5 Proven Tools for Developing Strong Relationships as an Entrepreneur

For entrepreneurs, powerful social skills are simply essential.

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By Jason Hennessey

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As a business owner, one of the most powerful resources you can build is a network. The stronger your relationships with people around you, both inside and outside of your field, the more opportunities you'll have.

Life becomes truly powerful when you understand this concept. Connections are what allow you to get anywhere in business. You can't navigate the world solo, and the stronger your net of relationships is, the easier life will become. They are your biggest piece of leverage.

When you meet someone new, there are two possible reasons for doing so: You need them to help change your life, or they need you to help change theirs. Those changes can be major or minor, but they are always important. Every interaction has the potential to have a lasting impact on either you or them. So, when it comes to building relationships, it's important to keep a sense of curiosity about the other person to determine how each of you may be able to assist the other. Then be as generous as you can with your time, resources and knowledge.

The benefits that come to you as a result of these efforts not be immediately apparent, but trust me: They pay back in multiple ways — perhaps soon, perhaps at some point in the more distant future. So, mentor generously, and give generously. Be curious about people… listen to them — all will make people remember you and say positive things about you.

Whether or not relationship-building comes naturally, just about everyone could learn to do it better. One trick to finding out how you can help each other is asking thoughtful questions. These are the foundation of communication and are the method through which you control a conversation and build connections.

When you meet someone new, here are a few things to keep in mind to ask excellent questions.

1. Express care to establish trust

To create any kind of connection, trust is necessary. You cannot have open communication without some level of it, and the key to establishing trust quickly is expressing care. That often means engaging in small talk, which plays an important function in relationship building: It gives us safe ground on which to learn about each other and helps determine whether we want to continue a discourse.

Communication, of course, requires an exchange of information, and it's important to do so with relatively equal sensitivity, and participation. If you give away something extremely personal too early on, for example, it can make a conversation partner uncomfortable. This can be applied the other way around, too: someone might divulge something personal early on to project vulnerability. Be careful when this happens, because without doing the groundwork of establishing trust, interconnections built too quickly easily fall apart.

Instead, find points you have in common and offer information that's personal, but not overly revealing. It's also important to express that you care about the other person's comfort by being nonjudgmental.

Related: If You Want Your Clients to Truly Value You, You Need to Be Their Trusted Advisor. Here's How.

2. Learn what's important to people, and what stands in their way

After you've established trust, things can begin to deepen. At this point, the best questions will help identify what's important to someone, including what their pain points or problems are. Ask about their goals, plans and perhaps (to a degree) about their personal life. Pay attention to displayed energy: What do they focus on? What makes their eyes light up or what do they go on about at length? By paying attention to verbal cues and body language, it's easier to grasp the essentials.

When you've identified what's important to someone and the problem they need to solve, you'll begin to see areas where you may be able to help, or how they may be able to help you. Remember, in this process, that you must offer something in exchange, and without overly drawing the conversation toward yourself. Perhaps what you can offer, for example, is simply information, and/or connecting them with someone in your network.

Related: How to Meet Customers At Their Pain Points

3. Embrace curiosity

There is always something you can learn from every person, and you'll gain the most out of every interaction by simply being curious. This requires a sense of humility, but by focusing on others rather than yourself, you'll build connections more quickly and learn more than you thought possible.

4. Keep asking questions, even when you think you know the responses

Oddly enough, people who think they have all the necessary information are often those who know the least. By continuously asking questions, even when you think you know the answers, you'll dig deeper into topics and find underlying motivations, problems and other factors at play in any situation. The takeaway will be arriving at solutions you never would have thought of otherwise.

When you learn what motivates someone, it gives you the unique power to steer a conversation more easily. While questions may focus the conversation on your partner, they also put you in the driver's seat — giving you the chance to steer the topics.

Related: The 4 Keys to Asking Better Questions

5. Give information and help generously

Through asking great questions, you'll be able to internalize the problems, interests and motivations of those around you, but don't stop there. Offer help whenever you can, and think of ways of connecting a new contact with other people in your network. By doing this consistently — being open, curious and generous — you'll become known as a helpful and kind individual, and people remember that.

Jason Hennessey

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Entrepreneur & CEO

Jason Hennessey is an entrepreneur, internationally-recognized SEO expert, author, speaker, podcast host and business coach. Since 2001, Jason has been reverse-engineering the Google algorithm as a self-taught student and practitioner of SEO and search marketing.

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