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The Origins of Rainmaking in Business Development

In business, a rainmaker is a a source of wealth – new accounts, big clients, fresh business. They feed the hungry beast that is a professional firm with an almost magical ability to generate lucrative business opportunities. They broker bid deals, court wealthy clients and attract significant funds.

The origin of rainmaker as a business term comes from the Native American Indian practice of singing and dancing to please the gods. The hope was to encourage them to send down life-giving rain in times of drought. Rain is the metaphor for money, and the implication is that great work winners are born, not made. They have mythical powers to generate new leads, uncover opportunities and win new clients seemingly without trying.

Rainmakers are portrayed as having incredible connections, huge charisma, powerful leverage and a world that owes them favours. They know everyone and in turn, everyone knows them. They have influence, connections and a powerful reputation. They are often mavericks, with entrepreneurial spirits, secret methods and massive confidence. They are the powerhouse of a firm because they are the lifeblood of profit.

Rainmakers are the big gorillas or lions in the jungle. They have no peers and no predators. They are worshipped and afforded major kudos, concessions and perks. They seem to set their own rules and play their own game. They are gods in the business world, because they are money-making machines. Without them, there is no revenue, no growth and no future. Hence good rainmakers are very much in demand by firms, employers and headhunters alike.

Francis Ford Coppola’s 1997 film The Rainmaker put the word on the mainstream map. It featured Matt Damon as a hungry young lawyer winning business for his firm, ran by the shady Danny de Vito. Rainmaking now applies to all kinds of businesses.  Barack Obama was described as a rainmaker for his ability to raise money for political campaign. There are rainmakers in all walks of life from advertising and finance to accounting and law.

Rainmaking is mostly an American term but is very much understood in the UK and the rest of the world. More familiar terms are sales, business development and winning work. In professional circles, strong technical skills and expert knowledge are something of a given. In contrast, the ability to win work (the business development or sales skill set) is rare and thus very much in demand by leaders, managers and directors.

From the outside, rainmakers seem lucky, fortunate and blessed to win work the way they do. Business seems to fall into their laps., Opportunities come out of nowhere and their phone always seems to be ringing. They ooze confidence and they exude charm. They schmooze effortlessly and have a little black book to die for. In reality, there is much hard work that goes on behind the scenes. In other words, great work winners are not born, but made. Having the skills of a great rainmaker isn’t a question of luck.

There are many qualities of top sales people and rainmakers that can be trained, learned and coached. Tools, strategies and scripts that can be duplicated, replicated and repeated. Rainmakers aren’t born into advantage and talent. They don’t turn out that way overnight. There is hope for any professionals who want to raise their work winning game – this is all coachable.

With the right training, mentoring and education, all firms can foster a great rainmaking culture. It benefits the collective when as many people as possible take some kind of responsibility to bring in more work. Rather than leaving it to a few select powerhouses or hiring in bit rainmaking stars, a better business development approach is often to identify a cohort of professionals who are hungry to win work, and train them in the necessary skills.

What’s clear is that creating confident work winners and rainmakers is impossible with one workshop, one seminar, one online course. That’s why the BD Academy offers a sustained approach to education with an inhouse ‘academy’ that instils, develops and refines business-winning talents. Not only has this seen millions of pounds of business put into firms, it has helped firms to create the revenue-bringers that will mentor and cultivate the rainmakers of the future.

Get in touch for a chat about developing your own rainmaking army, and in doing so, (1) guarantee new clients for the next few years and (2) sort your succession plan in a heartbeat!