“He checked you out as we left. We definitely got the sale!” These words were actually said to me after my very first sales presentation with my former boss. New to the job, I found it best to not show my disgust. However, this told me a few things:
- My boss was a jerk.
- In my boss’s eyes, the fact that the prospect checked me out after the presentation was the only reason we got the sale.
- My performance meant nothing as long as the prospect found me attractive.
I felt as though my worth was in how I looked but not how smart I was or how talented I was. The more I told this story to other women, the more I kept hearing similar stories.
This example and many other reasons are why I no longer work for that man, but I couldn’t help but wonder: Why do young women in business and sales get objectified and made to feel that their bodies and looks are the only reasons they have any success?
As young women in business, it is common to feel that we have so much working against us … when in fact, we have so much working for us. We feel as though we have to work extra to establish our credibility in order to be seen as a consultative professional ready to conduct serious business.
Often what is working against us is our own self confidence or lack thereof. Here are five ways to boost your self confidence and establish credibility as a young business woman.
1. Don’t Let Anyone Make Your Age a Factor
Before one of the largest presentations of my career, I was co-presenting with a fellow colleague from a different business unit. Right before we walked in, she asked how old I was, and when I told her, she repeatedly laughed and said “You’re my son’s age!” She also made sure to tell me about how much millennials suck …. anyway, moving on.
Don’t let things like this bother you. The audience for that presentation were all about 40 years older than me. I went into that room thinking that no one would take me seriously. Midway through speaking I realized, “No! I know my stuff; that’s why I’m here.” I raised my shoulders gave, my pitch with confidence, and nailed it. Several members of the panel told me they were very impressed and, “Great job.”
After the presentation, my colleague complimented me and said she was very impressed with my performance. This was a huge step for me to move past the judgments of being young. Whether we like it or not, we are young … for now. But just because we are young doesn’t mean we don’t know what we are doing. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Know Your Product
This is a big one. No one will take you seriously if you don’t know your product or service inside and out. One of the best ways to learn is your first couple of failed sales calls. “That’s a great question, Sir, I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
We’ve all been there. Your clients want to know that this is not your first rodeo. Even if it is, fake it till you make it. Learn about the history of your company and examples of previous client successes, even if they weren’t yours.
Your clients will look to you to give them solutions to their problems, and when you don’t, they will call someone else who will. That someone else is your competitor who did their homework.
3. Establish Rapport
Sometimes, it’s painfully obvious to tell someone’s not taking you seriously. You can hunt someone down for weeks, months even, to finally land a meeting. Over phone and email, it’s hard for someone to tell your age, but once they see you, game over.
I’ve walked into several meetings to see the eye rolls and hear the old, “So what do you have for me today?” as if they can’t wait for me to stop talking before I’ve even started. I presented to a man once who did not make eye contact with me the entire meeting. He stared down and typed on his computer. I’ve learned to combat this by establishing rapport.
Whatever you do, don’t start talking about yourself! Talk about them. Look around their office; there will be something there that will give you insight into some things they care about — family, fishing, golf, cats. Find something and start asking questions.
This leads to an informal conversation to develop a relationship before you start talking about what you have to say. It is easier for your client to begin to trust you and take you seriously when you have some engaging conversation first.
4. Take Charge of the Conversation
This can be intimidating. Don’t be afraid to refocus an off-topic conversation. A mentor of mine shared a story about one of her first sales calls that took place in a strip club in the afternoon on a Tuesday. The prospects thought that by offering her, a young twenty-something year old woman, the chance to meet with them to close the deal at the local nudie bar that it would scare her away.
Instead, she marched into the strip club, refocused the conversation from cigars and strippers back to the contract, and she left with a closed deal. Don’t let prospects give you the runaround because you are a young female. Stand your ground and don’t let your precious time be wasted.
5. Be Passionate
Anything worth doing is done with passion. One of my first real jobs was working for a timeshare company that put guests up in a hotel on the beach for 100 bucks a weekend. The customers had to sit through a grueling timeshare presentation, and the hotels were 2-star at best.
Every sale I made was exciting, but I felt guilty continuing to sell for this company when every sale I made resulted in a poor review and an unhappy customer. Every call I made was forced, and there was no passion in my pitch. My prospects could tell that I was a miserable 18 year old who hated her job and my sales began to decline.
I now work for a company that provides contingent workforce solutions, and we bring value to our clients each and every day. I am much happier and find joy in talking about my company and our services, and it shows in my pitch. If you are not excited about what you are pitching, your clients won’t be either, and your credibility is lost.
Being a young business woman is tough. It seems that every time you click an article there’s a baby boomer bashing us millennials in one way or another. Giving your confidence a boost will naturally increase your credibility as a consultative business partner.
What other ways can you establish credibility with clients?
About the Author
Miranda Rios is a freelance writer, Human Resources and Sales professional living in Jacksonville Beach, FL.