Eight secrets of successful 'rainmakers'

Successful companies all have them. Rainmakers – the ones who keep the money rolling in by bringing new clients and business through the door.

They're competitive, driven, and have a sales savvy that is especially valued in flat times like the present. Rainmakers are key as many sectors are experiencing low or no growth, according to Sydney executive headhunter Ben Derwent.

"Given that invigorating sales is a top agenda item for many CEOs … good rainmakers are a necessity," he says.

The genuine article can present as a force of nature. They're memorable. They often come away with something where others don't. Their styles may differ, but they deliver a message with impact."

Top operators know their own value and gravitate to market-leading companies to maximise their chances of a win.

So what is it that rainmakers do to stand out from the sea of pretenders? Executive Style asked a few to share the secrets of their success.

Roll with the punches

If you like to win but struggle to deal with the disappointment when you don't make it, forget the idea of wheeling and dealing at the top end of town, says Niek Hoogenhout, the CEO of Rubik Financial.

As the former managing director of professional services firm Boston Consulting, he's an old hand at bringing in new clients and believes it's critical not to focus on setbacks or big losses.


Rainmakers take it in their stride when things don't go their way, Hoogenhout says: "You expect it to be a knockabout game."

Listen up

Be a good listener. Champion dealmakers have the skill down to a fine art and it's a big part of their success, according to Hoogenhout.

"Listen to sources you find credible, and combine those thoughts," he says. "Pick up on signals. If you read the clouds and currents in the winds, you can see the rain coming."

Get involved

Want clients to view you as the go-to person in your field? Become a fixture in theirs, advises McCullough Robertson partner Malcolm McBratney, who has spent two decades building a thriving practice in the high-tech sector.

Scoring business means investing time embedding yourself in an industry, even though there's no immediate payback.

"Get involved in industry associations, get to know the business and commercial issues that are affecting firms in your space," McBratney says.

"Follow trends in that industry, go to relevant conferences and stay close to key people. There are no shortcuts – it takes a long time to build up contacts and become a trusted adviser."

Look after others

Never pass up the chance to do someone a favour – it will pay dividends down the track, in the form of referrals, contacts or contracts, McBratney says.

"You need to look after people – help them out whenever you can, whether it's with an introduction to someone or help getting [them] a job."

Work harder

Rainmakers may be many things, but lazy ain't one of them.

If you want to join their ranks, forget the notion of working nine to five, says Sentinel Property Group CEO Warren Ebert, who has a long-time reputation as a wheeler dealer extraordinaire in the cut-throat commercial property arena.

"Most people who are successful aren't smarter so they work harder," Ebert says.

"The harder you work, the luckier you get. You've got to put the hours in, you can't get enough done in ordinary hours."

Be decisive

Faint heart never won fair lady, as the old proverb has it – and the same principle applies when it comes to nailing the big deals, Ebert says.

Rainmakers chart a course and stick to it and don't waste time making too many decisions by committee.

"Be decisive – don't hum and har," Ebert says. "If you make the wrong decision, correct it and move on."

Good people

No man is an island – at least not if they want to keep top clients coming back for more, says SAP account director Evan Mantis, who manages some of the software giant's most prized engagements in Australia.

Rainmakers seek out successful role models to learn from and ensure their team is stacked with high-calibre colleagues who have their back.

"No team can be successful on a major account if you don't surround yourself with the right people," Mantis says.

Long haul

Does short-term opportunism dominate your business thinking? You might score the odd win, but don't expect to make a career of it, Mantis says.

Rainmakers focus on the big picture – repeat business and relationships with clients that'll be tight three years down the track, not just until they've signed on the line.

"Think of the deal as a by-product of the overall engagement," Mantis says.

"You need to strongly align yourself with the customer's strategy and values and live those through the lifecycle [of the engagement]. Short-term attitude will be quickly found out."

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