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Selling to single homeowners can be a different proposition, one in which it's easy to make a mistake. Here are some suggestions from those with experience:

Marital status. Do you need to know the homeowner's marital status? Short answer: it matters but it doesn't. Dan Merrifield, vice president of sales for Lakeside Exteriors, in O'Fallon, Mo., says his company asks two questions: What is your name? and Is anyone else going to be involved in making the decision?

You want to know the latter because the risk of third-party rescission is greater, so you'll want anyone potentially involved in a buying decision to be at the appointment. Ask such questions in a tone that's friendly but neutral, advises well-known industry sales and marketing consultant Rick Grosso.

Engaging the prospect. Now that you know the prospect is single, eliminate all assumptions and focus on that person and his or her needs. "Don't think of single people as couples," says Dr. Bella DePaulo, author of Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized and Ignored and Still Live Happily Ever After. "You're selling to people with their own preferences and values. They have the purse strings. There's no reason to assume that a single person doesn't want any of the things you think about when you sell a couple."

Power of empathy. There are, says Scott Lemons, vice president of member services for Certified Contractors Network, in Maryland, "a thousand ways to step in it." An injudicious or inappropriate remark can poison the presentation from the outset.

Lemons suggests imagining someone you know ? a parent, sibling, or child ? as the homeowner and anticipating his/her questions. Bring a reference list and the addresses of neighborhood homes where your company has worked. It's hard for anyone to make big decisions on their own. "So you have to build an extra amount of trust and confidence into that presentation," Lemons says.

Leave it up to them. You could also avoid all this by simply presenting, then leaving the proposal and decision in the prospect's hands. That's what Brien Murphy of EZ Exteriors, in Pittsburgh, does. Administrative personnel don't even ask about marital status. "We have a saying," Murphy says: "Whoever owns the house, our calculator and tape measure work no differently."