The Seven Masteries of the Rainmaker
Blair offers seven mindsets that any seller of expertise needs to master so that they can behave like the expert in the sales cycle.
DAVID C. BAKER: Good morning, Blair. You are in London. I'm in Nashville.
BLAIR ENNS: Yeah, it's my afternoon, and it's your seven AM.
DAVID: And don't tell me you've gotten a lot more done today already, because that's just a time change thing. Has nothing to do with productivity. Today we're going to talk about the seven masteries of the rainmaker, choke, choke.
BLAIR: You're choking on the word rainmaker, are you?
DAVID: Well, a little bit. I'm also, it's like seven. How come it's not six or eight? Seven sounds quite biblically, almost like we need to take an offering at the end of this or something.
BLAIR: Let's do that.
DAVID: I'm more choking on the idea of the rainmaker. Do you hear that term much anymore? I don't really hear it. We know what it means, though.
BLAIR: No, but there was a time when you heard it often. In fact, if an agency were running an ad looking for a new business person, probably a health percentage of those ads would have the title rainmaker wanted.
BLAIR: I've never liked the term rainmaker. It's a little bit funny that an agency principal would be looking for an individual who essentially has magical powers, the ability to make it rain.
DAVID: Right. It's dry. The crops are going to die. All we can do is just rely on magic. So let's call on the rainmaker. We have no idea how he ... it was always a he back in those days, but we don't know how he or she does it, but this is our last resort.
BLAIR: We have no positioning. We have no leads. We have no prospects. We have no formalized new business process. You absolutely need somebody who can make it rain, yeah. So I've kind of used that term tongue in cheek, but the idea of seven masteries, it really stems from the notion of mindset. Because you can master behaviors. You can master all kinds of things. And when I originally wrote about this a few years ago, I had come home to the idea that I was teaching people sales process and people were learning, so they were onboarding and understanding what it is that they knew to do in specific situations, but yet, they still couldn't bring themselves to do it.
BLAIR: So I kind of went deep into the subject and realized well, the things that I'm asking them to do, because my approach, the Win Without Pitching approach to selling to new businesses is a little bit contrary to the conventional way it's done in the creative profession. So the things that I was asking them to do were contrary to their overall general pattern of behavior. And then you ask yourself, well, what sets somebody's general pattern of behavior, and the answer is it's really the thoughts in their head, the mindset.
BLAIR: So I kind of arrived at this model, this idea of the seven masteries of the rainmaker. These are the seven things that are concepts that an individual needs to master in order to put themselves in the mindset, the mindset of the expert. I sometimes refer to it as the Jedi mindset, so they master those concepts. So they're in the proper mindset. Then they can begin to behave, generally speaking, across the pattern of general behavior, they can begin to behave like the expert, and then they can start to take onboard these very specific things that we teach client does x, you do y.
BLAIR: If you learn those specific points of sales process, what to do in the sale, in certain situations, but you're not already operating or behaving like the expert, then they're not going to work. So this whole idea was about getting to somebody's mindset.
DAVID: Okay, so we're going to go through the seven, but before we do that, let's assume that I want to embrace this way of thinking. What specifically, almost mechanically, are you suggesting I'm going to do with these seven things? Do I just write them down, and I chant them to myself? No, you're not talking about that. It's more I analyze my behavior against this list. What am I going to do with this after we get through going through the seven?
BLAIR: As I walk you through the seven, you'll think about where you are on that spectrum, and in the first mastery, just ask yourself, hey, are you mastering this now, or do you have some homework to do? And then I am going to get you to chant something funnily enough.
DAVID: Good luck with that.
BLAIR: After we get through four of the ... I think I said to you, this is either going to be really fun, or it's going to be a complete disaster.
DAVID: Right, yeah.
BLAIR: So we'll just see how it goes. As I explain the mastery, you just ask yourself, well, is this something I have mastered, or do I have some homework to do? And then once we get through four, the first four, which I consider to be the foundational masteries, then I'll actually talk about stringing them all together in a little saying or a mantra that you can say to yourself, and I don't mean to say that you're like Buddhist guru here or something.
DAVID: As you laugh and talk about that, right.
