Who are you selling to? Whatever name appears on the lead sheet, right? Well, yes and no.

Any way you cut it, today's customer is a different creature than the customer of 50, or even 25, years ago. By 2010, one-third of Americans will be 50 or older. The majority of people you do business with are probably baby boomers, somewhat affluent, and likely college educated.

Author David B. Wolfe calls boomers America's wealthiest market. They're savvy. They spend more. And they demand more. “Expectations are always higher as we age and become more experienced,” notes marketing consultant Katie Muldoon, president of Muldoon & Baer.

Yet while the customer's changed, home improvement selling strategies haven't. For example, many companies closely screen inquiries to avoid one-leggers. This policy reflects past experience rather than contemporary reality. Most households today are dual income. Wife and husband contribute, and both are absolutely strapped for time. Insist you'll only send a rep if two parties are present, and you risk giving offense and losing the appointment altogether. At a time when an issued lead is running $200 — and up to three times that at some companies — can you afford to be that inflexible?

Another point: Hear that banging in the living room? That's the sound of customers getting hammered. Using emotion to set the stage for scoring logical points is an effective way to sell. But “corner and close” is not going to work on everybody.

What do boomers want? They want information about the product and company. They want to be satisfied that what they're buying is good value. They want a hassle-free transaction.

One Massachusetts sunroom company owner now entering the window business has altered his one-call close policy to allow for two visits: the first to measure openings and establish confidence and trust, the second to wrap up the deal. How does he know he won't lose the sale? “You've already distinguished yourself from the com-petition,” he points out. “The customer's thinking, Wow, I've found my contractor.”

California Window Replacement, in Orange County, encourages prospects to call with measurements and gives them an approximate price on the phone before sending the salesperson out. Guess what? Customers love it. You could write them off and say, “Hey, they're just price buyers.” In fact, they're peace-of-mind buyers. And there are a lot of them out there.