In the purest sense, a rainmaker is a difference maker. Maybe even a game changer. They are the individuals who ensure that the organisation they work for makes sales and succeeds. Such people usually come with big reputations for delivering results. However, business is littered with highly effective rainmakers who fail spectacularly when they change organisation and often this isn’t because they have suddenly become competent sun dancers! Often it is because the team that backed them up is no longer in place to allow them to make downpours happen. Therefore it is imperative that when hiring a rainmaker you have the right backup in place to support them. Of course, you also need to be sure you are really appointing somebody with rainmaking skills. it may be that the person portrayed as a rainmaker is just the face of a team and the real business generation talent exists in somebody else reporting to them! Rainmakers are, however, vital to financial services businesses.
Let me give you an example of an individual I worked with. My client a global consulting business asked me to find them a rainmaker consultant to head up a division which had always done well but not exceptionally so. They knew that a number of competitors within the same discipline were extracting significantly more fee income from the same business area and therefore they wanted to bring in a heavy hitting consultant who would open doors and win new clients. This is a great challenge for an executive search professional and I applied my own skill set to help my client poach an individual who was doing exceptionally well with a competitor. He was a star name and expectations were high. Twelve months into the role and the rainmaker in question had increased the business area’s performance but only by 10% whereas the person who had replaced him at his previous organisation had continued to grow their client portfolio.
So what was different you ask? Was it that the globally consulting form didn’t have a great offering in that area? Had the new rainmaker become lazy or incompetent overnight? Had the business overestimated the size of the market and how what share of that they could actually acquire?
So I asked a number of questions and found the following:
The rainmaker was seeing half as many people as they had been previously. When delving deeper and understanding why we found that the support network around them wasn’t as slick as it could be.
These were the problems:
- The marketing approach wasn’t tailored or specific enough to the potential clients therefore the leads coming into the business were small.
- There was no telemarketing support. Once the rainmaker had spoken with his list of contacts and set up meetings he was then out seeing potential clients. While he was doing this nobody was setting up new meetings for him. When he came back to the office he had to write proposals and come up with solutions which meant even less time for contacting prospects. Upon winning the work the rainmaker consultant then had to carry out the work with the client and again he had even less time for contacting new prospects. In no time at all the pipeline of new consulting opportunities dried up.
From the outside looking in the problems were obvious – the organisation had bought in some great talent but then failed to provide the necessary support to allow that talent to flourish. When we discussed this with the rainmaker and his manager, they suddenly realised the obvious flaws in the operating model. By changing the way they worked (without the addition of any extra staff) the rainmaker was suddenly back to his old self and the business started flooding in.
So what were the changes?
- The rainmaker spent 2 days with the PR & Marketing team explaining the business specialism and getting them to come up with a range of materials that were fit for purpose.
- When busy with work the rainmaker would use a telemarketing company to set appointments for him within a strict criteria so as not to waste his time speaking with unqualified leads.
- The rainmaker’s secretary was given responsibility for diary management as well as secretarial support and promoted to PA. This allowed his diary to be properly organised ensuring maximum productivity.
- Bureaucratic, short-term reporting constraints that drained the rainmaker’s time were relaxed.
Simple changes had a huge impact and turned what was going to be a disaster into a huge success. Therefore, when looking at the performance of your rainmakers or before hiring a new one, ensure that you have the right processes, systems and support staff in place to allow them to be a success. Remember – rainmakers have their reputations to think of, and if the operating structure impedes their work, they will be looking to a structure elsewhere which works better.