BLAIR: We're going to get you to say it out loud and then you'll see that when you do this properly, this becomes the conversation that you're having yourself with, and it sets you up to go into a situation where you're behaving properly. And even if you don't remember the specific things I tell you that you should be doing in the situation, it won't really matter, because you'll be thinking the right things. Therefore, your tendency will be to behave appropriately. You will behave like the expert. And then you can forget all of the nuance, and you'll still probably do pretty good.
DAVID: Okay. All right. So let's dive in then. The first one is focus, right? So talk about that.
BLAIR: Yeah, so mastering focus, it begins with the subject of focus. When you go in and do a total business review with a firm, I don't know this for certain, but I would expect that one of the very first things that you look at is the firm's positioning. Once you do an assessment of where the firm is and how they need to improve, I suspect that's kind of the foundation of where you start, or one of them. It certainly is in my business.
DAVID: Yeah. In fact, I'm doing one today, yesterday and today. And as I was driving to where I'm talking with you now, I was just thinking, you know, I love this work. There's so much science and art around positioning, and it sets the stage for everything, right? How can you have all these other conversations without that? And that's what you mean focus, power in the sell comes from deep expertise, which comes out of that focus.
DAVID: So when somebody's listening to this first one, and they're thinking, okay, do I still have homework to do, that question is is my firm focused enough to give me power or leverage in that relationship.
BLAIR: Yeah, are you focused, or are you the individual benefiting from a focused firm. And the benefit of focus is when the firm narrows its focus in terms of the types of problems it solves or the types of clients it works for, usually a combination of those two, when it narrows its focus, it allows the firm to build a deeper expertise. So if you're an agency principal, and you have a dedicated new business development person, just ask yourself, are you arming this person with the benefit of focus. So we're going to build a four statement mantra.
BLAIR: And the first statement is I am the expert. I am the prize. And that comes from this notion, this idea that I see myself as the expert practitioner in the relationship and not a vendor. I have some power in the relationship because of the depth of my expertise. Therefore I have a sense of being in control, but this idea that I am the prize, I am the prize to be won. I and the firm, we are the prize to be won in the relationship. And it's not the client is the prize that I am trying to win.
BLAIR: So again, that's a mindset thing. Do you see yourself as this deep expert and representing a firm that has deep expertise that is desirable to the client, and do you see yourself and the firm as the prize to be won in the relationship?
DAVID: That is so powerful, even though the words are so simple. It's the opposite of being a supplicant. It's not an arrogance, though. It's more of a quiet confidence that I've seen this before, and I'm eager to help, but we should talk about whether this is a right fit. I don't have to have this. I keep thinking of all these statements that emerge from what you were just talking about on the focus side. Even though we're kind of skipping, we could unpack this notion for weeks. We could talk for weeks, just about what focus means. But that's how it all starts. I love the fact that ... obviously, it has to be on this list, but I love the fact that it's also the first one.
DAVID: So I am the expert. I am the prize. So that's focus. Second would be purpose. So talk about what that means, because we're still talking about very foundational things. How does purpose relate to this as a second one?
BLAIR: Yeah. So after you master focus, you build deep expertise. The second, master a sense of purpose. And by purpose, I mean kind of a higher mission or calling. So most well-positioned firms can express their positioning in some fairly standard, almost formulaic language, and I don't mean to denigrate the language by calling it formulaic. I think first, you actually have to express your positioning in a formulaic language before you get creative with the language.
BLAIR: So most specialized firms can say we're experts at helping this type of client solve this type of problem, or this discipline for this market. And that's just the beginning. Once you have that nailed, you want to go off in search of a higher purpose. Now, what purpose does for you in the sale is it gives you moral authority. It gives you the moral authority because you're driven, not to sell something to the person sitting across the table from you, and you're driven, not to help them sell things to their client. By tapping into purpose, you're tapping into something that's bigger than you, and even bigger than your client. And that gives you some moral authority in the sale.
BLAIR: I'll give you an example in my own business. So Win Without Pitching, I can express our positioning as sales training for creative professionals. So the discipline is sales training. Creative professionals is the market. But my mission based positioning is we are on a mission to change the way creative services are bought and sold the world over. So there are different reasons. It starts to get into this Simon Sinek, tapping into your why thing. But there are certain moments when I will say that statement to myself, or if I'm being introduced to give a speech, I'll hand that language to the person who's introducing me, and that helps me get through maybe a slightly anxious moment and tap into something bigger than what I'm trying to accomplish in the moment.
