A couple of weeks ago we ran a short series on the traits of a successful sales person, part 1 here and part 2 here. The thing about sales people is that the traits that will make you successful in one industry will also equip you for success in another. Now, there are other factors – environment, processes, familiarity with the product – that play into it to, but the behavioral building blocks are consistent.
The challenge arises when that profile of a successful sales person is at odds with the profile of people typically in that profession. Engineers, doctors and lawyers come to mind. What do you do then? Where do you find your new business generators when your field of candidates has so few built for sales success?
That’s the question posed in an article in the June edition of Canadian Lawyer Magazine. Author Jim Middlemiss explores the challenge of finding what that industry calls rainmakers. Rainmakers are those lawyers who consistently bring in new business for their firms; in other words successful sales people of the hunter variety. This is not a core competency of a typical lawyer, but it’s one that firms can’t survive without. Middlemiss cites the demise of Heenan Blaikie as an example of a firm that was missing those rainmakers.
In fact, Middlemiss adds, all lawyers need to have an element of the rainmaker to sell ideas or even themselves internally. He’s right to an extent, but that level of sales ability and persuasion is on a lower level than someone who is a true rainmaker. In our post on hiring sales people, we noted that the most common trait we see in a successful hunter-type sales person is a high level of dominance. This makes them risk takers, results driven and actually motivated by failure to double down and try harder. Successful sales people are those who regularly make six, seven, eight, or more follow up calls. They’re successful, in part, because they are so driven by the goal of closing the deal.
There’s more to it than that, of course, and we explore one of the other key traits of a successful sales person here.
Middlemiss draws the conclusion that, in order for law firms to succeed and grow, they need to set aside their traditional hiring practices and start recruiting more lawyers with the profiles of a sales person.
I think he’s right, but I’ll add that they need to have a mix. Firms should distinguish between the rainmakers and regular lawyers they need in order to achieve their growth objectives. The profiles will be different. Once they know this, they can create a target profile for each. Depending on the size of the firm, perhaps they can target a certain number of rainmakers in each area of practice, or load up an area of high-growth potential. The key is knowing that the criteria for success is different for the two types of lawyers and knowing how to identify that difference in the recruiting process.
The same goes for other professions where success comes from being more analytical and less independent and dominant. Professions like engineering, accounting, and much of the medical profession, for example.
The other point worth mentioning is that the main traits that set rainmakers apart from their colleagues are very ingrained. These are not things you can coach for and expect to see long-term change. It really is a bit of a case of 'you either have it or you don’t.'
You can read the Canadian Lawyer article in full here.
How about you? Are you on the hunt for rainmakers? Are you finding them?