Effective Rainmakers Can Make It Pour Sales
by Alf Nucifora
The constant quest for most businesses, small, medium and large, lies in generating qualified sales leads. For the company marketing to a highly targeted base of hard-to-corral prospects, the C-suite types in particular, the need becomes more pressing, the process more complex and the success more elusive.
Enter the "rainmaker", the subject of sales mythology, part-man, part-god. Like the Loch Ness Monster, rarely evidenced, but sometimes considered as a solution of last resort when business is down or flat and "for some unknown reason, our message isn't getting out to prospects and we're not getting invited to the pitch". In most cases, the hired-gun rainmaker fails to deliver. Why? The expectations are unrealistic; the time frame for the delivery of results too immediate and short term; the company is not really committed to the process; the incentive compensation basis is out of skew. The list goes on.
In spite of the difficulties and risks associated with the process, rainmaking is a viable process if executed with strategic discipline and managed with professional care. Rainmaking can deliver the serious pre-sales meetings with senior management and C-suite prospects. Successful rainmakers are familiar with the reconnoitering techniques that result in usable market intelligence. What are the prospect's "points-of-pain"? What are the projects on the horizon and what's the timing for associated spending decisions? Will there be RFP competition? Have preliminary budgets been developed? The professional rainmakers don't close the sale. That's not their job. Their responsibility is to profile the prospect, fill the information gaps and conduct a highly qualified pre-sell that establishes the foundation for a cost-effective and time efficient follow-up sales blitz.
For the client who uses a rainmaker, the benefits can be substantial. At a primal level, rainmaking services satisfy the needs of the client who lacks the time and/or inclination to carry out an effective call program. Dedicated rainmakers, particularly those operating on an outsourced basis, can provide a customized sales service that saves time, delivers faster results and is more effective and more accountable in generating prospect opportunities. The successful professional rainmaker tends to love the thrill of the chase, is normally more persistent as a result, and can often exercise executive judgment because of a successful business background and prior history of sales success. Bottom line, good rainmakers know how to get in the door and make a strong pre-sell. Naturally, the stronger the pre-sell, the better the ultimate close rate.
Introducing Corporate Rain
Headquartered in New York, Corporate Rain, Inc. (CRI) is one of a handful of rainmaking consultancies servicing the corporate marketplace. The company, which boasts clients such as insurance giant AIG, Amadeus, Deloitte&Touche, E*Trade, Avaya Communications, Enron, Kroll and Cohn & Wolfe, employs 35 associates, both full-time employees and independent contractors who have had extensive experience in a corporate executive position. These high-level sales "cowboys" work the phones on behalf of CRI's clients, which run the gamut from medium to very large-sized companies.
Because the biggest obstacle in getting to the prospect decision maker is making it through the gatekeeper, persistence coated in trust and lacquered in courtesy is a must. For that reason CRI associates are experienced (over 35 of age), and carry significant business and corporate scar tissue, which allows them to exhibit executive judgment and demeanor. Most have chosen to exit the corporate rat race, yet still practice in their chosen field, executive sales.
CRI maintains that it averages a 10-20% pre-sell hit rate. CRI associates position themselves as staff members of the client they are representing, make repeated calls to targeted prospects, qualify the prospects according to client criteria, set up meetings for client top executives and glean detailed information from each prospect that will assist the client in tailor-making the pitch in each case. CRI views itself as a boutique that offers outsourced, customized sales and marketing. Clients seeking a mass telemarketing effort are neither solicited nor serviced. Compensation is on a retainer basis, with a moderate up-front initiation fee, a small back-end charge, and a month-to-month commitment cycle allowing the client to control the dynamics of the relationship. Contingency compensation is not an option.
The CRI process follows a logical course of action. The procedure commences with client-provided prospect lists normally culled from in-house contacts and files, selected listings from local area business journals, as well as prospects from national list brokers. CRI will offer to confirm the client-provided prospect lists by appending names, addresses and direct phone numbers of the appropriate decision makers. This cleaning up process helps to significantly drive up the appointment rate during the call cycle.
Each calling campaign is preceded by an introductory letter-mailing campaign, executed by the client, not CRI, at a suggested mailing rate of 80-100 letters per month. In this way the client controls the volume and rate of mailing. The client is also asked to appoint an internal administrative assistant to monitor response and resends. Mailing blitzes will sometimes be executed in support of trade shows and as an introduction/set-up to calls that are made seeking sales appointments during the shows.
CRI manages an up-to-the-minute prospect database utilizing MS Outlook's Access and ACT in addition to proprietary CRM software provided by the client. The monitoring system calls for immediate notification to the client as soon as an appointment has been set together with information such as time, date, location, key prospects attending, as well as background data such as prospect needs or issues, level of purchase interest and competitor involvement. Databases continue to be updated with new contacts and contact information, all of which is transmitted to the client on a regular, on-going basis.
Evidently, the process works. According to Brad Smith, CRI Executive VP, "Amadeus is a classic example of how the system works and delivers." CRI executives met with key Amadeus players to plan strategic coordination, undergo pitch training (for CRI associates) and learn company background and capabilities. In less than five months, CRI landed 70 meetings with key prospects and provided competitive feedback that helped Amadeus further fine tune it's sales process.