BLAIR: And when you're thinking bigger, when you're thinking past the transaction that's in front of you, and you're thinking past even what your client's objective is, to something even bigger than that, that steals you, gives you this moral authority, it contributes to your confidence, and it allows you to kind of ... gives you more ... I don't want to go back to the power word, but more confidence to navigate through the situation, through the sale, acting like the expert.
DAVID: Yeah, and what I'm going to say next, I don't want it to take us too much off track, but I couldn't help but thinking of something as you were talking through this. Part of what we're doing at the beginning of a transaction like this or a possible transaction, or relationship, I guess would be a better way to say it, is to gather some control in that relationship, set ourselves up for that, not, though, so that we can misuse the power, but to use it for the benefit of the client, and sometimes it looks like a mistake. It looks like a power trip. It doesn't make sense sometimes from the outside. It's like if you saw somebody holding a child down, and it was through a glass window, and it looked cruel, and then the next thing you saw is that they were giving the child a shot, or they were dressing a wound or something like that. So we're doing something where we're exerting control to help the client, not to abuse the client. And we're reminding ourselves of that during this purpose discussion.
DAVID: I love the example of getting up on stage, picture you've traveled a long time, you're tired, maybe something has happened that's shaking your confidence just a little bit. And you say this to yourself that I am on a mission to help. I guess that's the second phrase here that we're talking about. The first one, I am the expert, I am the prize. The second one, around purposes, I am on a mission to help. All of a sudden, it settles everything down. It reminds us why we're here and what we're trying to do.
BLAIR: Yeah, well said.
DAVID: So the third one is leadership. This is also a foundational statement. These first four are very foundational. So leadership is the third one.
BLAIR: Yeah, let me just build where we are so far. So focus, I am the expert, I am the prize. Purpose, I am on a mission to help. And leadership, the line that goes with that is I can only do that if you let me lead. The idea of mastering leadership speaks to the notion that the sale is the sample of the engagement. So for you to do your best work in the engagement, you need to be able to lead. I use the word power, and I tend to overuse it, and as you point out, I don't mean power for the sake of power. I don't mean overusing it, but I mean, the client letting you assume the expert practitioner position and lead them through the engagement, rather than them relegating you to the vendor position and having them drag you through the engagement or dictate to you how the engagement is going to work.
BLAIR: You're being hired to help solve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity. And for you to do your best work, you need to be allowed to lead in the engagement. Now, if you're not leading in the sale, then you won't be allowed to lead in the engagement, because the roles in the relationship are established well before the engagement begins. They're established in the sale. That's why you need to behave like the expert. You need to behave appropriately.
BLAIR: So this third mastery of leadership is simply recognizing that for you to do your best work in the engagement, you need to be allowed to lead the client. Therefore, it's your job or a requirement that you assume the leadership position in the sale before you're hired. Again, I refer to the battle for leadership or power or control as the polite battle for control. And it should never feel to the client like you're dominating them or lording anything over them. They should feel the way it feels to you when you're hiring an expert practitioner yourself. They're calm, they're collected. They're clearly in control of where things are going or what the appropriate next steps should be.
BLAIR: But they're also quite consultative with you, and they make you feel like you have input and you're not being dragged along. So that's the third mastery is leadership.
DAVID: I can't help but think about the notion of process as well, because many clients of the folks that are listening to this podcast, those clients are sometimes going to question the process you want to take them through, and it's pretty important to not only have a reason for the process, but to also stick to your process as the expert. Now, if it's not a good process, you don't need to stick to it. I guess that was obvious.
BLAIR: It's funny. I was thinking that, too. I'm sure you've seen this, too. There are a lot of agencies out there that kind of manufacture this, I'll call it process, the Canadian version. They manufacture it, and they lead their clients through it, and I come along, or you as a consultant come along and look in and go oh, it feels a little bit hollow and empty, and it's needlessly long, and it's not as fruitful as the client might think. So I think we can laugh about it, but there's actually some fairly hollow processes out there.
