The Rainmaker Dilemma

rainmakers in sales

The quote, “Nothing happens until a sale is made,” is a favorite motivation for moving the gears of a sales team. There are managers waiting to manage something and customer service people ready to respond to issues. But none of that happens until someone sells something.

It baffles me how the point is often missed. I guess, that is why the saying persists. We like to hyperfocus on our own little realities of particular roles, and perhaps tell ourselves a story of how important we are.

But the reality is that rainmakers are the cornerstone to the other jobs of a business. Their persuasiveness and persistence are the tools and gifts to make it rain. And making it rain is not for the faint of heart. It’s risky and full of uncertainties. It takes a certain type of fortitude, self-belief and creativity. And it’s often what you find in rainmakers that are effective.

But the dilemma is that they don’t want to be managed. They often do not neatly put complete data in your CRM or report their statuses with accountability. Sure, the other rowers in the boat – support specialists, project members and engineers – may play nicely on the team. They capture information and keep it flowing for collaboration. But the challenge of trying to get a maverick, who can win people and deals, is like taming a wild horse.

It seems to be a common trade-off, and the dilemma comes down to two agendas – management and revenue. If revenue is flowing, then the leverage sits with the rainmaker and her lack of alignment is overlooked.

But when revenue is ebbing, then there’s scrutiny to gain control and turn the knobs on efficiency. That’s when scrutiny on the lack of productivity, using a computer well or collaborating with accountability become irksome.

The rainmaker operates under Bill Jensen’s Simplicity credo, “People tolerate management’s logic, but they act on their own conclusions.” It’s an observation of the disconnect between people close to the action and those safely afar analyzing and intellectualizing.

Here’s my take. Keep a scorecard on rainmakers. Depending on what you are trying to build, know where your boundaries for tolerance are. If scalability of your business matters, then C players are going to hurt you. Be patient enough to find those rainmakers that can sell and play well together. Otherwise, you may find yourself churning and resetting continually. And that comes at a cost. Just know the difference between the immediate and long-term side to make that call.