Being a rainmaker in the new normal probably seems like an almost impossible task. Not only has it become harder to win new work, it is also tougher to have meaningful interactions with your existing clients. For lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects, and many others this is a very scary place to be. After all, your clients make up the bulk of your fee base, and as your client contact and work dries up, the worse this gets. However, now is the perfect time to pause, re-assess what you do, and start to re-invigorate how you approach your BD activities. Doing this will help you become a rainmaker in the new normal.
Over the years I’ve worked with several rainmakers in many professional services firms and B2B organisations. Many of these are naturally good at winning work, and maintain great client relationships for themselves and their firms. I also worked in business development in London, and then in Auckland, during the GFC, and based on these experiences I have shared 11 daily habits for you to adopt to become a rainmaker in the new normal.
1. Set a plan and stick to it
This really doesn’t have to be war and peace, nor should it be. The best BD and client communication execution plans are simple and effective. That’s because your role as a lawyer, accountant, engineer etc, requires you to win work, but you also have to deliver it, and in many cases manage a team too. You’re not a full-time salesperson, so when you do focus on your client outreach you need a plan you can follow, and that you can stick to.
In summary, this is really understanding who your target market is, who your top clients are and how often you need to be in front of them, and then what your 3 (maximum unless you are just starting building a practice) new target clients are. Then with all this, you need to understand how you’ll be contacting your clients/targets and how often. If you need help with creating a plan, you can download our BD Client Action plan here.
2. Make time for client communication and prospecting and stick to it
This is simple, and, yes it’s effective. 30 minutes a day is plenty. Because, when you have an established base of regular clients, and they are actively spending with you, that’s when your pipeline is most at danger. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Because if you just farm your existing clients, at some point it is likely the work or revenue will dry up. This may well then put you into panic mode as you try to gain new customers in a hurry. This panic accentuates in a downturn. Therefore, take time every day to plan who you are going to contact, and start the early parts of researching, and then most importantly, contacting them. Making this a routine takes a lot of the fear away as, in time, it just becomes part of what you do. This is an essential habit to adopt if you want to be a rainmaker in the new normal.
3. Be kind in every interaction
This has been a major ‘slogan’ during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, has referred to it a great deal. It is a fantastic mindset to adopt when interacting with clients, and potential future clients. In the new normal, this shift in your own mindset is key to success.
A great deal of the people you will be talking to will be highly stressed and concerned about the future of their businesses, and their employees whose livelihoods depend on them. More than ever, being kind to everyone you interact with will be appreciated. It will also create a platform where the person you’re conversing with will be more open to sharing with you. If a client shares information about them and their business with you, you are well on the way to becoming a ’trusted advisor’.
4. Listen intently
Those who provide professional services to clients are essentially providing two services, expertise and consultancy services. In the current climate, in your initial conversations with clients and potential clients, I’d recommend you put your technical expertise to the back of your mind. Instead, you need to think more like a consultant. One that is focused on really trying to fully understand the person they are talking to.
This means that in the current climate, you’ll most likely feel more like a counsellor, listening to your client’s problems and worries. Like all good counsellors, seek to listen, empathise, but do not try to solve all the problems. Your clients are looking to share their burdens, not get all the answers from you, certainly not in one call at least!
5. Share your networks
In the months ahead, the people and businesses you engage with will have a myriad of problems. Some, you will be able to help them with directly. However, lots of these issues you will not be able to directly assist with. Instead, you’ll need to refer them to someone who can. No doubt, within your or your colleague’s networks, you’ll know the right person to refer them to.
Think about how you can connect your clients, who is best placed to help them, and spend time making those introductions. This will help your clients’ businesses recover, and in the long term they’ll appreciate you for this. No doubt, doing this selflessly will provide you with clients for life.
6. Do not pitch your services
If there ever was a time (which is doubtful) for an elevator pitch, or sending your capability statements over to a client, now is certainly not it. It really does change how a client in stress will perceive you.
If you call or email them asking them how they are and expressing genuine concern for them and their business, then you have made a great start. If you then immediately follow it up with a pitch for work, then you’ve completely undone that great start. In one fell swoop the client will think you only called them because you want their money.
7. Resist the temptation to avoid asking for the work
Like the above, in the current climate it will be poorly received. Your clients are worried about their cash-flow and paying their committed bills. They will no doubt need your help, or your firm’s help, and when the time is right, if you’ve done all of the above, they will ask you for it.
If you try to ‘close’ the deal too early, it will likely put them off. What I’ve noticed in the new normal even more so than the GFC, is that deals are taking a lot longer to come to fruition. What I do know from observation and bitter personal experience, is if you try to hurry a deal up, it often leads to you losing the deal. Which is a close – but not the one you were looking for. This behaviour will not make you a rainmaker in the new normal.
8. Be considerate and continue to listen, when engaged on a project or matter
Once engaged on client work, it is more important than ever to go beyond just doing a good job. If you can hold your clients hand through the process, keep them informed of what’s coming, and be transparent about all likely costs (those you control/invoice and any others they may incur), they’ll really appreciate it.
If you can continue to show empathy and understanding for their personal circumstances, it will really enhance your personal brand. As well as a delighted client, the upside of doing this is they will be far more likely to recommend you to their contacts. Client referrals are gold, and are one of the best ways of winning new work. And to be a rainmaker in the new normal, you’ll need referrals more than ever.
9. Make time for personal branding and marketing
The traditional seminars, networking events and coffee catchups you may have been engaging in previously, have been superseded by webinars, virtual meetings and social networking. Some people may take a long time to feel comfortable with having in-person meetings and social gatherings. What many of us have also learnt, is that you can also go back into lockdown, which means relying on traditional face to face meetings isn’t a sustainable BD plan.
This means that more than ever, it is important that you ensure your profile on your website, and more importantly your LinkedIn profile, is up to date. If you need help with doing this, then check out this short article.
10. Share articles and studies of interest
One of my early sales mentors used to photocopy stories of interest and post them to his clients, with a shorthand written memo. It was something I copied, very quickly. It was amazing how quickly this built trust, and meant that clients looked forward to your calls, rather than dreaded them.
Of course, now it is much easier to share stories electronically, but the key is, of course, to still make them relevant and helpful to your client. Therefore, you have to do your own research and ask great questions to understand what is actually important in their world.
11. Make your client’s success, your priority
I remember chatting to a top product salesperson many years ago, and she said one of the best statements I’ve ever heard. “I really don’t want to work with unsuccessful or struggling clients. I mean if they aren’t doing well, and if our product or our help and advice can’t help them become successful, then really what’s the point? We’re just taking their money for no good reason and you can’t build a business on that.” So true, so eloquent, and it was hardwired into her DNA. So, start to think about your clients and how you can help them become more successful. Because in tight economic times, if you can help your clients through this period of uncertainty, they will rely on you in the long-term.
What’s required to be Rainmaker in the new normal
In short, you’ll need to have a clear BD and marketing plan that you follow on a daily basis. You’ll need to be more patient, and be far more empathetic in your conversations, and more willing to share information and connections. By helping your clients through their immediate problems and these tough times, you’ll not only become a rainmaker in the new normal, but you’ll also become their trusted advisor.