DAVID: Right. But assuming that it's a good process and it really is a core part of how you're going to lead the client, then this begins to be a part of how you conduct this conversation. It's like you've hired me as an expert. The way I've done this in the past many, many times is to follow this process. I don't mean the hollow process. I mean the good process. It's allowed me to find the truth more reliably and more quickly. And that's a part of leadership. Leadership is not just the advice I'm giving a client. Leadership is also the process that we go through together to arrive at that advice. That's more the point. So focus, purpose, leadership. And the fourth one is detachment.
DAVID: Let me go through and repeat these phrases again. So on focus, we have I am the expert, I am the prize. On purpose, I am on a mission to help. On leadership, I can only do that if you help me lead. And then third is detachment so walk us through that.
BLAIR: Yeah. Fourth is detachment, and the line that goes with it is all will not follow, and that's okay. There's really two things you want to master about detachment. First of all, you want to detach from the outcome. So we're talking about the mindset you get into right before you go into the sales interaction. And you layer in all these masteries, focus, purpose, leadership, and this idea of leadership, I'm going into the exchange, and one of the things I'm looking for is I'm looking to take the lead, and I'm looking to see if you will let me take the lead. Do you recognize me as an expert, and are you willing to let me lead in the engagement? If you are, you'll let me lead at least a little bit in the sale. And the fourth mastery here, detachment is letting go of the fact of well, if they don't, that's okay.
BLAIR: Your business is bigger than any single one interaction or any single one opportunity. You are this focused expert. The idea is if this person or this client or account doesn't come with you, if they don't let you lead, if they don't hire you, et cetera, that's okay. So you detach from the outcome. That's number one. You focus on the mindset and the behavior, and you detach from the outcome. So again, if you imagine when you hire or work with other professionals in your life, if you end up saying to a lawyer or accountant or solicitor or whoever the most vaunted expert is in your life, if you decide kind of not to go with them, they're not pleading for you to please, please, please give me your business. Because they're this recognized expert who have, you imagine that they have all kinds of opportunities available to them beyond you.
BLAIR: And that's essentially what you should be thinking to yourself and then communicating to your client, and just let go of the outcome. So that's the first point on detachment is just generally focus on the mindset, focus on the pattern of behavior, and let go of the outcome. Don't be tied to the fact that this person absolutely must buy from you.
BLAIR: There's a lot rolled up in this idea. The idea of not over investing in the sale is tied to it. It's easier to detach when you haven't over invested in the sale. But the second part of detachment is each of us personally tends to have something, and it's usually one recurring thing that we want from the other person in the sale.
BLAIR: And I'll go back to this model of motivation known as McClelland's needs theory of motivation or the three needs theory that says people are motivated primarily by one of three different things. It's the need to win versus others, the need to orchestrate others, and the need to connect with others. So if you're a high competitive drive, and you have a high need to win, then you really need to detach from, before you walk through the door, just let go of the need to win this opportunity. If you have high power needs, you have the need for authority and respect, that's probably a good thing, because you and I and have been talking about that. You want to occupy the expert practitioner position, but some people can be in danger of having too high a need for authority and respect.
BLAIR: And that's me. So I need to let go of the need to be the absolute authority on something, and other people have high affiliation needs. What they're concerned about in any social interaction, even in a commercial one like this is the need to be liked by others, the need to connect with and be liked by others. So in that situation, they would be telling themselves something like all right, this person doesn't need a friend. They need an expert practitioner. So I will detach from my need to have this deep, personal connection with somebody. There's some more nuance there. You don't want to detach from that completely. But you do want to recognize essentially what a big motivator is and recognize that you tend to go to this too often, and in the situation you want to let go of it.
BLAIR: So the idea is that all will not follow speaks to this notion that you don't need to close every deal, and then there's this secondary detachment of what is it that you personally need. Identify it and let go of it.
DAVID: Because we should not need constant affirmation that we are an expert in the relationship. We should enter that potential relationship. Every once in a while, it's on a rocky ground, but believing generally that we are the expert, and there's a lot of evidence for that and that many, many clients over many years have paid us a lot. And then after the engagement, we've heard that it made a difference for them, whatever business our listeners are in.
