Overcoming the most CHALLENGING personality type in solar sales… The Bid Grinder.
How to negotiate the LOWEST price on solar within Sonoma County. Are you a savvy shopper or the woeful Bid Grinder?

Overcoming the most CHALLENGING personality type in solar sales… The Bid Grinder.

One of the more challenging aspects of selling a solar product or service to a potential customer is dealing with one personality style that resists the flow of the sales process no matter how low you drop your price.  At some point we have to ask ourselves if we properly pre-qualified our client.  All seemed to go well in the beginning and the sincerity to shop in earnest was abundant; they seemed to:

  • Have pain that needed healing
  • A desire to resolve the pain
  • An interest in the product or service
  • A champion within the organization
  • Direct contact with the decision maker(s)
  • A timeline in which to make that decision
  • The financial wherewithal
  • OOOPS!  But we didn’t find out if they’re a “Bid Grinder”!

So who and what is this personality type?  Why does he behave this way?  The answer lies in “ego” and more “ego” and fear and more fear.  Ego is what’s in all of us, and is usually kept in check on most days where our subconscious is not over stimulated by a large solar purchase.  Ego is that part of us that gets a little larger than life when we perceive we have garnered the illusion of more power than we really have.   Ego and fear runs the transaction in such a manner as to self sabotage and derail the negotiation… to a point where no supplier of goods or services could possibly win the clients business on any realistic price level without losing its shirt.

Enter, the overzealous “Bid Grinder”:

This person is a negotiator gone a muck with only ONE goal; to drive the price down to the ground.  To be fair, the bid grinder means no harm.   Though he breaks the backs of the solar bidders that attempt to sell to him by adopting an unrealistic viewpoint of his negotiating acumen.  He starts out reasonable enough, but once he gets a look at two or three bids, he develops price war anxiety and cannot keep perspective on comparing price and quality, but instead develops a myopic and obsessive compulsion to grind the bids down to an impossible and un-deliverable price.  He will usually second guess himself out of fear and solicit another three estimates and begin to grind these bids as well.  He may even go as far as to use a tactic of actually choosing ONE company that he desires to do business with, but will further grind them down by having them bid against themselves, all the while giving that company the impression that they are still bidding against other companies for the project.

To avoid or work with a Bid Grinder:

When I interview a potential commercial client who wishes to use my solar broker service, one vital learning tool for me to use in understanding him is to gain knowledge of his behavior around price negotiation history.  I will ask him of past sales he’s negotiated on his behalf… how he goes about shopping for estimates, in other words his “style” of shopping.  I ask him to describe how he shops for estimates on high priced items; how many bids he solicits, how long it takes him to evaluate those bids, and how satisfied he is with the prices he receives.  I ask him if he views himself as reasonable at negotiation or at war with the bidders; is it about the bottom line and quality, or just about the bottom line, or is it the joy and exhilaration of seeing how LOW he can get them to go? 

But the BEST way to gauge his purchasing style is to ask him to tell  a story of his most successful and triumphant business transaction that he negotiated for his company.  The devil, (or the angel) is in the detail and it won’t take but a few minutes to find out, because people enjoy telling how they got the upper hand.  

How to deal with a Bid Grinder:

If I choose to work with a reform-able Bid Grinder and he meets all other merits of being an excellent pre-qualified buyer, then I will set out to educate him to the pitfalls of “bid grinding”.  It’s here that I ask him to agree to  adopt a strategy with me to keep perspective during the estimate review, and then I coach, coach, and coach.  My client MUST have confidence in me and my energy consultants to help represent his best interests to the bidders, if he doesn’t, then he’ll go back to his “bid grinding” reflex.


  • We establish the bottom line price he will pay, not based on final solar estimates, but on what he can truly afford.  I help  him understand that the icing on the cake will be if the solar estimate actually exceeds his bottom line in a lower returned price quote.  If not, we can carefully negotiate from that point.
  • I check in with him frequently to identify what perception of quality he thinks he’s receiving from the product or service and review with  him how HE THINKS the quality reflects this value in accordance with his bottom line.
  • We call on the references of all the solar bidders so he can witness if those buyers were happy with price, service and quality.  If need be, we will will visit the site of that customer reference.
  • I help him understand the danger of breaking the backs of bidders through bid grinding, which may cause his project to suffer in ways that he will never see.  Because something’s gotta give, solar bidders cannot continue to drop their price quotes without sacrificing something in the form of a lesser quality wire, conduit, and other sundry supplies that the buyer will never know about.

Solar brokering is continually about a LISTENING to and getting to know my client’s tolerance and intolerance thresholds, and BEFORE I introduce them into a high priced solar shopping experience.  I have great empathy for my buyers, as the shopping process is hard enough even with my facilitation and the expertise of my energy consultants.  It’s not every day we spend $100,000 to $4 million on an energy investment.  I confess, I would be a Bid Grinder too if I didn’t have someone by my side to keep the circus in perspective.


Article written by Jennifer Coleman of Sun Source Solar Energy Brokers, providing solar broker and energy consulting shopping services in Santa Rosa, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano and San Francisco Counties.

Jennifer -

Comments are closed on this post.

Contact Info

Sun Source Solar Brokers
525 East Cotati Avenue, #220
Cotati, California 94931