One of the best rainmakers I have met in recent years called me the other day, because clients had stopped hiring him. Naturally, he found this disturbing. Who wouldn’t? He wanted to talk about the cause and what to do about it.
Demand had dropped because of events in his primary market with which he had had nothing to do and which were beyond his control. Until recently, his practice had been growing at over 20 percent per year for several years. His efforts in new markets weren’t producing sufficient results yet to stop the dive. For the first time in his career, he found himself unable to land sufficient new clients.
It is a credit to his awesome rainmaking abilities that this hadn’t happened earlier in his life. I know from personal experiences and those of many professionals whom I have worked with that the first time this happens, it can bludgeon a person’s self confidence. This is especially so, if one is emotionally insecure, as many rainmakers are.
If this happens to you, I suggest the following:
- Remind yourself that everyone has streaks and slumps. This is partially a matter of luck. If you flip a coin enough times, it will eventually come up tails ten times in a row. That it does is a function of probabilities and luck rather than of your flipping skill. You probably haven’t lost your touch; your luck has just turned. Of course, this also means you weren’t quite as good as you thought you were when the luck was running your way and you had a streak of wins. That humbling bit of logic is good to keep in mind when you are winning a lot.
- The probabilities of a certain run of wins or loses changes over time with market conditions and other factors. Just as a field-goal kicker will score less often in a season with lots of gusty crosswinds, so you will win less often when the business crosswinds work against you.
- The probabilities of winning go down, if you have to enter a new or under-developed market, and go down substantially. This if for factors I have described elsewhere (See my book, Creating Rainmakers, Chapter 2, “What Rainmakers Know or the Mathematics of Selling”).
- Of course, you should review what you have been doing that might have reduced your rainmaking effectiveness. There is always something that we can do better. There are always areas where we have become a bit lax with success. Fix these problems.
- Refocus on the markets where you can get the most traction fast and have at them.
This all leads to my main point: Beating yourself up over a slump won’t help you. First, for the reasons I have described, it is probably inappropriate for you to do so. Slumps occur for even the best rainmakers, and the rainmakers’ errors are usually a relatively small part of the cause. So, question what you have been doing, but don’t question yourself. Wallowing in self recriminations or the (false) realization that you have been a fraud, not a rainmaker, all these years, is counterproductive.
If my friend, the rainmaker, was guilty of anything, it was of not diversifying his market rapidly enough. He had made sincere efforts to do so, but those efforts had been stalled due to the high demand in his core market which consumed his energies and time. If that is a mistake, it is an honest and understandable one. Indeed, it is one that most of us would make. All this doesn’t resolve one’s revenue shortfall, but it does put one in a better mind-frame for doing something about it.