Sometimes as an advisor, it helps to look at other sales roles for inspiration. I thought it might be helpful to share two stories with you, one good and one bad.
The Rookie Rainmaker
Flying back from a speaking engagement, my seatmate asked the proverbial question: “So, what do you do?” I briefly explained the research we do, our learning center and the coaching we provide.
I was hardly finished when, intrigued by my comments, he proceeded to tell me his story. To use his own words, he was a “retired rainmaker” from the accounting industry. He looked to be in his early 50s and didn’t give the impression of a retiree, so I was eager to hear what he had to say.
Apparently, some 20-odd years ago, he graduated from Duke with an accounting degree and was hired “conditionally” by one of the big accounting firms. His marching orders were: “Let’s see how much business you can bring in over the next 12 months and determine whether you’re cut out for this firm.”
He knew nothing about selling, had planned on becoming an accountant and was scared out of his mind. Out of sheer desperation, he used his father and uncle, both corporate executives, to help him set appointments with other executives they knew. In his mind, this was a complete “out-of-body” experience. He said, “I was only able to bring in five new accounts during my first year, and I was convinced I was going to be fired.”
However, after his first review, he said his boss shook his hand and said welcome to the team with a big smile. His boss went on to say that the new business he brought in to the firm was not only beyond their expectations (setting a rookie record) but that he wanted him to concentrate entirely on bringing in new business—no more accounting. He was then awarded a raise and a healthy bonus.
After 20 years of rainmaking, he knew little to nothing about accounting but had made enough money “for a couple of lifetimes.”
Wow! What a story—a self-taught rainmaker. Although rainmakers are rare, the self-taught aspect is actually more common than one might imagine.
First Professional – Lessons
- You’ve got to be willing to go way outside of your comfort zone.
- Don’t wait for someone to teach you—learn experientially.
- Persistence is essential. It’s always slow going at first.
- Leverage your connections, get face-to-face and develop relationships.
A Misunderstanding About the Weather
This story is in the high-end world of IT sales. People in this space tend to move from firm to firm quite a bit. One firm gets sold, top management gets a payout, and they go to work for another firm. Which is exactly what happened to this professional. He was the national sales manager for a company that was purchased by Microsoft, and he received a nice payday.
A small IT firm quickly hired him to oversee their struggling sales department. After learning the capabilities of their B2B offering, this sales manager went about connecting with his old contacts and telling his “new story.”
In short order, he landed a number of major accounts for this small IT firm. This established a base from which he spent the next three years strategically networking and building a substantial client roster. The owners of his new firm didn’t really understand how he’d achieved his success, but they liked it and wanted more.
In their minds, it was all about cold-calling. Work hard, and eventually you’ll be a big success, which was the complete opposite of how their national sales manager actually landed these big accounts. In bizarre fashion, they attempted to help this sales manager by hiring a cold-caller to assist him.
Thirty months later, after bringing in zero business, the cold-caller was let go with a healthy severance package. But that’s not the end of the story. Because of a variety of factors, their former cold-caller hired an attorney and sued for even more money. Not only was it a huge distraction for the sales manager, but finger pointing between himself and the owners began, and the working relationship unraveled. Long story short, he no longer works for this IT firm.
Second Professional – Lessons
- Hiring a cold-caller to boost your marketing is a classic mistake.
- Hiring additional support staff, however, can help, especially when focused on planning and tracking the marketing efforts.
- Although rainmaking is tough, it can be taught, and every rainmaker should think of cloning themselves by hiring and mentoring a young financial advisor.
Inspiration can be found everywhere—both good and bad. Who do you know who’s found success? What traits and attributes can you learn from them?
Matt Oechsli is author of How to Build a 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing, andRetaining Affluent Clients. www.oechsli.com