This goes back two years now; when I was starting out my career as a Researcher within the world of Academia.
I was soon promoted to an Analyst position; for which I felt I was way too young and under-qualified for. It was also an intrinsic fear of the realisation that with the promotion came the responsibility of having to lead meetings with potential Research investors.
A task I found quite tedious and intimidating; my job was to sit with potential clients to invest in grant money which would go towards Research that related to the Industry the business operated in — furthermore making sure the integrity of the research was maintained and in no way influenced by the ‘Investors’.
So every week, I’d get assigned a list of representatives and investors I had to conduct meetings with and a list of potential subjects of researchers and students associated with the subject.
My job was to maintain a level of secrecy and mediate the process — but most of all it was ensuring that we secured the funding.
My co-worker at the time was a lovely gentlemen much more qualified and experienced than I was; I couldn’t come to the understanding of why he didn’t have my position. He was older than I was and had worked there for a longer period; but also had the proper skill sets to secure funding.
He was humble enough to respect me and never doubted my superiority during a meeting. He would often make suggestions to me in a way that didn’t come off as if he was trying to let me know I’m doing something wrong.
I knew he was RIGHT. So one day right before we were scheduled to conduct a meeting with a potential investor and secure $ 1.8 Million. I took a leap of faith and confessed to him.
“You know, I really think you’re better than me at holding these meetings. And I have no idea why you don’t have my job. Because I hate talking to these people and have to explain every detail to them.”
He laughed in a humbling way and replied, “Oh that’s so simple. Your problem is you’re over thinking the scenario. These guys we sit across the table from; are just like us. It’s not THEIR money and half the time they don’t even know anything about the research. They’re just there to brag about the money that’s not even theirs to give. All you have to do is just Nod and Agree. And if you feel the need to say something just reply with, “Sure”.
I couldn’t wrap my head around what he was saying. Surely “SURE” could not be the answer to every questions these guys had. But he was certain he could get through a meeting without uttering more than three words in response, with the inclusion of the word “Sure”.
So I made him a wager; he’d conduct the meeting and I’ll let him lead.
And so came the time to meet the representative and just as we’re about to go meet him; he grabbed my arm and said “Just wait..let him breathe in that room for about two mins. We’re in no hurry.” To which I replied “Isn’t that rude?”.
He replied, “No..we were preoccupied and don’t have enough time for him so we ran a bit late.”
I could not believe what he was on about. So we waited, and while we did — I noticed him grabbing random pages from the draft box and choosing the pages with the most graphs on them at random and shoving them into an office file.
He looked at me at nodded, and said it was time to go in.
Here’s how this meeting went verbatim.
“Hello..so I just..”
“Yeah sorry we ran a bit rate. We’ve had a really busy day today. Our apologies to keep you waiting. So we hope to not take too much of your time to make up for it. I know you’ve probably got a busier schedule than ours”, he mumbled.
“Yes Sir, I do apologise to keep you waiting..”
“Oh I understand..I know how it can be sometimes. Now you may be aware I’m here to..”
“Yeah so..I understand you’re well versed with the subject of the research. But I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and formally start this meeting” As he clicks on the voice recorder and places it on the desk.
“Yes..umm; so the matter at hand is we understand there’s $ 1.8 Million that we’re willing to contribute to a research that could beneficial to the industry; and just our business in general.”
“Sure!”, as he shuffles pages through the random file.
“Umm..yeah so I mean obviously we’d like to see some plans and contingencies you have planned for us..you know..to make sure the money we’re putting towards..”
“Sure. Investment, Not Money.”
“Well yes so my point being I’d like to obviously see some convincing information before we dive into this project.” He glances at my colleague still shuffling through the file and turns his attention to me.
In a brave move of over-qualified confidence he closes the file and looks up to make direct eye contact with the gentleman and says, “Well Sure, Sir. It’s all in here.”
“Would you care to walk me through these plans then? In this file you seem so interested in.”
“Sure. I don’t mind. So you didn’t read the copy we sent you?”
My heart skips a beat and try to contain my facial expressions; as every nerve in my body tells me I might have a panic attack.
But within that moment my colleague unwilling to break eye-contact with the representative slides the file over to his side of the table.
The Representative looks at the file for a few seconds and looks back up at us and utters,
“Well..uhh. We did and I apologise but I might not have had the time to go through everything so..you know. I naturally thought it best I’d ask you guys directly.”
My. Colleague gasps grabs the file back and says:
“Sure. If you’d like us to.” Looks up back at him.
At this point the meeting room fell silent and the Representative became fidgety, he kept looking at us as if his eyes were doing a dance of who’s who.
He finally says, “Actually..you can just email me the summary and I’m sure we’ll be fine with that. I’ll have a better look at the file back the office.”
My. Colleague says with a winning smile:
“Sure that’d be great. Whatever’s convenient for you.”
I could not believe for the life of me what he’d just accomplished. As soon the meeting ended I wonder if he was Harry Houdini or a con-man.
He laughed and said to me, “That’s it. That’s all it takes. They don’t understand what the fuck we’re talking about. They just like to shuffle us around to get satisfaction for the money that isn’t their’s anyways. So next time just say ‘Sure’ and keep on going.”
I bowed my imaginary hat and confessed to him that he was better than me.
Shortly after I resigned because I realised it wasn’t for me. In hopes that he would progress to become a better Analyst and Closer; and wished him well.
I moved on in my life to a different profession, but never forgot the lesson he’d taught me.
All it takes is confidence and the word “SURE”.