What's it take to develop long-term customer relationships? How can you turn contacts into ongoing contracts? How can you convert current clients into continuing ones?

Those are critical questions, considering that increasing your repeat business by 40 percent can help you double your income in a year.

The best way to answer those questions is to put aside the binoculars you use to seek out new prospects. Reach instead for your microscope, so you can dissect your current client relationships and determine ways to expand those connections.

Your current clients are the ones who know, trust and value you. And they're the ones who can boost your bottom line over time. A repeat customer spends an average of 67 percent more than a new one.

No wonder the long-term value of each client is over 100 times the value of a single transaction. Consider, too, the cost of retaining an existing client is a mere 20 percent of what it costs to attract a new one.

Developing long-term relationships means adopting an in-it-for-the long-run attitude. That means focusing on the future, telling clients what to do next as well as what to do now.

It means providing ideas, suggestions and recommendations on what direction the initial project might take. It means discussing Phase II before finishing Phase I. It means sharing expertise about trends — what's hot and what's not, and what's in and what's out. And it means talking about challenges and problems confronting the client that go beyond that initial project.

Think about your client relationships. Are you getting as much repeat business as you could or should? If not, it's not your clients' fault. It's yours.

Maybe you're not fulfilling all of their needs and providing adequate customer service. Maybe you're not sharing enough of your expertise and insights on how they can achieve better outcomes through the use of your products and services.

Maybe you're not educating them about all that you do and can do, and all of the products that you offer.

And maybe you're not asking enough upselling questions, such as, "Would you like to protect your investment with our extended warranty?" There is enormous potential in posing questions about additional products and services. Think of fast food restaurants, which make thousands of extra dollars each year at the drive-through window by asking customers if they want to add fries or a drink to their order.

As you ponder those issues, ponder this: Many clients are as interested in forging lasting partnerships as you are. Perhaps more so.

They're looking for a professional they know and trust to handle their future challenges. They know it's less time-consuming and expensive to develop a lasting relationship with a single firm. It's in their best interest, as well as yours, to develop long-term relationships.

Think of your current clients as your best ones. The better you serve them now, the better your chances of serving them in the future and reaping the rewards that come with repeat business.