Tommy Steele, home improvement sales trainer and consultant in Baltimore, has sold a lot of replacement windows using a heat lamp demo in his presentation. It's convincing. But he's also been burned more than once. “The heat lamp is a wonderful tool when used properly,” Steele says.

Home improvement contractors generally agree that a heat lamp demo is often a critical element to build the sale. “I think it is extremely important because you're differentiating yourself and your products,” says Matt Merrifield, president of Lakeside Exteriors, O'Fallon, Mo. “The average salesman isn't going to do this. Taking that extra step is large,” he says.

Selective Use The demonstration can be important, but it isn't part of every presentation made by Queen Anne Window & Door, in Seattle, according to CEO Chad Hovde. “We have a demo set up in the store and we have one for out in the field, but we don't carry it all the time, only when we have the sense that the homeowner is interested.”

When the homeowner has old aluminum windows and complains about summer heat, the demo can make a “huge difference,” Hovde says. “Then it's pretty much a no-brainer selling point.”

What a heat lamp can accomplish, Hovde and others say, is to illustrate the value of low-E window coatings. “People don't fully understand low-E,” Hovde says. “They understand that it can save energy, but when they can actually feel it, then they understand that it can make a big difference during the summer, and they like that.”

Merrifield agrees: “It's very convincing, and homeowners are usually excited and glad that you took the time to show them.”

Flare-Ups Not always, however. A heat lamp demo can also cause homeowners to flare up, Steele says. Home improvement salesmen have been using the demo for decades. “At some point in their, or their parents' or friends', lives someone from a window company has come to their house and spent hours trying to close the sale,” Steele says. As a result, “today you frequently hear some contempt from the customer.”

That's why Steele is careful how he sets up the demo. “I always tell them that we aren't going to be here all night,” he says. And he disarms any potential objections by acknowledging clients' possible “tin men” experiences of the past. If the customer sees the demo as “a manipulative tool, they won't be receptive to the information you are trying to convey,” Steele adds.

As effective as a heat lamp demo can be, there's another hidden danger, Steele says. “Carry a spare bulb. It's embarrassing if the bulb burns out in the middle of the presentation and you can't just run down to the corner store to get another one.”