People who know me well are aware that outside of work my great passion actually is playing the trumpet. As my father said to me 30 years ago, in many ways it is what defines me as a person! It’s something I have been doing since I was seven; I’m actually pretty good at it and historically have been in high-demand as a “top-of-the-range” amateur musician.
It amuses me therefore whenever I hear the expression “I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet but……” because this is precisely what I thoroughly love doing in a huge range of musical settings and as I describe below, it has given me some huge business success!
I did of course realise that as my career took off in my twenties and thirties, trumpet-playing would have to take a back seat, but the tale below will, I hope, make you realise how “blowing your own trumpet” or at least “never stopping to think where opportunity may present itself” should be central to your attitude to business development and networking!
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”. It did, indeed, transpire that people thought I was a semi-decent trumpet player (I definitely was in those days) and after a few months the phone (for that was the communication method that people still used in 1997) 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?”. Bob is a similarly versatile player that I had met – although I know he soon started to say “no” too. In a parallel lesson for business development, the outcome of me repeatedly saying “no” (and Bob 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 – the early days of the Firestarter business – to one Tuesday night when (unusually in the new age of “no-one ringing anyone anymore”) the phone went 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?”
I was very busy at work (and in “life”) so everything in my pre-programmed modus-operandi was telling me to say “no”, but 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!
Terry, of course was delighted. He told me that I would be paid £35 for my trouble and that, as he and his wife Sandra (who I knew slightly better) lived only five minutes from the concert venue, I could come to the afternoon rehearsal on the day of the concert, go back to their place, eat with them, change into my concert gear and go back to the venue for the gig.
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 to eat too!”.
Malcolm and I made small talk in the car and then found, once we got back to Terry’s, that we were left alone at the kitchen table whilst Terry and Sandra saw to the meal. It was this moment that kicked off a rather surprising chain of events!
Having exhausted most areas of “small talk” Malcolm and I inevitably moved onto the topic of “what do you do for a living?”. After not too much talking 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 £450,000 (and still growing); not including the £35 I picked up for doing the gig!
I accept that as well as being a half-decent trumpet player, I am a pretty decent business developer, but, as a very wise man I know often tells me “you really do never know where the opportunity will come from.” You just need to blow your own trumpet a bit more, make sure that whatever you say, whenever you say it invites potential targets to be intrigued and interested in what you do and trust that the rest will come good. If you do enough of it, 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.
And finally, by the way, you may want to know that I met Terry for the first time when I got lost on a hill in France. So even that proves how every conversation and every impression can count later down the line. Happy trumpeting and happy networking!
For more information on the fundamentals of business development, effective habits and the impact of Firestarter, click here for our white paper on the Seven Steps to Sales Success.
Note: all names have been changed in this story to protect the innocent! Thanks to Terry, Malcolm, Charlotte and Susan for proving a very useful lesson!