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This excerpt from Philip R. Nulman's book was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on August 19, 1998.

Singular Selling: Be Honest & Open

by Philip R. Nulman

Up close and personal: We're moving from mass selling to singular selling ... and it feels good.

If we think of our customers as individuals, if we create profiles (databases) of them, we will become passion- and performance-oriented in serving their needs. Both consumer and business-to-business markets need to pay careful attention to key issues in relating to the customer as one person to another:

Honesty. There is an intense need for real information. It is communicated in the tone of voice you use, the real testimonials you deliver and the personal commitment you make as a marketer. If you offer a no-hassle, money back guarantee, give customers their money back with a smile and a handshake!

Open-door policy. Be accessible to your customers. Proclaim your accessibility. Don't hide behind a sales force, management team, or even a front counterperson. You are your business!

Response to criticism. Every business receives angry letters or phone calls. Respond personally to each and every one. You'll find the most immediate method of disarming the angry customer is a simple apology. It acknowledges that you care, even if you disagree with the issues being raised. If you state that you're sorry the incident occurred or you're sorry the customer feels a certain way, you're creating loyalty that even money can't buy!

Time. It's the most valuable commodity on the face of the earth, and it's what your customers want most. Give them convenience, ease and comfort in procuring your products or services, and you have given them a great gift. I frequented a restaurant that often has lines. But the owner brings a tray of appetizers to the people waiting in line, also offering them complimentary beverages while they wait. Even though he can't make the time pass more quickly, he makes it pass more pleasantly. Give your customers as much joy and ease of doing business as you can possibly create!

Customized selling. In addition to personal selling, customized selling will be part of your business future. Custom-fit shoes, suits, jeans and gloves are all becoming mainstream. Consumers want the personal touch, and while variety is a keen selling proposition, it is customization that means the most today. Levis will deliver customfit pants from computer profiles that retailers maintain. It's the individual that counts! Don't make the customer fit into your business -- make your product or service fit into his or her needs!

Flexibility. Situational marketing means change. While we market to current situations, even these change more rapidly than ever before. I recently read about a manufacturer of modular homes -- designed to expand and contract as family needs change. Adaptability and flexibility are large issues. If you only make one size sandwich, you're eliminating the changing needs of the marketplace. One of the most popular delicatessens near my office offers three sizes of sandwiches. The owner told me that he surveyed his customers and found that many women and most children wanted less product between the bread. Thus, he created a category that accommodated the people who frequented his business.

Privacy. Regardless of what you're marketing, your customers' relationship with you is no one else's business. Customers want their privacy protected. This is an emotionally charged issue. Offer them assurances that the information you give them will remain private. It has become so significant that approximately 81 percent of small businesses surveyed stated that they would not enter the world of electronic marketing until they had reassurance that their proprietary interests could be protected.

Nulman, 46, is a founder and principal of FDN&P, a 17-year-old marketing firm based in Whitehouse Station. This article is excerpted from his book, "Start Up Marketing" (Career Press, $16.99). He signs books at Borders in Nassau Park on Thursday, August 20, at 6:30 p.m. Call 609-514-0040 for information on the booksigning. Nulman's firm can be reached at 201-848-0310.

Remember, technology has erased the waiting process in many industries, but hold onto the personal issues, even if it means E-mailing your customers following each request. Keep it in the first person!

Banks, insurance agencies, health care providers, accountants, lawyers, service bureaus, real estate agencies -- all must pay particular attention to the ongoing issue of privacy.


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