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10 tips for turning leads into loyal clients

1. Two ears and one mouth. The best sales people all have two ears and one mouth. And they use them in that proportion. They listen twice as much as they talk. Listening is the secret weapon of sales.

2. Walk in your client's shoes. See the world through their eyes. Understand what they want. Sell what they need to buy, not just what you want to sell. Understand what they fear and dislike so that you can pre-empt their objections. If you want them to dance, play their tune.

3. Your best prospects are your existing clients. Typically, it costs seven times as much to sell to a new customer as it does to an existing customer. Existing customers tend to buy more; you know what they need and how they buy and you have an established track record. Selling is not the preserve of the lone hunter seeking new clients. Many of the best sales people are farmers who carefully cultivate existing clients.

4. Answer the question, just like in a school exam. You may think you have the best answer or product, but the best product on earth is useless if it does not meet the customer's needs. "Forty two" is a good answer to the question "what is six times seven". It is a terrible answer to the question "how does your product compare to the competition?" 5. Build trust. Let's make this simple: would you buy from someone you did not trust? Buyers buy a promise of performance. The promise is as good as the person and firm that stand behind it. Trust is both rapport (show you have similar interests and values) and credibility (can you be relied on to do what you say?)

6. Win win. Do not try to defeat your client. You can fool anyone once: they will never be your customer again and will trash your reputation at every opportunity. Give your client a win-make them feel good about buying from you. Allow them to tell a story to their boss, peers, colleagues, friends and family which shows that they bought smart.

7. Know your customer. Buyers may be interested in price, but what does the rest of the organisation want: reliability, flexibility, speed to market, customisation or profit? Get beyond the buyer's office.

8. Persistence pays. The harder you try, and practice, the luckier you get. You learn more about what does and does not work. And if you don't try, you don't sell and you don't learn. Selling is a craft skill, it takes effort to learn.

9. Make it easy. Clients are really not interested in your internal procedures, policies and priorities. They have enough problems. Make it easy for them to buy, simple for them to pay and smooth enough for them to use your product or service.

10. Enjoy it: you only excel at what you enjoy. To sell is to see human nature in all its bizarre variety. Make the most of every moment.

Jo Owen is author of How to Influence: The Art of Making Things Happen (Prentice Hall)

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