Book Review: “Rainmaking Conversations”

This is an engaging, well-crafted guide to improving your selling effectiveness.

Rainmaking Conversations is a new book on selling services by Mike Schultz and John Doerr. Schultz and Doerr run a publication called RainToday as well as a sales consulting firm, and they authored a previous book called Professional Services Marketing. They have a done an excellent job of putting real detail around the art and science of selling intangible services. The book covers a series of basic and advanced topics including:

  • Creating an effective value proposition
  • Setting goals
  • Managing sales conversations with prospective clients
  • Using key selling principles
  • Cold calling
  • Handling objections
  • Planning your sales conversations

Their basic model for engaging with clients is excellent. First, build rapport. Second, understand the client’s “afflictions” and “aspirations” (problems and opportunities). Third, find out what the impact would be of solving the affliction or fulfilling the aspiration. Fourth, establish what the “new reality” would look like—what a future state would be like once the client’s issue was addressed. While this model is not radically new by any means, what is new and fresh is the detailed meat they put around the bones. The authors guide the reader, step by step, through this process of advocacy and inquiry. They give you detailed questions to ask, and tips for handling difficult client challenges.

I especially liked their section on objections, where they provide some excellent thinking about handling the four classic client objections:

  1. No Trust
  2. No Need
  3. No Urgency
  4. No Money

One suggestion I found refreshing was to strategically disengage from the conversation if the client is complacent and refuses to share any kind of need or issue with you. If the client insists that everything is going great, why not say (my words, but I’m paraphrasing), “It sounds like things are going extremely well on all fronts and you really don’t have any needs right now…” (pause). “So why don’t we just stay in touch…” and make the motions to leave. Sometimes, this can stimulate the client to push back and say, “Well, there are a few things we are concerned about…”

One of the authors’ “Rainmaking Principles” that I truly endorse is this one: Create new conversations every day. Rainmakers always feed the front of their pipelines…” Many of my own clients tend to move from feast to famine in regular cycles. They get busy with existing clients, and stop talking to new prospects. If you are a seller-doer, I believe that you need to have 2-3 conversations a week with existing and new prospective clients about new work. Otherwise your backlog will shrink.

If you are in professional services, or for that matter in any type of role that requires you to sell to existing or new clients, Rainmaking Conversations is an excellent addition to your bookshelf.

Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation by Mike Schultz and John E. Doerr. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

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