The Myth of the Perfect Rainmaker

By Deborah McMurray
Published in Texas Lawyer

There’s No Perfect Personality Suited To Marketing. Anyone With A Little Time And An Open Mind Can Strengthen The Firm’s Client Base.

Most lawyers don`t like to sell. Why are they so averse to this? Why do they think they aren’t good at it? Why are many young and senior Lawyers alike so concerned, and uncomfortable with the prospect of regularly bringing in new business?

There are common answers to these queries. These objections reflect incredible distress. While I appreciate the anxiety behind these objections, I think there is a more productive and less stressful way of approaching the issues.

Objection #1: "It`s unprofessional and hard."

If the lawyers who raise this objection the loudest honestly studied the behavior of the successful in their firms and communities, they would have to admit that those people do not appear unprofessional or indecorous. In addition, they seem like they are having fun and they make it look easy. (Why? Because it is!)

Many lawyers experience a confusing combination of feelings when asked to market or sell themselves or their colleagues—fear, anger, frustration, cynicism, even disorientation. The sensations cause the attorney to believe marketing is hard—and to create “acceptable” excuses such as it is unprofessional.

The only honest reason that selling may seem hard is because it may be new. Learning a foreign language seems impossible at first then, one day, remarkably, single words turn into sentences that turn into paragraphs and conversations. And then, we even think in Spanish or French.

Objection #2: "I don`t have time to get it all in. Too much is expected of me; I have too, many demands on my time.”

Executives and professionals are two of the most time-strapped groups of people in the United States. Nevertheless, while constantly complaining about the pace, the overload and/or the lack of these people are making deals and running businesses, forever aware of the time value of money.

But what about the money value of their time? A close look at how executives and professionals invest their time would reveal the disturbing imbalance of supply and demand.

Lawyers need to re-engineer how they think. First they need to recognize that a lawyer`s time is a scarce natural resource. Next they need to realize that most people have a continuous backlog of demands. Throughout our present activity and future planning, we continue to feel frustrated, guilty, mad or depressed about the backlog. Additionally, distress results when one is asked or compelled to engage in activity that is not natural or comfortable.

Because a lawyer`s time is increasingly costly and valuable, lawyers and their firms should identify personal and organizational investments that enable them to spend this resource more productively. This may mean additional talent, enabling easier delegation of particular responsibilities; new technology, enabling computer links to firm clients and the lawyers` homes; and non-legal training programs.

Training for lawyers was an `80s luxury. Now it is a 90’s necessity.

Law firms should not assume that their highly intelligent lawyers come fitted with the information or inclination to make them successful and happy relationship-builders and communicators.

Every training program focusing on client retention and development should include: beginning, advanced and continuous communication training; interactive courses on how to handle client objections; how to discuss fees and staffing or make a request for a conflict waiver; how to prepare a captivating response to a request for proposal and participate in a winning beauty contest; how to deal with clients coming to the firm and how to speak candidly with the clients about what they expect from the firm; and war stories from firm rainmakers(well respected rainmakers from, non-competing firms) telling how and why they have succeeded and when they have not.

Approached with an open mind, every one of these programs is guaranteed to reduce" some if not all, of the distress association with marketing and selling, and is assured to streamline the "processes lawyers use to retain and develop hew clients. Therefore, the time that is consciously dedicated is more productive, the lawyers become more effective begin to reap the rewards of their increasingly relationships and, as a result they are happier and having more fun. The money value of this time is greater, and the investment is clearly paying off.

Objection #3: "I don`t have the right personality to be any good at it."

I often wonder what this means. Does this imply that an individual has the wrong personality? There is no right or wrong personality. The key to success in any type of business is excellent communication. It is the foundation of every successful personal and business relationship and the base of a flourishing attorney-client association.

Every personality style in the world can inspire its host to communicate well, as long as one understands his or her behavioral strengths and weaknesses. Professional communication trainers preach, "first understand, then be understood.” Being introspective is not an indulgence or even a choice, it is a business imperative.

Measuring Personality Types

There are several well-accepted instruments that measure personality, communication or behavioral style. Hippocrates was the first to determine, 25 centuries ago, that there were four "temperaments" or human personality styles: choleric (quick-tempered or irritable), phlegmatic (impassive or emotionless), melancholic (cheerless and downcast) and sanguine (hopeful and confident).

