Andriy Mysyk is the Senior Technical Product Manager at Aurora Solar. He has over 10 years of experience developing new products. His goal is to evolve and ship products that are both valuable (customers choose to buy and use them) and viable (the solutions work within numerous business constraints).
At Aurora Solar, we’ve seen a pattern among many of our fastest-growing customers. As an organization scales, bespoke cross-team communications become a major choke point. In addition to being slow, error-prone, and redundant, these manual touchpoints also result in unnecessary spending and lost sales.
In the words of one solar executive:
“Things work well when our solar sales team is in control of its workflow. That’s why we try to minimize out-of-band interactions between a salesperson and support teams like our in-house design team. Communications just don’t scale as well across cross-functional teams.”
Many installers turn to customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms to optimize their workflows and streamline communications. For example, tools like Salesforce can automatically track and tag prospects throughout the solar buying cycle. But even with the best CRM suites in the world, limitations still exist:
- Cross-team communication isn’t always supported
- Your CRM might not work with the other software you (or other teams) use
- Sales data often lives in different silos — requiring manual data entry
A proven way to replace communications that don’t scale is by integrating your CRM with third-party APIs.
What Is an API?
Most businesses use a mix of bespoke and off-the-shelf software tools to manage their operations. But because each platform is written in a different language, with its own rules and protocols, sharing real-time information between them can be challenging. In fact, “integration” is often done by a person: literally copying and pasting data from one silo to another.
An API (or Application Programming Interface) is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other. For example, many of the more popular solar design and CRM tools use:
- Weather.com’s API to access real-time and historic meteorological data
- Google Earth’s API to pull in satellite imagery and maps for each solar prospect’s home address
Of course, these are just two examples.
True integration involves connecting all the moving parts together to automate as much of your operations as possible. Let’s say you use Salesforce and would like to automate a workflow that includes building a system design in advance of home visits. Proper API integration would allow the following to happen behind-the-scenes, instantly and automatically:
- Once on your site, a homeowner fills out a lead form and submits their most recent utility bill statement.
- Your CRM tags this prospect as a “warm” lead and instructs your CAD software to generate a 3D rendering of a potential installation — based on variables like location, satellite imagery, and insolation.
- Based on the user’s energy consumption and the PV system’s generation potential, your solar proposal software automatically calculates costs, savings, payback periods, and returns.
- The homeowner receives a detailed solar proposal via email — complete with an invitation to schedule a free property inspection.
This workflow is significantly cheaper since your sales and design teams are only activated when a homeowner books an appointment. Integration is also more profitable since you can easily scale as you convert more customers using fewer resources. In the above scenario, the only true chokepoint is how many Web visitors you can get to fill out your lead form.
So why doesn’t every solar installer use APIs?
Solar CRM Integration the Hard Way
Integrating your CRM with third-party software is often harder than it might appear. For starters, not every platform has an API that you can use. And of the ones that do, integration isn’t necessarily guaranteed:
- Interoperability issues could make integration impossible
- Future updates and patches could break legacy code
- API documentation might be confusing (or absent)
- You may lack sufficient in-house technical skills
These challenges only compound as you expand the number of integrations. With more moving parts, there are more things that can break.
One way to resolve this involves centralizing your integrations as much as possible. At the time of this writing, for example, Aurora Solar offers 29 separate APIs for its customers — all under a single roof.
Our Approach to Solar Software Integration
At Aurora, we specialize in solar design and proposal software to streamline the sales process for our PV installation customers. Our core platform can handle the vast majority of residential and commercial installation needs out-of-the-box, with minimal customization.
However, based on our experience with medium- to large-size solar installers, we’ve developed a set of APIs to sync Aurora with your internal workflow orchestration software, which is often your CRM or ERP. We call this family of 29 separate APIs “Sync API,” and together, it allows you to seamlessly integrate whatever tools you’re already using.
With our APIs, for example, your Salesforce account can instruct Aurora to create a project as soon as an opportunity record with a customer’s address is captured. Further, Salesforce can automatically:
- Request a site model to be built by an Aurora expert
- Retrieve a design summary when the deal is sold
Sync API offers a number of ways to automate many of the most time-consuming aspects of your operations. Imagine having a customer’s project instantly created in your Aurora Solar account every time a prospect fills out a lead form or schedules an appointment. In addition to saving time, automation also helps to reduce errors and redundancies. And it can do this all while providing your teams with visibility into what’s happening in Aurora through deep links in Salesforce.
Better still, setting up this type of integration is intuitive — by design:
- We’ve studied developers’ experiences using Aurora with CRMs and fine-tuned our APIs for speed of development and quality.
- Our latest API specification is publicly available at docs.aurorasolar.com.
- We mindfully chose to adopt a style of APIs that is easy to use and will likely be familiar to your developers already.
- We provide sandbox support so that your developers can both sample and test our APIs using the “Try It” features on docs.aurorasolar.com.
“I feel pretty comfortable in my ability to use Aurora API after reading the docs.”
Because of their intuitive design, our APIs let developers design custom CRM integrations with Aurora Solar in days — rather than weeks or months. This speed allows you to quickly automate your address-to-design workflow — saving both money and time.
Below is a diagram of a typical integration that would allow your sales team to do its work with minimal bespoke communications with other teams.
The best part? You can use this same integration for 10s, 100s, or 1,000s of users — making the process truly scalable.
Aurora Solar’s API integration capabilities allow you to automate communications between your sales team and the rest of your organization in a streamlined and predictable way. This reduces the number of bespoke communications your sales team has to engage in, allowing them to do what they do best — i.e. sell.
If you feel like your existing workflow inhibits scaling your solar organization, consider integrating your own CRM with Aurora. To get started, either visit docs.aurorosalar.com or reach out to your Aurora Account Executive for guidance on what might work best for you.
Featured image by JJ Ying.