Ten years ago, I was often tasked with search assignments that required identifying a “rainmaker.” A practice may have been thriving, struggling, or just starting up, but the need for investment was always crystal clear: Someone had to be there to “own” the sales funnel.
Interestingly, I seldom hear this term any longer. “Rainmaker” seems to have exited the consulting lexicon. In fact, it makes me bristle to just hear it, let alone use it.
If you aren’t in the agriculture business or involved in ancient Indian rituals, a “rainmaker” is defined as an executive who is very successful at bringing business to his or her firm. Doors open for individuals like this. They have established and cherished relationships with the client base, and are respected figures within the business communities they serve.
Relationships always matter, but was a rainmaker cultivating them or capitalizing on them? Were these capable folks truly making rain or catching it skillfully? In a world where the demand for their services far outstripped the available supply, part of the challenge was picking the right battles — i.e. knowing where to be and when. Just the image of rain says it all: It happens quickly, sometimes torrentially, and then it makes things grow. If you’re efficient and resourceful, you want to make sure you’re directly underneath the storm.
Lately, the landscape has not been abundantly lush. Your firm may be having success, but you certainly aren’t hubristic about it. The term “rainmaker” implies a brash confidence. If you were a “rainmaker” ten years ago, you operate very differently today.
As firms begin to recover from the drought of the last few years, I see new, strategic hiring in key roles with business development responsibilities. However, never is the term “rainmaker” invoked. Firms are no longer looking at the work being let around them and thinking “we need to hire someone to bring some of that our way” because the market is not in that stage of abundance. Instead, someone’s business development acumen is measured by his or her ability to plan, position and nurture while ensuring that everyone in the organization gets involved with the action. If executed successfully, there will be a harvest and food on the table.
We are now all farmers.