While many businesses are focusing on sales, we should be playing the relationship game to find success with clients by networking. We need to have connections with human beings and build a network of strong relationships to succeed in our business. 10 years ago, I worked with a company that sold websites. A problem I had with that work was that it often led to one time sales every 5 or so years.

One time sales will make you money, but they don’t allow you to build long lasting relationships with your clients. A strong relationship is better than one closed deal, because you gain a connection that can turn to you for many more deals over the following years. If you want to build a strong network with your clients, you need to make the connection feel like a relationship and not a transaction. Here are some methods I use to form a connection with a client:

Lead with your best idea

Many salespeople charge clients for their advice, establishing their relationship to the client as transactional only. With my clients, I like to lead with my best idea. I immediately supply the client with my best information, without expecting any reciprocation.

This creates a positive relationship with the client because they see that I genuinely want to help without gatekeeping my advice behind payments. When these people need help in the future, they will remember me as someone they can rely on. It may not happen overnight, but if you offer your best ideas to your clients, they will turn to you when they need you. You will become part of their network.

Listen to your client

Listening is far more important than talking. According to a Harvard study, those that listen 70% of the time and talk 30% build stronger connections. The people they interact with feel their thoughts and concerns are being acknowledged.

Salespeople teach us to talk about ourselves and what we do, but this does not build strong networks. Don’t assume you know what your client needs. Listen to them first, then give the best advice you can.

Make your client feel important

Everyone’s favourite topic is themselves, so always remember to keep your focus on the client and make them feel important. Ask the client to tell their story, and what you should know about them. One method I’ve used is creating a list of 15 people that I want to learn about, and tell the client that they’re on that list. This lets the client know that they are valuable to me, and that I’m genuinely interested in who they are.

This method is very effective, but remember to be sincere with your connections. If you say you’re creating a list, be sure to actually follow through. It’s also important that you don’t present yourself as a person who has all the answers, and won’t receive any input. This tells clients that you won’t listen to them and don’t value their opinions.

Networking and connecting with people is an important aspect of business that too many take for granted. If you’re struggling to build relationships with your clients, these three tips will help. No matter how big or small the company is, they are still people you can have conversations and build relationships with.

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Note: This article was created from a speech given by Jason Elkins, at a LevelUp conference presented on YouTube.

Jason Elkins previously worked in business development and web design, and now works with small businesses to help with their marketing. He is the founder and owner of 100 Cups Consulting, a business that coaches’ entrepreneurs, companies and brands on digital marketing.