Learning from Rainmakers


When researching How Clients Buy, Doug Fletcher and Tom McMakin interviewed dozens of successful rainmakers. Their subjects ranged from solo practitioners to managing partners of global consulting firms. Doug and Tom’s goal was to field test their business development hypotheses. In addition, as Doug explains, several themes regarding the essence of rainmaking emerged from their conversations.

Don’t Call it Selling

“Sales” is a word loaded with baggage. Dump it if it makes you uncomfortable. The task remains:

Identify a community of companies and executives to which you would like to be of service and then do everything you can to help connect those in that industry with introductions, smart articles, and peer meetings.

Add value. Be of service.

Do Great Work

In the long run, no amount of clever marketing will overcome poor execution. You are the product. Future sales depend on your reputation, which is built one project at a time. In a connected world, there is no room for anything less than great work. It’s table stakes—a necessary but insufficient requirement for sustained success.

Take Responsibility for Business Development

Doing truly superior work is easier said than done. Nevertheless, to maintain personal and professional flexibility and freedom, it’s imperative that you take personal responsibility for business development. Commit time. Be disciplined. Make it a habit. Start now.

Build Relationships

Effective networking isn’t a matter of exchanging business cards in a generic hotel ballroom while drinking insipid wine from plastic cups. Make time to seek out interesting people. Be generous with your time. Give away your best stuff. Invest in others without expectation of return. Cultivate serendipity. It’s worth it.

Wear the Style That Fits

Actually, Doug and Tom advise, “Develop your own style.” However, I think that’s inevitable if you take responsibility for business development, build relationships by being generous over time, and consistently do great work. The clients you serve, the culture of your firm, and your personality and experiences will shape what works. Go with it. Resist the temptation to imitate slavishly. Being authentic in our approach is not only more effective, it’s easier to sustain.

Stay Persistent

Satisfying the Seven Elements of Business Development can be devilishly difficult. On many occasions, I’ve been devastated upon discovering that my carefully cultivated prospect simply isn’t ready to engage. While disappointment may be inevitable, hearing, “The timing isn’t right,” should be affirming. After all, it suggests your prospect:

  • is aware of you
  • understands what you do
  • is interested in your services
  • has come to respect your work
  • deems you worthy of trust, and
  • has the ability to make a decision.

Stay in touch. Continue to add value and cultivate your relationship. When the time is right, you’ll be in the position to engage. It’s a marathon consisting of a million sprints. Know that and you’ll be less inclined to quit.

Get the Transcript of Doug's Interview