In a recent article on LinkedIn Pulse I explored the concept of what I call a ‘rainmaker’. The article received lots of views and some really interesting comments. Here you can find a summarised version with the key points or you can head over to LinkedIn to read the article and comments in full.
Recently two owners of a young start-up approached me for help. They were struggling; seriously struggling. These guys had tried to think of every eventuality with regard to their business, but the one thing they had not given sufficient thought was how they would sell this new service they were offering to the marketplace. Or rather, indeed, who would sell it.
For the record, this isn’t a problem that only applies to start-ups. I have seen many the mature business struggle for exactly the same reason.
These business owners who approached me had fallen into the trap, like so many others, of assuming that the service would sell itself. As such, they assumed that they could manage this aspect of the business themselves. And here in my opinion was their main mistake. Their skillsets were not that aligned with the traits of what I call a “rainmaker”. A rainmaker is someone who is uniquely skilled at driving new business/sales. So, here we had a business that was set up correctly, where the owners had done almost everything right, but there was just this one problem: there were no sales coming in. They did not have their rainmaker.
Those of you reading this who have been fortunate enough to work with a great rainmaker will understand when I say they are very rare. My great mentor Lionel told me that in fact when you come across a rainmaker often in fact you will not actually like them, because their characters can be very challenging. But if/when you do find one you need to hold onto them as they are most likely to make a significant difference to the success of your company.
Be aware, they may well not be able to undertake any other role in the company, they are often the type who don’t like to follow processes, they may make awful managers, they will most likely drive you crazy; but they do this one thing – and one thing better than anyone else – and that is drive new business.
In terms of seeking to hire a rainmaker it is challenging to define the traits to look for because they are so rare, but what follows are some characteristics that you might recognise, or want to look out for:
They are individuals who do not respond well to being confined to the office – they like being out and about meeting new prospects.
They don’t like being restricted by company protocol.
Highly competitive is an understatement – they want to out-sell anyone else not just within the team, not just within the business, but within the industry.
Coming second is not an option.
Very little is off-limits in their quest to win a sale.
While they can be difficult to work with, and may drive you crazy, they have a charisma that makes people like them.
This is one of the main differences from your ordinary salesperson – prospects genuinely take to them and want to do business with them.
They are extremely perceptive, particularly at reading their prospective customers – and once they’ve seen a ‘want-to-buy’ signal they seldom let go.
Don’t expect them to manage the administration of their sales well – they just want to get onto the next prospect (unsurprisingly other colleagues, especially admin staff, can find them frustrating).
They don’t like negativity or negative people around them – it sucks the energy from them, and they will avoid negativity wherever they can.
They are typically very well connected – friends become prospects and prospects become friends in their expansive network.
They like to do business at lunches, dinners and events – don’t be surprised if they run over your client entertainment budget.
They tend to be able to talk their way out of any situation/have an answer for everything.
While they are usually highly intelligent they can make total nonsense sound like the truth if needs must.
They are loyal, but only to a degree – ultimately they know who the number one priority is.
I’ve been exceedingly fortunate to work with three great rainmakers during my time in business. One of them almost singularly kept a newspaper going against overwhelming competition. We were a small paper in the territory of a large (now huge) competitor, and wow did that annoy them. The battle went on for three plus years and the larger publisher simply could not fathom how each week we would come out with more sales than them. But really, at the bottom of it was this one person. Sure we had better product, but that wouldn’t really have mattered much against their might. However, what they did not have was a rainmaker. Whereas we did. And one of the best. Moreover, not only was he one the very best, he had built a team of other great sales people. Ultimately the competitor ended up closing their paper. They never did understand why we beat them every week. They believed money and size was sufficient to win, but they were wrong.
Not in all companies will it be as easy to see the impact of a rainmaker as in the example above, and every enterprise is different obviously. But when you consider your company’s needs, I believe you’ll be able to see where this role is – or is lacking – in your business. Then you can ask yourself: Are you in need of this person? Or if you have someone in this role, how are they performing? And if your company is struggling, or even just underperforming, could this be a key factor?
If they answer is yes then you need to find your rainmaker. Now not to be disheartening, I do have to let you know that this will not be easy. As I mentioned before I have only found three rainmakers in 40 years. But find one you must, and when you do you won’t believe the difference it will make to your business.
So whether you are a start-up, or heading up a mature business, give some thought to your rainmaker. Occasionally a product/service can sell itself, but particularly if you are competing in a tough market place then the rainmaker will most likely make all the difference.
If you could use some help getting the most out of your staff and developing your company why not contact me for a free discovery session to see if I’m a good fit to help you and your business.