You’re in an elite group of young people who have goals, ambition, and wisdom beyond their years. Those are great assets, don’t get me wrong, but have you ever had trouble being taken seriously because of your age? Unfortunately it happens to all of us at least once-especially when just starting out.
First I want to thank Ben for the opportunity to guest post. This is my first time to guest post, but we all have to start somewhere, right?
These are all tips that have helped (and still help) me along the way as I move closer to my entrepreneurial goals. I hope that you all will find my no-nonsense advice helpful because I’ve been where you are right now. Like Ben, I also sold on eBay at 16 and did pretty well, although I never considered it an official business. I started my own formal business at 22 and never looked back.
Below are 10 tips that every young entrepreneur should know because it will help you gain credibility, authority, and will generally power you as a business owner, so embrace them! This post is written with the assumption that you are already an entrepreneur, already have a business plan, financing, etc. If not, make that happen!
1.Be willing to tell someone about what you’re doing
Yes, shy people can be entrepreneurs, but if you struggle to ask someone to help spread the word or have difficulty sharing information about your business then how will people know you’ve got a new business in the first place?
Never let your youth hold you back from telling people about your company when appropriate. Remember that your age is both an asset and (can be) a hindrance so if you screw up at first just learn from your mistakes. We all gotta start somewhere!
2. Listen to what people say
Ask potential clients/customers questions about themselves and be sincere. The key to any industry is about relationships with your end consumer. People need to know that you care and they’ll remember you and your business. I am not in a traditional sales business but one of my favorite books is Jeffery Gitomer’sLittle Red Book of Sellingbecause it teaches you how to do just that- listen and build relationships.
3. Never bombard people with your business
This can be extremely difficult if you’re really excited about what you do, but see #2 above. You will learn so much more about your target market if you let them open up to you and then address their needs with your product or service. As guru Jeffrey Gitomer says, “People hate to be sold but they love to buy.” (especially if they like you!) Again- pick up any of Jeffrey Gitomer’s “Little book of” books. These are all extremely helpful and he actually answers his personal email! (but save yourself some cash and get them at Amazon or Half.com of course!)
4. Get used to hearing “no thanks” and “not interested”
No matter how perfect your service or product is there are really some people out there who have no interest in your company or what you offer and that’s okay-no amount of salesmanship will change their mind. You will hear no more than once. Thank them and move on because if you offer something amazing there will be other people who realize it and they will want to buy from you.
5. Dress professionally when on the job or looking for new business:
This may seem like a no-brainer but trust me, last week I saw young women being interviewed to get into pharmacy school who were wearing leggings and men who were sporting that popular half-shaven look. First impression is huge for young entrepreneurs like you and me because we want to be taken seriously… So don’t give anyone any reason discredit you because of your outfit. TomJames.com has very tasteful collections that will give you a guideline of what looks professional, regardless of your age.
6. Learn how to speak more effectively without the “ums and uhs”:
Talk to your cat. Give a pretend presentation to the mirror. Whatever it takes to get comfortable with your business, do it. Toastmasters is an excellent cost effective organization that will help you stop speaking ineffectively. They welcome younger guests, too- locate your nearest chapter and ask if you can sit in on a meeting. They last about an hour and will give you a great idea of how to speak effectively and maturely.
For those of you in high school consider joining a business related service group. Ask your counselor or teachers for more details. FCCLA (Family Career, and Community Leaders of America) and FBLA (Future Business Leader of America) are excellent groups to get involved with.
7. Realize success will not happen overnight:
It probably will not happen for the first 4-5 months. But stick with it – if you quit then it will never happen for you. Famous Failures-all of these people ended up making lasting impressions on their field and our world- did you know they are famous “failures”? They all failed miserably and some were even told they’d never make it- yet they did and we know recognize each of their names. If you’re on to something never ever quit.
8. Be creative to get your name and company out there:
Start a blog. Do some posts about your business. Join a local community service group. Volunteer under your company’s name, etc. The Social Tee offers custom social media shirts (like follow me on twitter, etc) I haven’t gotten a price quote yet but I’ve heard they offer competitive pricing.Read anything you can get your hands along the lines of marketing, success strategies, and how to effectively use social media. Again, some of my favorites are anything by Jeffrey Gitomer and Mashable’s small business section.
9. Ask for their business:
This can be difficult for even the most outgoing people to do, but an effective salesperson will ask for the customer’s business (Did you realize you are salesperson since you’re promoting your company?). I still find it difficult to remember to ask for business-especially if the chemistry is great between someone I’m talking to. Just because you click with them doesn’t mean they’ll be your customer. Here’s a great article on Microsoft’s forums about how to ask for a customer’s business, for referrals, and for return business.
10.It is all about networking:
Everyone knows someone who knows someone who can use your services-just ask Feel like you’re too young to talk to adult professionals? Ask your parents or your friend’s parents if they know anyone who is looking for your services. It is about who you know, and who they know. So get out there and shake some hands and talk to the right people-(the ones who can be future clients or can refer future clients) If you have a game plan and can effectively express yourself and what your company does adult professionals will stop seeing your young age and start treating you as a peer because you will have demonstrated that you are on the same level with them.