DAVID: I love talking about this notion about how much we care or what we care about. I have this theory that has zero scientific underpinnings, just to make that clear.
BLAIR: Those are the best theories. Go on.
DAVID: All of a sudden, you're interested now. The idea is that we have 200. Now the number might go up or down, obviously, but we have about 200 instances in our souls where we can care a lot more than the client can. And every time we deeply care more than the client does about something, a little part of us dies. And then we have 199 left. So you want to use those very carefully. They're like little tokens that are not going to be replaced. Caring about the wrong things, it just kind of kills you slowly, right?
BLAIR: Yeah, you've punched all the holes in your care card. You're out.
DAVID: Exactly. Where's my free card?
BLAIR: Clearly, you've punched yours years ago.
DAVID: I don't even know what a care card looks like anymore. Okay. So what's this mantra that you're going to try and get me ... you say it, and I'll repeat it. And this rolls up the first four.
BLAIR: I am the expert. I am the prize. I am on a mission to help. I can only do that if you let me lead. All will not follow, and that's okay. You try it.
DAVID: Okay. If I say that is, will you let me lead the next six episodes of the podcast?
BLAIR: You can have whatever you want if you say this.
DAVID: Okay. I don't believe that. But I am the expert. I am the prize. I am on a mission to help. I can only do that if you help me lead.
BLAIR: If you let me lead.
DAVID: If you let me lead. All will not follow, and that's okay. So obviously, I messed it up. I have to practice this some more. Okay. So those are the first four, and you've wrapped them up. The next three masteries are different, though. They're not foundational. They're more specific situation masteries. And we sometimes get these in as well, today.
DAVID: So what's the first one? Silence.
BLAIR: You're looking at the list. You tell me.
DAVID: Ah, you were pulling that on me. You just did that to me, and I fell right into it.
DAVID: Okay, I'm a sucker.
BLAIR: The fifth mastery is silence, and I think we've talked about this a little bit before. I think mastering silence is the single biggest little thing that you can do, if that makes sense, and it does make sense, the single biggest little thing you that you can do to become a better sales person. Nature abhors a vacuum, and when a buyer and seller are talking, any time there's a pause in that conversation, there's an impetus on both parts to fill it, and if you're the seller, you tend to fill a pause in a sales conversation with some sort of concession. You don't even have to master silence. You just have to learn to be more comfortable in silence than the other party. Because if you can be more comfortable, then the client is likely to fill the void with a concession or they will give you really valuable information.
BLAIR: So we always teach that any time you raise an objection or place kind of a hurdle in front of the client and ask the client to jump over that hurdle, or you ask for a behavioral concession, after the statement or the ask, you just be quiet. So if you put forward your proposal, and it's got a price on it, and you're putting it forward orally, and you say and the price is $200,000, then you just stop and say nothing. And it's hard to do this initially, but it's actually very easy to get good at this. And if you can just kind of not be the person to break the silence, and you let the client fill the void, then you'll get all kinds of information on where the client stands, on how much power you have in the relationship. And you might even get some concessions, whereas sales people like to fill a void in that moment. The price is $200,000, silence, and then the sales person can't stand it, and says, oh but we could do it for less.
DAVID: Yeah, and the panic rises so quickly. It's like yeah, maybe they just need to pull out Fortnite and start playing it or check their email. You're not suggesting that.
BLAIR: I would say count to 10 under your breath.
DAVID: Yeah, okay. All right, so silence is the first of the three after the foundational ones, and the second one is directness, say what you're thinking. We've talked a lot about this one, but it fits in the system, right? So just remind people, if they haven't heard that episode.
BLAIR: I was just working with a firm earlier this week, and we were just doing some role play scenarios where I was on the subject of saying what you're thinking. So I was just throwing out some scenarios. And I was saying okay, here's a scenario, you're talking to a prospective client. You're thinking oh, they're probably too small. They probably can't afford you. What do you say? And I was really surprised at how people ... and I've been doing this for years. I continue to be surprised at how people struggle with finding the language to actually politely say what you're thinking, because we are not conditioned to do that in this business. In the creative and marketing firm business, we're taught that we're in the service business. The customer's always right. We're taught to nod and smile yes, even when we think the answer is no.
