I was just 22 when I needed to meet with the heads of Government and the IT industry to seek funding for an industry development program I wanted to roll-out. With a little Dutch courage, I wrote letters to each and every person I wanted to meet with. There were Government Ministers, Heads of Telecommunications companies, IBM, Silicon Graphics and about 20 other top name companies in the IT sector.
I was scared and a little bit excited – all at the same time.
Here I was meeting with people that were successful in their perspective careers and there I was, a young girl who grew up in Charters Towers. The very first time I booked a meeting with a Government Minister, I was terrified that I wouldn’t have anything to say. Thankfully it was the Hon. Bruce Davidson, Minister for IT and Tourism, who was also the representative for Noosa. Within seconds, he noticed that I was a tad nervous, so he put me at ease with some kind words. One of his advisors had recognised me as they grew up in my home town, which also was very helpful to break the ice. A huge sigh of relief. In the end, I walked out of the meeting $60k richer in funding and a new found confidence that I never knew I had.
Another time I was tested which made sense because I was certainly prey to these men who at the time I thought were my Father and Grandfather’s age. I was young and highly ambitious with an awful lot to learn. Anyway, I booked a meeting to get some funding from Silicon Graphics and met with their Queensland General Manager, Mal Walker. It was moment that even now, we both remember. I sat down all dressed up in my suit (probably from Country Road in those days) and gave him my spiel. He didn’t listen to a word I said or at least didn’t seem too interested. I had already sent him the proposal for sponsorship yet he wasn’t too interested in talking about the sponsorship. He said to me, “so you’re in sales”. I was horrified! “No, not in sales, in marketing” I replied. “That means you are in sales”. “No, marketing”. “What’s the difference between sales and marketing?” “Marketing provides the forum for sales to occur” “So, you sell” “No!”.
I was rattled – big time! Here was this intimidating figure who I was trying very hard to impress and he was telling me that I was in sales when at the time, I saw this as a dirty word. I did marketing – I wrote marketing strategies, did public relations, events, advertising, branding – you name it, I did it. But to do it, I needed funding. There lied the confusion.
In the end, the meeting was successful and they signed up as did everyone else I saw. My confidence grew after every single meeting I had.
When I started my own business at 25, I decided that the setting of appointments with key people would be part of what I offered my clients. Many of the small businesses and large corporates that I worked with were keen to meet with Government Ministers and key decision makers. All it took was a letter, an email and a follow up call. Most people where happy to give someone 30 minutes of their time.
I haven’t used this technique for quite some time, but given that it is a new year, I am keen to re-establish key industry relationships and work closer with potential alliance partners.
So, I sent a letter to the Minister for Small Business in Victoria for a meeting. He passed it on to his Executive Director who is now meeting with me tomorrow.
We have something unique to offer. We can help Victorian businesses grow and we are happy to give our services away for 12 months with no margin. Who else if going to offer this to small businesses in Victoria?
I will keep you posted on how I go.
Wish me luck!