Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Solving Client Problems Isn’t Enough

Here’s a counterintuitive clue to how not only professionals but their Firms overall can avoid commoditization: stop thinking about business development as the job of your most elite rainmaker.

Imagine the star of a football team. The person that makes all the plays happen. What if the other 10 people on the team simply sat on the bench and waited for the star to work his magic? This is how the majority of professional service firms operate. Rainmaking? It’s up to the star. Here’s the question - What if all 11 people pulled their part? What if more than just the “kingpin” rainmaker in your firm could play a meaningful role in business development? Your revenue per professional would rise. So would your staff utilization rate. And, because you had more partners succeeding, your Partner (and client) turnover would probably decrease.

The cynic’s view on why such a business development vision can never happen is summed up by this oft-repeated phrase, “A leopard can’t change his spots.” That is, if you aren’t a born rainmaker who has already proven his metal, than you won’t ever be one. The good news is: the leopard doesn’t need to change his spots. Professionals do, however, need to understand their natural business development skills and abilities (different for each of us “leopards”) and put them to use in more productive ways. Event better news: The “leopard trainers” at Creative Growth Group and The Berke Group have just completed a study that unveils how to do this.

The Berke Assessment measures key personality traits and natural talents that can have a dramatic impact on advisor and client development interactions. While many commercially available assessments measure personality, the Berke Assessment is unique in its analysis of both personality and talent. The resulting report provides a robust and strikingly insightful snapshot of a professional, particularly when compared to the personality traits and talents required by a given professional’s role. We administered the Berke Profile to hundreds of advisors across a range of professions from January 2005 – August 2008. Recently, we closely examined this cumulative data and ran regression analysis of the eleven factors measured and their links to rainmaking success. We discovered several crucial patterns and unearthed meaningful new insights into Rainmaker Archetypes and how to use them to your Firm’s advantage.

Three primary skill patterns provide the basis for Rainmaker Archetypes. These showed up most prominently in our assessments of professionals…and they appeared to have the strongest impact on client development. They are:

Problem Solving Pattern: Problem solving is a pattern of talents and personality that enables professionals to analyze and interpret complex client situations and to create new, beneficial solutions. This is a basic pattern for almost all professional service providers. Applied to client development, it can be quite helpful.

Connecting Pattern: Connecting is the ability pattern that enables professionals to build strong interpersonal relationships that lead to positive advisory and client development results. It is a very prominent pattern in successful rainmakers.

Driving Pattern: Driving is the ability pattern that enables professionals to push through obstacles and overcome opposition despite frustrations and setbacks. It is the most predictive pattern for client development success.

Combining the three primary skill patterns produces a total of seven Rainmaker Archetypes:

1. Problem solver
2. Connector
3. Driver
4. Thought leader
5. Cultivator
6. Developer
7. Trimodal

Here’s what the data told us about why Problem solving isn’t enough:

• In general, Professional Service Providers – regardless of their subject matter expertise – are very high on the Problem Solving pattern of abilities. In our study of over 110 professionals, almost all were above average on this pattern and a strong majority (65%) were in the top 25% of the general population.
– Although the Problem Solving Pattern appears to be necessary for the work of professional service provider regardless of subject expertise, it does not predict client development performance. The correlation with rainmaking success was zero. It is necessary but not sufficient.

• On the other hand, the connector pattern of abilities and the driver pattern of abilities are highly predictive of rainmaking success.
– Of those professionals in the study who were very high or high in either the Connector Pattern or the Driving Pattern, 84% were rated in the Top group of rainmakers.
– Of those professionals in the study who were low or very low in both the Connector and the Driving Pattern, 68% were rated in the Bottom group of rainmakers.

There’s plenty more about this study of rainmaking skills and success in professional services including how to apply these findings to your practice and firm. E-mail me “andrew at” to set up a personal review of the findings and their applicability to your revenue growth.


Ford Harding said...

This is an interesting model and a real contrbution to understanding rainmaking in tne professions.

Ford Harding

Mary Beth Cutshall said...

Great article. Thanks for sharing. I believe that everyone in an oganization "sells" or is responsible for "selling". This is a difficult paradigm shift for people but once it happens the results are undeniable.