After ten years of owning a business, I’ve come to appreciate the value of networking, but I can understand why many business owners hate it. Going to events and talking to strangers can be exhausting and feel like a waste of time. Regardless, having the ability to network is invaluable to a company.

As any business continues to grow, the CEO will naturally transition to the role of maintaining current relationships with vendors and seeking out new partnerships with other companies. That includes attending various events and conferences with the sole purpose of building relationships.

Talking to strangers comes naturally to me, but not everyone is an extrovert. However, a person doesn’t have to be outgoing to succeed at networking. It is possible to develop business relationships by being authentic, a good listener, and patient.

Here are some strategies for anyone looking to improve their skills and maximize their time networking.

Cultivating relationships through networking

One of the big reasons business owners and other executives have difficulty networking is because of the time it takes. Going out of your way to meet strangers at conferences after traveling, who has the time? For networking to pay off it does take commitment, but it’s a worthwhile investment for anyone who owns a business.

Whenever our company goes to trade shows or conferences; I spend a lot of time socializing at the after party, even though I don’t drink. The reason being it is the ideal location to have honest conversations. Although it’s not a traditional sales environment, it is superior in several ways.

Networking is a chance to get to know another person before selling them your product or service. Lack of trust is a barrier to sales. Planting small seeds of trust is the first step in building a lasting relationship down the road.

Talking with someone about their life often leads to what they do for a living, when I’m listening to what their problems are, I can offer a solution. The point of networking is to plant those seeds and build a relationship over time. This gives people a chance to know who you are and develop trust. Without trust, the only reason anyone would want to work with a business is that their pain is so great and they have no other alternative.

Developing strong networking skills

A couple of networking basics involve having strong observational skills  and speaking to others with respect. One of the worst habits I’ve seen from other executives is a lack of empathy and treating others as a waste of time.

This is an arrogant approach to networking and is not a good look for CEOs. It creates barriers between you and others and any potential goal you may be trying to achieve. I recommend a friendly approach that focuses on the other person.

Everyone has their own way of presenting themselves when networking. CEOs need to be mindful of their image because they are often the first impression of their business. There are only three types of first impressions; positive, negative, or no impression at all.

It’s clear the best option is to create a positive first impression when networking. However, it requires the person doing the networking to have solid listening skills. A truly gifted networker can be the most successful man in the world and still make the person they are speaking with feel exceptionally unique.

Some practical ways to leave a positive first impression involve asking people about their hobbies and what drives them. Networking is all about planting the seeds of a relationship and cultivating it over time through multiple interactions.

Those conversations might not end with a sale immediately; in fact, it might not lead to anything, at all. But planting seeds of trust and respect leaves a powerful impression. People will know and appreciate you’re investing time in them.

Some CEOs might want a short cut, but there is no other way. Either you invest time into a relationship or you don’t. Building a good rapport with someone takes time and work, and you cannot expect to build any meaningful relationship if you don’t put in the effort.

There have been countless times after someone was eagerly asking questions about a specific service that our company offers I was able to find solutions to alleviate their pain points. Because I listened, they opened up. Now they have asked me to sell my product to them.

Even if a networking event does not lead to an immediate sale, there is still a benefit in the long run. I have countless relationships that were built from past conversations that have said no to a sale, but referred other businesses or became resellers of our product.

Final thoughts on networking

As you can see, networking isn’t complicated and doesn’t require you to be an extrovert. It only takes good listening skills and the ability to share your experiences with others.

I hope you enjoyed this blog, I am passionate about helping business owners improve their networking game, but I’m interested in other topics as well. If you have a subject you want me to cover or leave me feedback on this blog, fill out the form on the left sidebar. I love hearing from other entrepreneurs and business owners.