BLAIR: But an expert would never do that. If you've got an opinion that's contrary to one that's been stated by the client, including an opinion on what the next step should be in the path to determining whether or not you're going to work together, you should say it. So be direct. Put it on the table. So I say there's a slight pause. As soon as you get the thought, the contrary thought, you have an obligation to state the thought, and you pause long enough so that you can think of a way to say it with kindness. So we talked about before, the subject goes by the name kind ruthlessness. So you're kind in your language, but you're ruthless in your standards and your behavior. By that I mean, you're being direct, you're saying what you're thinking. If you think the client's assessment of their problem or their opportunity is wrong, then you should say so.
BLAIR: If you think there are flaws in the way they're proposing to hire a firm like yours, then you should say so. If you think the client is making a mistake in the engagement, then you should say so. Any expert worth their weight would confront politely with kindness the client with the mistake they think the client is making. And we, almost universally ... it's not universal, but it's almost universal. We don't do that. We need to learn to get better at doing that. So you master this idea of directness of saying what you're thinking.
DAVID: I'm picturing somebody taking the oath of office or being sworn in before they give testimony. There needs to be something like that for experts, a commissioning service for experts where they raise their hand and say, I pledge to do it politely but to be honest and to state the truth with the clients who deserve that from me. They deserve that leadership from me. This is very powerful.
BLAIR: I love that idea, our equivalent of the Hippocratic oath.
DAVID: Right. So silence, directness, and the last one is money. So master your own wonderful relationship with money. That's one of the things we got with another couple or some friends or whatever, and we can talk about sex. We can talk about all kinds of ... we can't talk about how they raise their kids, and we can't talk about money sometimes, and that carries over into how we conduct these early relationships and sales studies as well. We can't really talk about money for some reason.
BLAIR: Yeah, and that's why it's the seven and the last mastery. I like the idea that if people were just to read it, you have to master money. Some people would be repulsed by it, the idea. And those are the people that I'm really speaking to here, because we're not mastering the accumulation of money or the spending of money. What I mean by mastering money is mastering our own relationship with money. I believe, and I think we've talked about this before, that most of us have a dysfunctional relationship with money.
BLAIR: In my book, Pricing Creativity, the last chapter, I think it's titled the last obstacle is you, and I talk about the mental barriers ... we've done a podcast on this ... the mental barriers to profit. And that's what I'm talking about is not getting hung up on money, and all of the personal emotional things that we were taught or we learned around money, all of the baggage ... baggage isn't fair, because as you pointed out, in social situations, the rules around talking about money are actually quite different than they are in a business situation. You say you've got friends where you can talk about sex, you can talk about politics, you can talk about things. But you can't necessarily talk about money. There's only a small number of people in my kind of personal life, where I have an open relationship without the subject of money, where we've agreed that we're going to talk openly about money, and there's really nothing off limits.
BLAIR: I'm really talking about mastering the subject of the hold that money has over you or the idea that the subject of money is somehow holding you back because you don't feel it's worth it. I got an email two days ago from a client, who said ... he forwarded an exchange that was happening in his firm. He said, oh you're going to love this. He said read down and start from the bottom. So this is a firm that's recently moved to value-based pricing. So they still scoped it based on hours. Somebody internally said, well, it should take this many hours. The client wasn't buying hours, but they sold it for way more hours than it took to deliver. And two people internally were saying this is unethical. We cannot do this.
BLAIR: So the principal at the firm and I are kind of laughing back and forth about this, because if you think it's unethical to create extraordinary value quickly, then you have a dysfunctional relationship with money.
DAVID: You also have some other issues that are coming around the corner, too. This is such a great topic. I'm not at the point where I'm going to start chanting this. But I do ... I really do like this. So the foundational four, focus, purpose, leadership, detachment, and then the three masteries that are more for specific situations which you might use in certain specific cases would be silence, directness, and money. Blair, this was fantastic. Loved our discussion today.
BLAIR: Yeah, thanks. It wasn't nearly as weird as I thought it would be.
DAVID: Thank you, Blair.
BLAIR: Thanks, David.