It's easier to sell to existing customers than to acquire new ones, so it's good sense to keep the customers you've already got.

Here are some simple rules to ensure that customers continue to come back for more.

DO put connection before content.  Clients don’t want you to sell to them; they want you to genuinely care about them. Take the time to build a personal connection before you start talking business.

DON'T badmouth the competition.  Only people who are insecure try to build themselves up at the expense of others. Show your competitors the same respect you'd want if the positions were reversed.

DO focus on individuals, not companies.  You may be selling to an organization, but you’re doing it through an individual.  Remember: ABC Inc. is not going to buy your offering; but Joe might.

DON'T give a sales pitch.  Pitches are a great way to shut people down and pigeonhole you as a hustler.  Even when speaking to a group, make the interchange a conversation, not a lecture.

DO engage with customers as equals.  The client conversation should contain a feeling of mutuality rather than talking down to or being subservient to your clients.

DON'T attempt an "end run."  Bypassing a client or customer contact who is ambivalent or hostile will create an enemy for life. That person will constantly work against you ... from the inside. You don't want that.

DO keep the conversation mutual.  Your goal is to earn your client’s trust by connecting with them, thereby creating a sense of safety.  You can’t do that if you’re yakking away.

DON'T pull your punches.  Never be afraid to tell clients what they need to know if you feel they might be making a mistake–especially if that mistake involves buying your product.

DO be willing to play “little league.”  Even if you know there’s a huge (i.e. big league) opportunity, shove your own agenda aside and focus on whatever game this client wants to play right now.

DON'T play negotiation games. That stuff you read in the "How to Negotiate" books?  Forget it. You're trying to forge a relationship, not win a zero-sum competition.

DO self-disclose when appropriate.  Human beings buy from human beings.  Rather than talking purely business, it's OK to occasionally bring up family, hobbies, or whatever will be of real interest to you and your clients.

DON'T mistake apathy for loyalty.  The surest sign that a client is about to switch to another vendor is a lack of enthusiasm for you and your offering.

This above is loosely based on a conversation with Susan Scott, author of the best-sellers Fierce Conversations and Fierce Leadership. If you found this column helpful, click one of the "like" buttons or sign up for the free Sales Source "insider" newsletter.