By Gary Pines
Employees can no longer rely solely on doing their jobs well to get ahead. In a competitive job market, employees that stand out are the ones adept at rainmaking, or turning relationships into economic value.
Effective rainmakers are built when employees gain awareness about their personal relationship- building processes, learn to be organized, disciplined and proactive when reaching out to business contacts and focus on giving before getting.
With basic training in rainmaking skills, employees can internally sell the value of their department to increase collaboration and productivity. This could mean the human resources department and IT team work together to successfully deploy a new payroll software solution, or that managers learn to cultivate more meaningful and beneficial relationships with their team members.
Effective rainmakers also have the relationship- building skills to externally sell their products and services to drive business development because bigger relationship networks produce more economic value and opportunities than small networks.
Most people have been forming relationships since before they could form full sentences, but the process may still seem daunting because people are rarely taught how to do it. Business professionals are just expected to know how. The second barrier to rainmaking is fear: failure, embarrassment and rejection.
To successfully overcome barriers and create rainmakers, talent leaders should have each employee focus on learning versus telling. Throughout their careers, employees should have learned how to talk about themselves: their projects, thoughts and successes.
However, many have not been taught the value of meaningful listening and learning when building relationships with key stakeholders. The goal in building rainmaking relationships is cooperation, which is a two-step process.
Ask questions, listen and do not interrupt others with stories about personal ideas, solutions and experiences. The goal of these conversations is to learn about the other person, not sell a product or idea.
Here are some basic questions that can start and maintain a meaningful conversation.
a) What are the most important things you're working on right now?
b) What do you want to accomplish this year?
c) What are the biggest barriers to meeting your goals?
d) What can I do to help you achieve these goals?
Asking these questions and really listening to the answers will help build a relationship and will let the other person know that an employee is interested in giving as well as getting. The important thing is to let the other person do the talking and to listen carefully for ways to help achieve the desired goal. This may sound counterintuitive, but it is the key to step two.
Give before you get. Doing so makes it much more likely the other person will want to collaborate. Giving may include introductions, business or personal advice, information, invitations, volunteering to help with a civic organization or charity the other party feels strongly about or free counsel about a business subject the employee is an expert on.
Following these simple rainmaking guidelines and helping employees make small changes in how they approach relationships can turn introverts into networking experts and can lead to huge financial gains and a booming business.
Gary Pines is a principal at Harding & Co., a sales coaching and business development training company.