I took my seven-year-old daughter with me to a vendor event that changed everything. She taught me these business lessons that had a resounding impact on me.
But before we go there, let’s talk about the one before that. It’s winter. It takes some effort to load up my husband’s old car with my goods to sell. It’s cold and his trunk is dirty and heavy. I load it up alone and drive through the gray to yet another event that is sure to fail. Sure not to meet anyone new. Sure not to sell anything. Sure to be a waste of my time.
That was the narrative that circled around my brain during the drive. I downed some coffee hoping the caffeine would offer a reprieve from this mood, to no avail. My bad attitude and I sat behind the table at the event and sold nothing and met no one. Not so much of a spoiler – I’m sure you saw that one coming.
So, the next time I brought my daughter along. Maybe in some revisionist history, I could tell you it was on purpose with some brilliant insight into her ability to turn my attitude around. Most parents would tell you, however, that when childcare cancels last minute, that is a recipe for disaster and a bad attitude, not the opposite.
On this drive, I still downed the coffee, while I explained to her what to expect. It might not be fun, but it was work, and it was really important to me.
Lesson No. 1: Make the Ask
She quickly completed all the activities she brought to entertain herself and was bored. Like ten minutes in. So, I let her walk around the event and check out the other booths. She came back with a wishlist a mile long from the other vendors and artisans. “Well,” I said, “you can keep the money from anything you sell and shop after we are done.”
If she knew what the lotto was, you would have thought I told her she won! She got right to work – picking up my business cards and brochures and handing them out to everyone that walked by. She asked each of them if they had heard of our brand and invited them to come and look.
She did not take no for an answer. She asked people all sorts of questions until she hit on a topic that intrigued them to come to look at our items for sale. Whenever someone walked by without responding, and she was incredulous!! “Hey! Don’t you know college is expensive!” she’d yell after them as they walked away.
Not only were her antics entertaining, but they were also effective. She was persistent. She was knowledgeable about our products and our mission (that we send women to college with the sale of our products) and she knew how to connect these two things to the customer’s potential needs. She has no business training. It’s just natural conversation, and she’s seven and had nothing to lose.
So, make the ask. Ask twice. Ask three times. Ask as many times as it takes.
Lesson No. 2: Don’t Worry About the Outcome
Do you know the saying, little people, little problems; big people, big problems? It applies to more than just soothing your toddler parenting woes. In the case of the seven-year-old-does-sales, her positive attitude and ability to focus came precisely from her lack of big picture worries. Unfussed by putting food on the table, global poverty, or what the 76 strangers thought of her, she was able to concentrate solely on the task at hand.
Don’t get me wrong – she was certainly motivated by earning money, but she was not so consumed by it that she couldn’t get the job done. Developing an ability to move forward despite the outcome is essential to business success. By all means, analyze data, consider the end goal and pivot when you need to, but don’t let the ends justify your descent into fret and inaction.
Lesson No. 3: Be Honest and Ask Questions without Shame
Nothing like a seven-year-old who doesn’t mind running around naked or singing weird made-up songs to prove that there’s no place for shame in business.
She told everyone about the things she wanted to buy with her earnings. She also told them about where it was made, who made it and why. She shared personal stories that were completely unrelated to our products, but charmed people anyway. She asked why they didn’t want to buy something. She asked that a lot actually. She was not worried in the least about her image because she had a job to do, and she took it seriously.
Truthfully, some of these questions sound better coming from a seven-year-old than an adult with a little more social grace. But perhaps this social training is what’s holding some of us back. A sales relationship is not the same as a friendship or an acquaintance at a party. The conversation should look different, and it’s our job as the business owner to drive the bus where we want it to go.
Good Attitude, Good Results
Ultimately, she earned enough money to purchase the items on her list, as well as a gift for her siblings. She went home tired, but proud of her day’s work. I thought a lot about our experience on the drive home, reflecting on how different the past two weekends of events were. In both cases, the outcome reflected the attitude going in. Approaching a task with positivity, clarity of vision, and less fear, we were able to surpass our goals and have fun doing it. Lessons I will truly carry with me as I begin a new year as an entrepreneur.