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Rainmaker for Your Consulting Firm? The 10 Attributes You Need to Succeed

“Self,” you say to the warm, approachable person contemplating you from the mirror, “I’d like to win <fill in amount> of consulting next year.”

Or you say, “Self, I’d like other people in my firm to win <fill in amount> of consulting next year.”

Then you promise to achieve your target weight and proclaim your goal to help break the current world record for the number of people simultaneously dunking cookies. (Currently 3,236 people set by a Girl Scout troop in Chicago.)*

Winning <fill in amount> of engagements is a good aspiration for your consulting firm. It’s also totally feasible. You know this because there are other consultants who have sold your target amount and more.

(One of my clients sells upwards of $20m/year in consulting projects herself, so whatever aspirational number you mentally jotted down, I can assure you someone has hit it.)

What’s in the way of achieving your goal?

Obviously, winning consulting projects is cartloads easier when your consulting firm’s Impact is solid. In other words, when you’re talking to the Right People about the Right Problem and offering the Right Solution at the Right Time. (a.k.a. The “Four Rights of Impact.”)

Yep, every consultant can sell combustion advisory services to a CEO whose warehouse is next to the fireworks factory.

Yet, a quick glance at virtually any consulting firm with more than 10 consultants quickly reveals that precious few consultants consistently land new clients. Since all the consultants in one firm have the same offerings at their disposal, the difference between rainmakers and project takers isn’t Impact.

It must be something else.

Namely, the difference is what’s going on between the ears of those consultants. Mindsets. Thinking. Character traits.

Mental attributes propel divergent behavior and markedly different results.

Fortunately, you can adopt the attributes you need to be a world class rainmaker.

You may have to “fake it ‘til you make it” for a couple of years while you learn new thought patterns and behavioral habits.

You may require regular doses of training and coaching to reinforce the attributes you need.

That’s all good. You can do it!

All that’s left is to identify the optimal attributes.

Below are the 10 attributes you need in order to succeed as a rainmaker for your consulting firm.

(Actually, below are nine attributes—I left the last one blank for you to fill in.)

10 Attributes You Need to Succeed as a Consulting Rainmaker

Caring

Sincere concern about clients’ problems and aspirations.

Passion

Enthusiasm and excitement about your offering.

Persistence

Willingness to continue business development activities even in the face of rejection.

Resilience

The ability to slough off No’s.

Insight

Spotting opportunities is half the battle.

Courage

Setting aside your doubts and fears then jumping into the fray.

Conviction

Belief in your firm’s value.

Verbal Acuity

Communicating convincingly and compellingly.

Results Orientation

Dedication to achieving the goal.


What other attribute is essential to be successful as a consulting rainmaker?


16 Comments
  1. Scott Thompson
    November 18, 2020 at 7:27 am Reply

    Great list David…. I would add Learning Agility – the ability to pick up on new information quickly and adapt it into the work we are doing and explain what you learn to others in the organization.

    • David A. Fields
      November 18, 2020 at 7:38 am Reply

      Excellent addition, Scott. You’re right that a bit of smarts goes a long way in this business. Since everything we offer is the product of our minds, the ability to process, understand and use new ideas is essential. Thanks for expanding the list!

  2. Don McDermott
    November 18, 2020 at 7:52 am Reply

    How about laughing at yourself for all the wonderful things/mistakes you have tried.

    • David A. Fields
      November 18, 2020 at 8:30 am Reply

      You’re describing humor, humility and self-confidence all wrapped together. That’s a heady, useful (and fulfilling) combination, Don. Nice one!

      It’s great to hear from you.

  3. Amanda
    November 18, 2020 at 9:22 am Reply

    I agree with Scott and would say adaptability is key especially in a Covid world. This post is timely as we enter Q4. I know of a large strategy firm that sells ~80% of its work to existing clients so your assertion that there are fewer projects sold to new clients has some merit. What sales mix of old to new clients is appropriate for a consulting leader at a mid-sized firm? Do you think consultancies need different roles for hunters and farmers? Thanks for your leadership!

    • David A. Fields
      November 18, 2020 at 9:43 am Reply

      Well, you just baked a whole bushel of deep questions into a single response, Amanda!

      The percentage of business stemming from new clients is an awkward metric. If your consulting business is growing rapidly, then your revenue from new clients could be quite high. Ironically, if your revenue is flat but you’re losing old clients, your results on that one metric will also be high.

      There are some industries/niches with very few players and, as a result, it’s possible for a consulting firm to have 100% penetration and never win a truly “new” client.

      I typically look for a “healthy” mix of new clients and retention. For a typical, mid-size firm, 80% of revenue from past clients is higher than ideal and signals revenue trouble down the road.

      Re farmers vs. hunters: No, I don’t think consulting firms need hunters and farmers; however, the reality is that most consultants perform modestly at business development and some aren’t even good at winning follow-on business. Therefore, the issue isn’t whether we need hunters and farmers; rather, it’s how to best engage and deploy the wealth of capabilities in our consulting staff.

      Thank you for posting outstanding questions, Amanda.

  4. ROGER HEROD
    November 18, 2020 at 10:02 am Reply

    David, I’ve always been convinced that Listening Skills are critical in identifying clients’ needs for consulting help. It can be very easy to turn off potential clients by an aggressive sales pitch but it’s more effective to use the “doctor’s visit” approach and get them talking about their issues and challenges. You can then suggest possible options and solutions that could help them their real concerns.

    • David A. Fields
      November 18, 2020 at 10:07 am Reply

      Effective discovery–which is the heart of Becoming the Obvious Choice–relies on learning what your prospects needs, wants and values. That’s pretty tough to do if you’re blathering on about how great your consulting firm is.

      I’m 100% on board with your nomination of Listening to the list of critical attributes, Roger, and appreciate you posting your comment.

      • Joe Gregory
        November 18, 2020 at 1:44 pm Reply

        Agree completely. Listening is a skill. The attribute is Curiosity.

        • David A. Fields
          November 18, 2020 at 2:12 pm

          Well said, Joe. Listening is, indeed, a skill. And you’re right, curiosity is an outstanding attribute.

  5. Michael Guglielmo
    November 18, 2020 at 12:44 pm Reply

    I’ll add resourcefulness – it ties in closely with several of the additional ideas being shared such as learning agility, adaptability, and listening!

    • David A. Fields
      November 18, 2020 at 12:50 pm Reply

      Terrific addition, Michael. Resourcefulness nicely captures quite a few helpful attributes for Rainmaking. I’m glad you suggested it!

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