In my last rainmaker blog “How to ensure you get the best out of your Rainmakers.” I spoke in detail about ensuring you give your rainmakers the best tools to succeed. Ultimately business is littered with potentially effective rainmakers who still fail spectacularly because they don’t have the right tools to succeed. In this blog I want to look at the building blocks you can put in place to develop your own rainmakers as it is often more cost effective to develop your own existing talent than it is to hire an expensive individual (where you are paying for a previous  track record of success).

Most individuals working in business development would not describe themselves as rainmakers and more as sales people.  But in a world where most decision makers have “buyers’ fatigue” and hate being sold to, business development professionals and organisations have to adapt their approach. Rather than being sales people, the best rainmakers I have worked with have become “knowledge experts” and as such they pull buyers to them rather than pushing a message at potential clients.

So let’s tackle the first question everybody asks. Are rainmakers born or can they be trained? The answer is they all need to be trained to some degree and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, there will be some individuals who have a natural flair and talent for rainmaking and these individuals can be very successful. However, replicating this success time and again becomes difficult if you don’t know how or why you achieved success in the first place – or if you don’t have a repeatable (but flexible!) methodology you can apply. This is why hiring a successful rainmaker can be so difficult and if you go down this route, it can be wise to use an executive search consultant who knows the industry to help you navigate the pitfalls (such as appointing somebody who is attached to a good track record but, under inspection, not actually responsible for it).

So what should you train people in to develop them as rainmakers? Firstly most people who work in business development will tell you stories of courses they have been on – some good, many bad – but on the whole the course will be focused on the sale and ensuring you ask open questions and then close.  Such courses can be too simplistic and certainly not arm the rainmaker with the wide but subtle  set of consultative sales skills required in, for example, the financial services space.  Who can forget Alec Baldwin’s ABC Always Be Closing speech in Glengarry Glen Ross?  But do these courses actually work? In my humble opinion the answer is no. I’ve been on lots of these courses over the years and while some of what they teach maybe true and applicable the reality is times have changed and knowledge experts don’t need to do this.  I doubt Alec Baldwin’s character would do that well trying to bring an innovative new investment management product to market!

So what should you do to develop a rainmaker?

As a start point, I always tell my clients to ensure their sales process is correct. You can have the best rainmakers in the word but if the process is broken you will lose prospects from your pipeline – or, indeed, fail to capture the pipeline in the first place. Also do you have the right key performance indicators in place and do they motivate? Rainmakers hate key performance indicators, especially those that they see add no value to them.   If you are going to use KPIs, they must be properly woven into the sales process and aligned with all stakeholders’ interests.

Then consider whether you know what competencies you need in your organisation for rainmakers to be successful? Unless you have a template of what key competencies are required to be a success in the role it is very difficult to develop people and you could be developing the wrong people.  For example, what is the balance between outright presentation/communication skills and technical knowledge, for instance? There is no point in appointing a smooth operating communicator if key meetings are likely to require some off the cuff technical debate.

Clearly, to develop people into a rainmaker role requires time.  It also critically requires business leaders to get involved and devote time to the process.  It isn’t just about a CEO saying “I want you to be a rainmaker/” It is about the CEO (or other senior player) getting their sleeves rolled up and building the template that fits the needs of their business – then fitting the right person to that template.  The executive search firm becomes a key part of this process, partnering with management to make the key connections.

Thirdly organisations and individuals need to realise that rainmaking is more than just closing deals and pitching for work. Whilst not an exhaustive list, here are some examples of other lines of activity:

  •          Article writing for traditional media publications and online blogs and e-zines.
  •          Public speaking at relevant industry events.
  •          Social media participation to build an online presence.
  •          Networking – both online and face to face.
  •          Attending industry conferences from large national to small regional events.
  •          Writing proposals.
  •          Conducting market research and intelligence gathering.
  •         Spending time with existing clients to understand what they like about our services and what can be improved.
  •          Advertising.

All of the above can be taught and talent can be developed. I accept that in larger organisations there will be other individuals on hand to assist or even take over certain responsibilities but in essence rainmakers need to know how to do all of the above and more in order to ensure that they add value to their clients. In my experience if you add value to your clients then business will also follow and the work will rain down!