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November 5, 2008

Consultant Rain Making with Ford Harding

I have been carrying Ford Harding's book, Rain Making, with me now for more years than I remember. He is also the author of Creating Rainmakers Volume 2 and his excellent blog at

It was always hard to keep reading because it was so filled with great ideas that I kept rushing off to try them out and set them in motion!

It has been one of the constant and invaluable resources of my career. Helping with everything from creating prescence, to marketing, to closing the sale.

CP: Most consultants go out on their own as a way of leveraging off their own deep functional knowledge. Unfortunately, most of them are not rainmakers and live more on passion than on revenues in the beginning. Is there anything you could recommend to them as a first step in developing their rainmaking capabilities?

FH: I would recommend calling three former clients and asking for a meeting, saying the following: 
I am launching my own practice and would appreciate a little advice.  I want to set up a meeting in which I can describe to you what I have in mind and get your feedback on its market appeal, how I should change it, and the like.  
I am not trying to sell you anything—this is market research and I would value your opinion.

Don’t try to sell anything at this meeting (unless, of course, the client asks you to).  Listen carefully to the responses.  The market is a great teacher.  Be sure to follow up with a thank you note.

CP: Many consultancies take a lot of time and resources developing relationships at the mid levels of management. Others insist that if you aren't talking to the leaders of the company then you are increasing the risk and the duration of the sales process. What is the right level to sell your services at?

FH: That depends on your service.  Some do well by telling midlevel managers, “I’m your guy.  My allegiance is to you.  I’m not trying to get over your head to your boss.”  You want to decide what business you are in and what that says about whom you should sell to.

CP: One of the game changing tactics I took away from your book many years ago was how to direct, create and distribute articles and reports as a rainmaking activity. Since then the Internet has changed pretty much everything, is this still a valid strategy? And if so - how has it changed?

FH: The internet has changed the strategy.  It’s still valid but more complicated.  For example, in most fields there are increasing and changing internet publications that will publish your piece.  This provides more opportunities than there used to be.  And some will let you make reprints, paper or electronic, at no charge, a big help to someone starting out.  Many of these are low prestige platforms (though they may still be of high quality).  There are a lot more target publications to choose from, but you have to now your objectives before you pick one.

CP: Adding to the point above, the Internet has introduced a lot of new technologies and ways of communicating. Including blogs, YouTube, LinkedIn and other tools. What is the best way to leverage these?

FH: This is a marketing mix question that everyone must answer, given their needs, resources and abilities. Learn a little about each approach be for committing to it.  I have had a blog for a year and a half now and am astounded by how much time it takes.  

That may be appropriate for me now, but could have sunk me when I was starting out, because time spent blogging is time off the street talking to prospective clients. 

If you don’t get face to face with prospective clients, you won’t sell anything and you will fail.  So, you had best see a clear path from any marketing activity to a conversation with a prospective client or not waste time on it.  Look how my suggestion in response to your first question does that for you.

CP: So as a solo consultant the more successful you are in delivering work, the less time you have to keep the pipeline full for future work. What sort fo advice can you give our readers on ways to get around this problem?

FH: Always, always guard a day a week for business development, no matter how busy you are.  Look for two’fers (Two-for-One’s).  If you don’t spend time developing new business, one day you won’t have any new projects and you will have to go back to work for someone else.

Every manager of a professional firm realizes that generating leads and landing new clients are critical components of any successful business venture. But transforming accountants, architects, attorneys, consultants, engineers, and other professionals into client-generators is not always easy to do.

Divided into two comprehensive parts-The Rainmaker Model and The Elements of Rainmaking-Creating Rainmakers outlines all the steps you should take to turn your professional staff into a powerful team of sales winners. (See reviews online)