Definition

rainmaker (business)

Contributor(s): Mary K. Pratt, Ivy Wigmore

A rainmaker is an individual who generates an unusually high amount of revenue for an organization by bringing new clients and new business to the company.

Rainmakers outperform others in the organization in their ability to bring in new ventures; their contributions are considered critical to the success of the business. Rainmakers can also bring attention or prestige to an organization based solely on their previous work or contacts. This makes a rainmaker a highly valued individual for the organization, often as a model of successful business practices. 

The role of a rainmaker

The new business or revenue that a rainmaker brings in is often from an unknown or overlooked source, creating the impression that the assets were created through mysterious means. The rainmaker's success typically hinges on them being an outgoing, motivated and energetic employee with a large social network of contacts. They are equally skilled at managing existing relationships and clients as they are at establishing new ones.

Rainmaker is also used in a broader sense to refer to any prolific businessperson.

Rainmaker traits
Traits of a rainmaker

History of the term 'rainmaker'

The word "rainmaker" stems from Native American culture, which embraced the idea that an individual could bring rain through mysticism, religion or science.

The term "rainmaker" in a business context originated in the legal profession. It initially described an attorney in a law firm -- typically a partner -- who brought in the most new clients or drummed up the most new business through individual contacts and efforts.

Use of the term spread to similar professional services industries, such as financial services and brokerage houses.

Now the term is broadly used to classify any individual who brings about a high-level of success, particularly in terms of revenue and sales.

Skills and common traits

There are no specific criteria that an individual must meet to be labeled a rainmaker, nor are there any certifications or designated activities that one must complete to earn this recognition. It is not typically used as a business title.

However, business and management leaders cite characteristics that are common among rainmakers, as well as activities that rainmakers usually undertake.

They note that rainmakers are focused on customers and their needs and seek to help them solve their problems or cope with their challenges. They tend to be good listeners and responsive to others.

They also tend to be go-getters with not only self-motivation but also the ability to motivate others. They are often influential and engaging.

By definition, rainmakers are raking in new business (and thus revenue) but their primary focus is cultivating and building relationships to win over new clients and contracts.

Rainmakers also recognize that business is about sales, so while they may be law firm partners or hold other executive roles, they see revenue management as part of their responsibilities.

Although rainmakers typically possess these traits naturally, they also work to improve their networking skills by scheduling time to make connections, meet prospects and research industry news and trends.

This was last updated in October 2018

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