So, ever wondered what makes Miss X sell more services than Mr. Y? Ever speculated whether it had anything to do with looks, gender or age? Many people still ponder on these issues and many more still argue on the cause for such outcomes. Regardless of which school of thought you belong to, I’m neither writing to oppose or support on that. Instead what I set out to achieve, is to highlight on certain issues that can pass on for “must have characteristics” that’s inherent in every successful rainmaker.
For the uninitiated in business terminology, a rainmaker in the strictest sense of the word is referred to as individual with skills to excel in selling professional services- they bring new clients and bigger fees into service firms. Hence in a nutshell rainmakers make rain! Rain as we know is a key requirement in our environment to make crops grow and put food in our belly. In the business world it’s the same phenomena, rainmakers cause rain, which in turn makes business grow and cash cows get fatter.
RAIN is actually an acronym for Rapport, Aspirations and Afflictions, Impact and New Reality. We’re going to discuss each of the points highlighted above in briefly, none more important than the other and at the end of reading this article you should be able to change your perception of why Miss X sells more that Mr. Y!
PRINCIPLE 1: BUILDING RAPPORT
You might be thinking, “Oh that’s not an issue, I’m a great person and I’m easy to like”. Well if that’s a fact, then you’re amongst the lucky minority of the entire world population. However if you’re not exactly Miss Congeniality, then you may need to adapt a more professional approach towards your potential clients. When personal chemistry is established, it’s always easier to establish a business relationship. Skip that step and you’ll never really harness the full potential for developing your business potential. Bear in mind we’re not necessarily talking about contrived chit-chat like talking about the weather. But by paying attention to details or talking about politics without necessarily shoving your opinions down his throat, you’ll find a common ground.
Another issue about building rapport that we mostly miss is being in a rush to talk business and get down to the nitty-gritty of the matter. This usually creates a tense atmosphere. A great rainmaker knows he must first inquire about the clients business, and while doing so balance giving advice on methods or solutions that might assist the client as well as actively listen to what is being said or what isn’t being said! I was once sitting across a head of department of a big bank, requesting for their account. She started talking about her child’s teething problem on the phone with someone that seemed to be her husband. I quickly sent a text message to my sister who had a similar problem weeks earlier asking for the solution she used. She replied. Soon as the client was done complaining, I artfully sympathized with her and proffered a solution. To cut the long story short: Two weeks later we had the account!
On a final note, you should not disqualify yourself before you open your mouth, dress appropriately, sometimes a sharp suit and tie may not be suitable for the job at hand, other times it is absolutely necessary. Dress for the occasion and you’ll fit right in like a glove.
PRINCIPLE 2: AFFLICTIONS AND ASPIRATIONS
Most professional service providers understand that uncovering afflictions of a client is a key prerequisite to understanding how you can help him/her. And so we ask questions such as “What can I do for you?”, “How can we be of assistance?” and so on. However once you have successfully developed a personal connection or rapport with a client, the next step is to begin probing for areas where you can be of assistance. The more you talk about the prospects problems probably based on your research, the more it takes centre in the client’s mind. However if your lucky and the client actually brings his problems to you first, then it’s likely that he wants it to away if possible and if it makes sense to invest time and money doing so.
For most people like Mr. Y, they usually then discuss the afflictions and proffer the solutions their organizations have to offer, shake hands, promise to send an invoice and thank the client for choosing to do business with them and get on their way. But they’ve only gotten half a piece of cake!
The true rainmaker like Miss X knows that focusing on the client’s negative half is only half the story. Especially in the business of service provision, when you focus on only the negative half you miss out on the great opportunity to expand your current offerings and generate new opportunities.
Having said that, let’s simplify buyers of professional services into two broad categories, namely: A) Problem solving. B) Future Seeking.
Those in the problem solving categories are usually seeking solutions when something is bothering them or not meeting up with expected targets so they want it fixed. When you encounter these prospects, uncovering their afflictions and discussing it extensively is key into prompting them to action as well as uncovering areas they may have neglected.
On the other end of the continuum are buyers of professional services that really don’t have any problems at all with their business model, however are more inspirational in their thinking. Hence what’s constantly racing through their minds is how to expand their business and the passion and drive that comes with it. In such case as a service provider, your task will be to prompt him through careful prodding for answers. Useful questions will be “What are your stretch goals this year for this Organization?”, “What do you want to see being done in the next year?” or “Where would you like to be in another 5 years”. These sort of questions open up a wide range of possibilities that others would miss out on, and then your only main competition then would be the inertia of the prospect. This brings us to the next principle on how to make impact clear.
PRINCIPLE 3: MAKING THE IMPACT CLEAR
A good rainmaker is able to prompt a prospect into taking action through a careful use of word and forcing the client to think and talk about the future even to who seemed a stranger almost 30 minutes ago! The great rainmaker after uncovering a prospects aspirations and afflictions has the ability to ask a simple question, “So What?” Two simple words. It makes all the difference. It prompts the prospect into thinking what his inaction or action will cost him. But you should know the answer to the question before you begin asking, so in the event the prospect becomes tongue-tied. You quickly swoop in and make a case for why you should be the one to have the job. Why your service is better than the alternatives he might be considering and also what would be the monetary and non-monetary impact of using the service you are providing.
You must also be able to build credibility by showing them you’ve been there before and giving them a brief story on when you were there and how your service provided the much needed solution. This gives the prospect the comfort of knowing that you are a professional.
PRINCIPLE 4: PAINT A PICTURE
Whatever service you might be providing, it most probably has an effect on the client’s world. One of the most important skills in selling professional services is helping the potential client understand exactly what outcomes they will get when they work with you and clearly communicating these benefits when discussing with them.
Discover what you need to do in order to create the new reality for them. Establish clear cut benchmarks by asking questions such as “At the end of this process, what would success look like?” or “What do you like to see happening in your organisation as a result of engaging our services?”.
Use their responses as a prompter; your job is to paint a picture of the New Reality using pictures, graphs and figures so they can fully understand your services and its value. Tell them of how much they should be looking at saving or earning at the end of engaging the services. Tell them about where they should be like in another 3 years and how the interview in CNN should play out. If possible ask them for their autographs now so you can save on time asking those 5 years from now. In other words make their dreams look like it comes closer to reality when working with you.
At the end of adopting this simple 4-STEP approach, you will have a growing relationship with the client. Have a deeper knowledge of their afflictions. Be well informed on their goals and future aspirations that your competition will only find out sometime next year. Be knowledgeable of the impact that is expected by working with your firm.
And finally you would finally appreciate the fact that Miss X probably applies these principles and Mr. Y doesn’t! Now go out and make it rain today!