Rainmaking networks: Perfecting your sales

Issue March 2013 By Susan Letterman White

Rainmaking is much more than a consequence of having the right skills; it is also about having the right networks!1

Do you ever wonder why some people are better at sales than others? Well, here's the answer: They think differently. They act differently. And, they have different networks. The networks of top rainmakers look different. "Different configurations of networks produce different results, and the salesperson who develops a nuanced understanding of social networks will outshine competitors."2

My clients become top rainmakers by measuring and developing their networks that matter: lead generation; client decision-makers; indirect influencers of decision-makers; broad reputation; and solution collaborators. Lead generation refers to contacts, who are positioned to learn of different marketplace opportunities that matter to you.

Compare the ineffective lead generation network in the image on the left with the effective lead generation network on the right. Notice the difference between the two networks.

The effective network connects you (the circle at the far left of each image) with the knowledge of diverse indirect contacts. When your direct contacts, are connected to different people in different organizations with different interests, rather than with shared contacts, it expands your view into marketplace opportunities. Do you know what your lead generation network looks like?

Your other networks matter, too. Who are your connections in your key clients and target clients? Are you sufficiently connected with the decision-makers who distribute legal work and the indirect influencers, who have the ear of the direct decision-makers? Are you building your reputation with speaking and publishing opportunities. You can count on the decision makers and indirect influencers being influenced by your professional reputation, even if only unconsciously. Finally, clients want a lawyer they believe will solve their unique and complex problems that keep them up at night. When you have an opportunity to pitch to such a client are you sufficiently networked to solution collaborators in your firm?

Growing your network is a key piece of your marketing strategy. If you are attaining your business development goals, it's time to evaluate your network and consider options for expanding and improving it.

Growing your network is part of a disciplined marketing strategy and an organic process. Join Cynthia MacCausland, Donald Lassman, Daniel Dain and me on Thursday, April 4, 2013, at noon when the MBA Law Practice Management Section presents Growing and Mining a Professional Network. You'll receive tips from successful rainmakers on how to build your networks and have opportunities to ask them your burning questions on how to become a better rainmaker by building your professional network.

Susan Letterman White, JD, MS, is a principal in Letterman White Consulting, a consulting practice devoted to improving organization and team performance and training people to think like business leaders. She works with organizations to change their structures and processes to improve business performance. She also runs Lawyers Leaders & Teams, a company devoted to marketing and leadership development training for lawyers. Her advanced training in business strategy and group facilitation from American University and NTL is integrated into all program designs. She designs and delivers performance-improvement programs that include: organization growth strategy, diversity and inclusion, business development and cross-selling, and strategic communication and conflict management. She frequently uses assessments and other tools to help her clients change the way they think and is certified to administer and interpret the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)®.

1The term "network" refers to a person's direct and indirect contacts.

2T. Üstüner & D. Godes, Better Sales Networks, Harvard Business Review (2006).