People who know Chris O’Riordan, MD of Firestarter well are aware that outside of work his great passion actually is playing the trumpet. It’s something he’s been doing since the age of seven, is actually pretty good at it and historically has been in high-demand as a “top-of-the-range” amateur musician. But, we hear you ask, “What’s that got to do with business success?”
Well, as Chris explains below, ‘blowing his own trumpet’ has quite literally led to some unexpected business opportunities.
More importantly, it highlights some of the key lessons and habits that should be central to your attitude to business development and networking to drive sales success.
As Chris takes up the story, “In 1997, I moved to Cheltenham for a job and, in my spare time, quickly started to pursue my musical interests in what was my new “home town”. After a few months the phone never stopped ringing: “Can you do this gig?”, “Can you do that gig?”, “Are you free next Saturday to play in this?”.
It was flattering, but quickly became too much so I started to say “no” (a lot). My “go-to” response became: “No, sorry, I’m not free, but why not try Bob Jones?”. In a parallel lesson for business development, the outcome of me repeatedly saying “no” was that people reasonably quickly stopped asking and the phone stopped ringing.
The lesson here: “be careful what you wish for!”.
At the time though, I was reasonably okay with this as my career had gone into overdrive, we had a young family and trumpet playing could not be my primary focus.
Jump forward 15 years to 2012 – the early days of the Firestarter business – to one Tuesday night when the phone rang at about 9pm.
“Hello Chris,” said the caller, “this is Terry*, do you remember me? I play in an orchestra 20 miles from Cheltenham and we’ve been let down by our first trumpet player for a big concert on Saturday. We’re desperate. Will you do it?”
In an uncharacteristic moment of “why the hell not?” I found myself saying “yes”!
This “yes” turns out to have been a rather good decision!
What actually happened on that day demonstrates, beyond doubt, the power of, what I call “daisy-chaining”.
Building connections that lead to opportunity after opportunity!
I went to the rehearsal on the Saturday afternoon and as it finished met up with Terry to hop in his car to go back to his house. As we set off to the car, Terry suddenly announced “Chris, this is Malcolm. He’s coming back to ours too!”.
Malcolm and I made small talk for a while, but then inevitably moved onto the topic of “what do you do for a living?”. It turned out that Malcolm ran a business and this sequence below is the total truth of where that simple conversation led.
- Malcolm and I realised that Firestarter could probably help him with his business. Two months later we started working together. This lasted around 18 months.
- Malcolm shared an office building with another business who after a while of seeing Firestarter visiting Malcolm got intrigued and decided they wanted to work with us. This relationship has lasted over 5 years.
- The boss of this company (let’s call her Charlotte) has become one of our biggest advocates. She has directly introduced us to 3 clients and acted as a case study reference site for another 5; helping us close those deals.
- As a result of the deals that Charlotte has helped us secure, another key advocate has emerged (let’s call her Susan). Susan has introduced us to 2 new clients.
- All of these clients (10 in total) continue to recommend us to new opportunities on a regular basis.
So, the critical point is this…….
When I add up the revenue generated from this single event – agreeing to blow my trumpet on that Saturday night in 2012 – the sum total is, to date, in excess of £500,000 (and still growing); not including the £35 I picked up for doing the gig!”
So, as this story illustrates, “you really do never know where the next opportunity will come from.”
However, when it does you just need to make sure that you’re well prepared – make sure that whatever you say and whenever you say it, you invite potential targets to be intrigued and interested in what you do, then trust that the rest will come good.
If you do enough of it and sustain the discipline of follow-up, the snow-ball effect really should pay dividends. It’s often not the first person you meet who ends up spending money with you, but you never can tell what a conversation will lead to.
* The names have been changed to protect the innocent!
For more information on the fundamentals of business development, effective habits and the impact of Firestarter, click here for our sales performance guide on the 5 Lessons from Successful Sales People.