Credit: Kagan McLeod

If you had a leak in you house and called a plumber, you’d expect him to show up with a toolbox. He’s there to solve a problem. If he arrived without tools, you probably wouldn’t take him all that seriously. If, with tools by his side, he estimates repairs to the tune of, say, $1,000, you wouldn’t question it.

Tools of the Trade

Home improvement salespeople are no different. Walk into the house without samples, parts, or a heat lamp, and you do yourself a disservice.

You should also bring a tape measure and a calculator. You could estimate without them, but with them, you’re building value. The more tools you use, the more value you build. Just like the plumber, you’re there to solve a problem. The more time and effort you direct to investigating that problem, the more credibility your solution has and the more credibility your price has when, at the end of the call, you present your proposal.

See Me, Feel Me

You also build that value by engaging the customer. Use the product samples, parts kit, and heat lamp to make the prospect part of your presentation. You can talk features and benefits all you want, but when customers feel the weatherstripping, tilt the window in, etc., the brain delivers a different message than if you are using mere language. Now they know what you’re talking about.

Say I’m doing a door demo. The door I sell is made of 20-gauge steel. When the homeowner feels that 20-gauge steel and compares it to the 28-gauge steel sample I also carry, he understands the difference.

Making a Mess

You have a far better shot at closing the deal with samples on the table, on the floor, and all around than you would with just a clipboard. The more clutter, the better. If the prospect wants to know if you have the same window in beige, run out to the truck and get one.

Engaging homeowners invites questions, and the more they ask, the more inclined they are to make a decision. Have your salespeople empty the trunk. I guarantee you that if they’re showing samples on every visit, they’ll close more business. People buy what they can touch and see.

—Jake Jacobson is vice president of sales at Premier Window & Building, a Maryland home improvement company. Reach him at