On Managing a Rainmaker

Every business needs a Rainmaker, that person who fills the pipeline, networks like crazy, keeps all the wheels greased, brings in new clients and produces revenue so everyone else has a job. Maybe that person is you; maybe you have to manage one. It’s either one or the other, because without a Rainmaker, your business is lost. No matter how unique your product or service, if you don’t have a revenue generating machine, you are not going to survive.

There are plenty of downsides to Rainmakers if not managed well:

  • They make a lot of work for everyone else! Quotes are needed, credit applications need approval, new item forms need filling out, product must be made and shipped on time.
  • They know what they contribute and can be arrogant and egomaniacal.
  • Jealousy can brew among the rest of your staff as a result of his being out of the office (having fun while they are toiling away), having an expense account, company car and making more money than the management team in some cases.

What to look for in a Rainmaker:

  • In a capitalist society, you’d guess money is the main motivator, but it’s not normally. It’s always about winning! You want a competitive achiever who cherishes accomplishments over all. The real reward may be prestige, title, bragging rights, awards, acknowledgement or freedom. When you understand the trigger, you’ll design the appropriate incentive plan.
  • Listening skills: it seems counterintuitive, but a Rainmaker will spend more time listening than talking. He is curious. He does his research so that he goes into the prospect prepared, yet he does not assume. He asks engaging questions to gather information and then uses what he’s learned to customize his approach to the prospect, often getting to the close faster and with more win-win for everyone.
  • Critical thinking is something you want everyone on your team to have, but especially the person who is out there interacting with prospects all day. He needs to be quick on his feet. You can train someone on frequently asked questions and send them off to a trade show, but the Rainmaker can do more – he diplomatically answers all questions on the trade show floor,(and everywhere else) whether it’s a topic he’s been trained on or not. The critical thinker will also bring back to the office the best ideas he’s seen while out working with your customers and prospects. These may be new product ideas or best business practices.
  • Non-judgmental acceptance and compassion: your Rainmaker is going to be interacting with all types of people within your organization and in many outside venues. You’ll want someone who is not biased. Being a good people person means watching, listening and interacting in a respectful and unintimidating way. If you are interviewing a sales candidate who often comments on petty things like hair style or clothing (this likely reflects bigger prejudices or insecurities), you may not have the right person for the job.

How to best manage your Rainmaker:

  • Once or twice a year, have a two-day strategic planning session where your whole team reviews what’s working, what’s not and set a plan of action. When you change direction too often, you frustrate and confuse everyone. Let everyone have their say, debate, and come to a conclusion that everyone agrees to work toward. It’s more productive to hire a facilitator so you can be an equal part of the process. When you are just another participant, all involved will feel more ownership in the outcome.
  • Define the metrics: weekly call reports; centralized database entries, number of prospects in the pipeline, gross sales, gross margin, marketing dollars spent, etc. then set up systems to do the bulk of the tracking. You want your Rainmaker selling, not filling out reports. Evaluate and review monthly numbers to be on track with last year and with projections.
  • Compensation must be tied to results by having a bonus or commission structure that measures results against company goals and provides an incentive based on performance against those goals. Never have a dead-end upside. If your Rainmaker grows revenue within the profit structure you’ve outlined, they should be able to enjoy the fruits of those rewards. The sky is the limit. If they sell more than you can produce, then you have a different problem.
  • Be grateful: nothing works like praise and appreciation. Thank everyone on your team publicly for their ideas, their contributions and their success.

Follow these guidelines and you and your team will be pulling in the same direction, you’ll have fewer miscommunications and less stress.

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