Since then, the words used in the models have changed, but the analysis and usefulness remain intact. In order for any of us to be truly successful and honestly happy; we must understand the odd combination of idiosyncrasy, intellect history and energy that we call our personality.

TIMS Personality Profile Analysis.

There is a very simple, yet amazingly accurate method of determining four primary personality styles. The TIMS Personality Profile Analysis identifies the four types as influencing, dominant, steady and competent.

  • The Influencer. "Influencers" are friendly, emotional, outgoing, expressive, energetic, confident and enthusiastic. Lawyers who think they don`t have the "right" personality style to develop new business generally assume that the Influencers have it.

    Are Influencers perfect rainmaker? Of course not. While those blessed as a "high I" enjoy people more than the other styles, one of their great fears is loss of approval. This risk of loss may keep them socializing but not actually closing the deal or bringing the business in the door. To ensure their personal and financial success, Influencers must understand this weakness and dedicate time to overcome it.
  • The Dominant. Who, then, are the best closers—the best bottom-line oriented? The "high Ds," or the "Dominants," are direct, competitive and confident. They are driven; power and ego are important and they are impatient and aggressive.

    A perfect client developer? Certainly not. Because the primary orientation of Dominants is results, they are often intolerant of anything that appears to get in the way of achieving their desired outcome including the client. In addition, Dominants do not trust easily; they fear others will take advantage. Consequently, they seldom rely on them strengths and resources of a team - often a critical shortcoming.
  • "High D" lawyers must understand that building relationships takes time—frequently more time than they wish to spend. The client is the person who dictates when the time is right to take the next step; therefore, Dominants would be wise to trust and invite team members who may enjoy the relational processes more than they.
  • The Steady. Among the best at maintaining relationships are those who are "Steady.” Unfortunately, the word "steady" frequently receives bad press in our turbopaced, cyberspace world. Plodding, tedious and grinding are adjectives we recklessly use, when, in fact sincere, loyal, supportive, contemplative and cooperative are far-more accurate adjectives we should use to describe the individuals who often are the "glue" of the organization.

    These individuals often are the first to exclude from a selling environment, and often are (wrongly) the first to be excluded by others. "High S" personal types fear a loss of security; consequently, they loathe the risk associated with asking for new or additional business. The prospect of being turned down is far worse than the prospect of being less successful or risking what they already have. This comes across to their more assertive peers as unmotivated and unexciting.

    Steady lawyers in your firm will be adored by many of your clients, however, because they will take the time to deliver the kind of superior client service that your clients want. The Steady member of a business development team must understand the timing of the sale so the impetus is not slowed or an opportunity inadvertently lost.
  • The Competent. The "Competent" is the precise temperament. These lawyers enjoy discussing the deal structure, love to be asked for their expert opinions and cite volumes of back- up material in support. Quality is first and foremost in these lawyers’ minds, and criticism of their work is one of their greatest fears.

    The “high C" in order to become a perfect rainmaker, must step back and rely on to provide the nontechnical elements of the lawyer-client union—the energy, enthusiasm, vitality and drive that are also essential to successful client relationship building. The Competent will be happier if he or she understands that the time spent in these nontechnical pursuits is time that is greatly appreciated and will be rewarded.

What is the "right" personality type?

The client development quandary that lawyers find themselves in reminds me of an incident that recently occurred in my neighborhood. A child’s cat was stuck in a tree. Her mother devised a clever plan involving a dead fish in the bottom of a trash can hoisted by rope high into the tree. The cat would voluntarily jump into the trash can to retrieve the bait and would be lowered safely to the ground. Father`s plan was simpler—he offered to grab his shotgun.

How to do something depends upon what the goal is. Mother was trying to get the cat safely out of the tree. Father wanted to rid the tree of the cat.

Well, the Wash can plan did not work. The shotgun plan was quickly vetoed by the distraught child. The best rescue would have been a combination of the mother`s thoughtful, creative approach and the father`s bottom-line approach. The same holds true for lawyers wanting to experience greater success in client development activities.

The right personality type for client development combines all four of the above personality styles. Because it would be rare that one person would have equal parts of the four types, the best compromise and most effective solution is often a team of four lawyers, one of each type, that celebrates and integrates the strengths of each style. If no one is forced to behave in an alien way or asked to change fundamentally, the distress related to marketing and selling can be reduced or eliminated. And because stress levels surrounding these activities are lower, there is more valuable time available to engage in far more pleasurable things.


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