I spent much of my childhood trying to persuade my father to give up smoking. Things reached a climax when I miscalculated a small explosive charge I’d inserted into one of his Gauloises and pitted his face with tobacco strands. Fortunately he was too startled to be angry.
But I was amazed when my former colleague Naomi Gillies showed me the sales secret of smokers. Naomi was a fellow member of the team at Level39. While we worked together, our sales grew by 70% and Naomi was reliably a source of leads and insights that none of the rest of the team was identifying. I was curious how she knew so much that the rest of us didn’t know.
Naomi (who is now based Australia and New Zealand and ready to bring her awesome business development skills to bear for local organisations that “get” the power of ecosystem) is a thoughtful and emotionally intelligent person, always curious about others and attentive to what connections and resources will help them. She knew everyone in Level39 and everyone knew her. But she also knew a wide range of people the rest of us did not – because she was a smoker.
Routinely popping out for a cigarette, Naomi was meeting people in dozens of organisations around Canary Wharf. People at all levels of seniority and responsibility and with every kind of professional expertise. Sheltering from the rain and wind for a few minutes, sharing the ostracism of the smoker, Naomi was picking up clients and spreading the word through new channels, and she was picking up broader market and community intelligence too.
Do you have to be a smoker to develop this kind of alternative channel? Possibly not. Faith groups, sports clubs, hobbies and volunteering activities can all bring diversity to your network and spread your sales messaging, but few of them have the same “conspiratorial” power of the bands of smokers huddled and puffing outside your prospects’ offices.
PS – Naomi has given up smoking now, but she continues to build relationships with her unique combination of talents and energy, and if you’re building communities in Australia and New Zealand, you should get in touch – she is a breath of fresh air!