During the writing of our book, How Client’s Buy, Tom McMakin’s team at Profitable Ideas Exchange interviewed over two dozen professionals working in a wide range of professional services including law, accounting, investment banking, commercial real estate, and management consulting (strategy, advertising, and HR).  While most of those we spoke with were seasoned rainmakers in their field, we did speak with a handful of individuals at the beginning and midway points of their careers.  We spoke with individuals at some of the largest firms in their industry, and also with professionals at mid-sized, boutique and solo firms.

While we believed there would be significant overlap among the various types of industries and sizes of firms, we wanted to confirm our book’s hypotheses. The interviews supported some of our beliefs from our experiences in the field of management consulting, and gave us new insight into situations which we hadn’t personally experienced.  

The key themes that came out of our discussions with seasoned rainmakers highlighted issues that professionals face as they strive to become rainmakers in law, accounting, architecture, management consulting and other professional services firms.  A short list of these rainmaker themes are as follows:


  • If one is to become successful in their professional services career, one must learn how to become a “rainmaker”.  


  • One doesn’t “sell” professional services.  One earns the right to be hired for client services by developing technical competence, building genuine relationships, and inspiring respect and trust.


  • The client’s buying decision is not an event, but rather a journey that unfolds over a time span of months or years.  


  • While the milestones of the client’s journey are similar, the timing and sequence of the journey varies greatly from client to client and cannot easily be predicted or expedited.  


  • Very few among us in professional services are naturally born rainmakers.  Furthermore, opportunities for formalized training in business development are rare.


  • However, each of us has the capacity to become a rainmaker if we learn the milestones of the client’s decision journey.


  • There is not one best way of being a rainmaker. There are an infinite number of effective approaches. You have to find the approach that is natural for you given your personal strengths, weaknesses, style and preferences.  


The rainmaker themes that emerged from our interviews rang true to us. It seems counterintuitive on the surface, but it has been our experience for many years that the less we tried to sell, the more successful we became at selling.  This theme came through loud and clear from our conversations with rainmaking pros.  When you’re on the partner track, you’re often trying very hard to “sell”.  There is significant pressure and stress to perform.  

Exacerbating the pressure and stress is the fact that we don’t know what we’re doing, because as we’ve discussed we haven’t learned how to do business development correctly. We are trained to “do the work” (e.g. accounting, law, etc.), but we are never trained to “sell the work”. Clearly, professionals striving to succeed as rainmakers need help. We need a framework, method, or structure for making sense of the maddening process of trying to sell the work that we do.  Our hope for How Clients Buy is that The 7 Elements framework we provide our readers will provide a better understanding of how clients buy so that each of us can increase our success in becoming a rainmaker.