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It's all very well getting traffic to your website and building a list of prospects but you still don't have a profitable business until you make sales.

They are still far too many marketers trying to use the old school marketing tactics and pushy sales copy -- these days we have a more consumer driven business environment where conversations and customer relationships are the way to go. If your sales pitch is too pushy or too heavy on self-promotion, you're not doing yourself or your business any favours.

Today good marketers realise that kindness, generosity and honesty is what consumers are demanding and when you take this on board with your own business you will increase your ROI and set yourself apart from other businesses who risk alienating their customers with more obvious sales tactics.

So what are the secrets of converting online contacts into sales? Here are some strategies to consider employing in your business to bring you bang up-to-date with the latest marketing trends.
Develop a plan

Apart from your general business plan, you should have a customer communication plan in place. Devise a series of conversations with people via your website or e-mail campaigns. Engage with people and find ways to send regular, but not too frequent updates, information, tips and offers. The trick is to offer something valuable to your prospects on a regular basis without expecting an immediate return -- don't just keep asking them to buy something, or you will turn them off.
Don't be desperate

Most people can spot desperation a mile off, just as they can spot insincerity. You have to really want to develop your relationship with your customers if you want to keep them loyal over the long term. Just don't always be in a hurry to make a sale -- it's not the way things work these days.
Be generous

Be generous with your knowledge and expertise as well is your resources when you're doing business online. Be generous with your competitors and forge a spirit of cooperation -- there is often a way you can work together and you know what they say -- you should keep your friends close but your enemies even closer! These days social networking ensures that everyone gets to know what's going on super quick, so don't getting risk negative press.

However, you do have to set boundaries, offline and online, or you risk giving too much away. Let customers ask for your advice, chat to groups, networks and forums for a few minutes, but don't let people take advantage of your generosity. It's fair enough to ask for an order if you feel you've been generous enough with your time and effort -- after all you are in business to make money! People will understand this, so there is no need to be overgenerous -- try to strike a balance.
Develop rapport

Before you start selling to your prospects, you have to develop rapport and one of the best ways to do this is simply be yourself. The problem with doing business online is that it is very impersonal, so you have to make an extra effort to show that you are a real person and that you are sincere. You can check whether people are responding to you by getting them to click through to your website for further free information or make them a generous special offer. Once you can get people to respond to you, you will know you have developed some sort of rapport with them and can start to think about offering products and services.
Use social proof

Old-style traditional businesses effectively use word-of-mouth recommendations to build their business and it's no different really with online businesses. These days you need testimonials and recommendations on your website, blog or on several of the social networking sites. Social proof, as it is now known, will do a great job of marketing your business for free. A good testimonial is a very valuable commodity and people these days are quite used to being asked for their opinion, so just ask your satisfied customers for a short write-up on what they think of your business and display them on your marketing materials.
Reach out

Don't be afraid to reach out and contact new people, new groups or even other industries. The scope of the Internet is truly enormous and there are literally millions of other people out there that are just an e-mail away -- people that could be pivotal to your success. In today's business climate there is more of a trend towards working together in joint ventures and with affiliates and so on, so embrace this in your own business and reach out to others -- you never know who could become your next big customer!