What does it take to be a great rainmaker, able to generate millions of dollars in business -- each year, reliably? What’s actually involved in the rainmaking sausage? As with every great accomplishment, there’s much more than you can see.

Olympic broadcasts always feature background stories about how athletes became among the best in the world at their sport. Before those stories, those of us who don’t ski, skate, slide, or curl knew little about the details of being able to, for example, slide a polished stone to a precise destination more than 100 icy feet away.

Many lawyers, observing their rainmaker peers, likewise see only the most visible things they do versus the many skills they must master and deploy consistently. I guess it’s similar to the limited perception that green lawyers have about first-chair trial lawyers.

Here’s my description of the characteristics of a 100%-capable, master rainmaker:

  1. Avoids “pitching” behaviors in favor of helping buyers make informed, considered, self-interested decisions about problems of significance.

  2. Possesses significant business acumen and awareness of the current business environment and influences.

  3. Avoids “product-centrism,” i.e., an orientation to the merits of the firm’s service products, and the resulting inclination to pursue demand solely for one’s own technical specialty.

  4. Bases conversations on Demand-Triggering business issues, i.e., problems for which there are objective, 3rd-party evidence suggesting strategic-, operational-, or economic consequences of sufficient impact to require decision-making, action, and solution investment.

  5. Cross-sells other' services by learning from colleagues the door-opening business problems that drive demand for each service, and asks clients if they face that problem.

  6. Recognizes the existence of multiple stakeholders in this problem at different levels. Is adept at evincing their full complement of self-interest relative to the demand-triggering problem, and facilitating a decision.

  7. Conducts a disciplined investigation of the practical- and economic consequences of inaction against the demand-triggering problem (Cost of Doing Nothing)

  8. Elicits each stakeholder’s perception of the imputed or perceived ROI obtainable from successful solution. Uses declared ROI to motivate a decision, and to earn and maintain premium prices and margins.

  9. Has mastered the process of Stakeholder Alignment leading to a reliable group decision.

  10. Develops Professional Intimacy.

  11. Earns the right to manage the matter. Develops business in a way that does not induce the client to default to requiring the selling lawyer’s personal technical participation beyond the degree that the seller deems strategically appropriate.

  12. Anticipates success, and plans for the future resource requirements of the larger practice that will result from successful business development.

  13. Doesn't wait for service-product obsolescence, but anticipates product/price maturity and looks beyond today’s demand to prepare for a different future.  Initiates discussions that cannibalize today’s declining-margin services in favor of initiating demand for future premium-priced services.

  14. Initiates operating changes demanded by clients, recognizing the value in being out front on trends.

  15. Establishes a defensible, differentiated position in an organized market sub-sector containing growing companies with healthy profit margins. Aligns with decision-makers who recognize that only two out of the three elements of the “Value Holy Trinity” ( Speed, Impact, Price) usually are available at any one time, and who value speed and impact over the other permutations.

  16. Establishes valuable contributory roles that facilitate subordinate team members’ growth and institutionalize the client, thus avoiding the bottleneck of inordinate client contact having to flow through her.

  17. Shares credit – and client responsibility – freely, to enable her to diversify her portfolio, and attract and retain key talent.

  18. Maintains robust awareness by reading about key business trends, industries, and sectors, to the point that she is prepared to offer an informed, current, cogent opinion – extemporaneously, without notice or preparation.

  19. Consistently seeks candid feedback from clients, team members and contacts regarding service satisfaction, demand trends, and macroeconomic social and political factors that influence and shape current and future demand.

  20. Seeks continuous skill improvement through ongoing training and coaching.

How many of these were you unaware of? Are you surprised that there are this many? If you’re a successful rainmaker who aspires to greatness, use this as an improvement checklist. Assess yourself against each, and commit to improving each area of weakness.

Mike O’Horo

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