By Solomon Thimothy, founder of Clickx

When I first became an entrepreneur, I thought drive was all I needed. I was ready to put in the time to be successful -- but I quickly found it wasn’t enough. While being dedicated to my work was important, I needed strong connections with the right people in order to truly advance my career. This meant becoming a successful salesperson of myself

At first, selling yourself may feel uncomfortable. However, when you’re able to successfully sell your skills and ideas, your business will start to take off. Persuasion is a skill every entrepreneur needs to have. Why?

When talking about persuasion as an entrepreneur, I’m not talking about how to coerce people into buying your products or investing in your company. Instead, I look at persuasion as an interpersonal skill -- something that helps you connect with the people around you. People who are persuasive are influential. They’re respected, well-liked and able to talk about their accomplishments, goals and ideas in a way that gets those around them excited and passionate as well.

In other words, successful entrepreneurs need to be persuasive. A persuasive entrepreneur is not only able to convince customers to buy, but also to create a strong network of connections excited about helping their organization or idea grow.

Unfortunately, persuasion isn’t a skill most people can develop overnight. When persuasion is used incorrectly, it can come across insincere or gimmicky -- making it more difficult to create genuine connections. But with the right approach and practice, any entrepreneur can become more persuasive. Here are the steps I took to boost my persuasion skills.

1. Know your audience.

In order to make a strong connection, you first need to know who you’re trying to connect with. As an entrepreneur, you can’t be everything to everyone -- and you’ll fail if you try to be. Instead, identify who your audience is. Know who would be most interested in your ideas, your brand and what you offer and focus on building strong connections with them.

2. Have multiple messages.

While your audience may be similar, they will typically respond to different talking points and ideas. Having a one-size-fits-all approach to sharing your message can hurt you. So, create different messages you can use to persuade your audience. This may include focusing on different benefits and using different formats, such as written, verbal or demonstrations, to get your point across.

3. Sell your skills -- without bragging.

It’s difficult to talk about your expertise or skills without sounding like you’re bragging. However, it’s crucial for entrepreneurs to find the right balance. Focus on establishing a relationship with your audience first. Remember, your skills should benefit your audience -- not show off what you’ve accomplished. You’re not the hero of this story.

4. Listen first.

Successful persuasion happens when you’re able to provide a solution to a real problem or need. This means you need to listen to your audience to better understand what they’re looking for and how you can help. Pay close attention to what your audience is saying or asking. Then, present the best solution possible to show exactly how you can help solve their problem.

5. Be confident.

If you’re not confident in yourself or your business ideas, you’ll never persuade those around you to get excited. When it comes to making strong connections and encouraging customers or partners to buy or get involved, confidence is key. In the beginning, your confidence may seem shaky. However, if you truly believe in your business or ideas, you can passionately talk about them in a way that feels contagious.

No matter your industry or expertise, successful entrepreneurs need to be strong salespeople. If you’re unable to convince your audience to support or invest in your ideas, business or offerings, your career as an entrepreneur won’t last long.

My persuasion skills helped me grow my business, as well as become a more successful business person. By connecting with my audience, understanding the unique problems I can solve and finding the right way to confidently sell myself, I’ve reached goal after goal.

And you can, too. Use these five tips to become more persuasive, but also look for unique ways to improve your confidence and establish deeper connections with your network.

Solomon Thimothy is the founder of Clickx, a marketing intelligence platform that helps businesses and agencies with marketing attribution.

Published on: Feb 6, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.