that you have listed on your website you have NEVER worked for a solar retailer and I believe that if you think that there are no reputable companies that are marketing with these methods then you are extremely out of touch with how solar companies operate to get more business and grow.
            I understand that when you run a business some negative reviews are almost an inevitability. The fact that you have bad reviews doesn’t change the fact that I am sure that you strive to have integrity and do your best to provide a valuable service in the same way that an honest sales and marketing representative does their best to represent a company and a product that they believe in and will save homeowners thousands of dollars. Solicited or not if they agree to make an appointment and talk with a sales consultant and decide that going solar with the company that engaged them is the correct decision then that is great.

            That means the sales and marketing representative has successfully increased the adoption of solar technology and reached homeowners who otherwise may have never gone solar or never looked further to hear about the benefits of going solar. These people may have wanted solar and the representative came at the right time and helped them get solar when setting up the appointment with them or these people may have never considered solar or thought it was out of reach for them and thanks to the unsolicited visit they made an awesome investment that will save them thousands for decades to come. Unsolicited does not instantly equal bad, If a home-owner is not interested in solar or is not interested in engaging with a company that has engaged them through unsolicited marketing then any sales/marketing representative that has been trained correctly on compliance will gracefully accept when a homeowner declines a solar consultation and move on to find interested homeowners that could benefit from going solar and set up appointments with them and help more homes go solar in the suburb they are canvassing for business in.

            I’d argue that’s a good thing and I believe that the thousands of homeowners that have gone solar and got initially contacted through a door-to-door sales representative or even through an unsolicited phone call are glad they decided to move ahead with solar with a reliable company and have now seen a huge return on their initial investments or are cash-flow positive on their solar system repayments. Hundreds of thousands of reputable businesses across the world markets through product/service through methods you would categorise as unsolicited, its common practice and a reliable way to get business and keep people employed. It is not unethical by any stretch of the imagination to prospect for new business. Can it be done unethically? Of course, anything can be unethically if it is done with malicious intent and any sales or marketing rep that is dishonest will have a shortly lived career and will not be getting referrals from happy clients.
            Oh, and I left my favourite part of my argument for last, you asked me to feel free to advise you which Solar Quotes recommended companies do unsolicited marketing. It seems that you really have an issue with this form of marketing. In another article published on your website titled “How to Deal with Solar and Battery Telemarketer Pests.” You state that “there is no point in buying solar power from a telemarketer.” You say your advice is to “Just hang up.” So surely you would not recommend or directly profit from recommending any company that engages in any kind of unsolicited marketing that could be categorised as unsolicited. I would argue that all of forms of marketing could be categorised as unsolicited as pretty much nobody requests to see advertisements but anyhow moving on to my main point.

            Surely when I point out a specific company that you recommend to visitors on your website that engages in this form of marketing to get business you would remove them from your website and stop profiting thousands from them because as you say you are so fussy about what companies you will recommend on your website and profit from right? If you’re so fussy about the companies you recommend on your website where you essentially act as broker between homeowners interested going solar and solar retailers, then you must be ESPECIALLY fussy about any solar retailers that you rank on your website as a “Gold Rated Supplier.” I do not want to give you any excuses for censoring my criticism of your article, even though expressly asked me to name companies so I am just going to say the company I am talking about rhymes with “Taptain Treen Solar.”
            Now you may say to me “OK, sure there might be one or two companies that slip through the cracks and I accidentally recommend them thinking that they meet my standards for what I consider to be ethical.” But no Finn, it’s not just this company there are dozens of companies or website that market in a way that you argue is unacceptable. I will explain how easy it is to find out how easy it would be for you to find out what companies market themselves through contacting customers that did not engaged them first.
            You do not have to look far to find that there are dozens of companies that use cold calling and door to door sales representative to market their business that you recommend to hundreds if not thousands of users on your website. All you have to do is go onto google and search the company name followed by “telemarketer” or “telesales” or “lead-generator or “door-to-door” or “appointment setter” and by doing that you can find the companies that you recommend on your website advertising on job boards to hire people to do this kind of marketing for their solar company.
            There is nothing wrong with that at all. Just because these business owners do not exclusively approach customers that walk around saying “I want somebody to advertise their company to me.” Does not mean they are unethical for trying to grow their company though marketing.
            So now that you know that there are many companies that you recommend on your website that market in a way that you seem to express is reprehensible, the way I see it Finn is that you have two options moving forward. First you could concede that unsolicited forms of marketing can be done ethically and responsibly and acknowledge that there are hundreds of customers that have been engaged this way that had a positive experience. In acknowledgment of this fact, it would only be right for you to either amend your article with corrections or remove all articles on your website disparaging marketing that you would categorise as unsolicited.

            Your second option moving forward would be to stay firm in your belief and not change your mind despite all the evidence I have presented. If you do decide keep your opinion that you expressed in this article then in order to not be a hypocrite you would have to do some digging and find all the companies on your website that utilise the marketing that you say is unacceptable and stop profiting thousands of dollars from recommending them to consumers that visit your website through your online marketing campaigns or through finding you from your SEO ranking on Google search.
            I look forward to hearing a reply that actually addresses the specific points that I have made in my criticism of your point of view rather than just stating that my argument contains logical fallacies to discredit me as you did in your previous counter-argument
            Chris

          • TLDR: Chris is claiming Captain Green do unsolicited door-knocking. This is not true.

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