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This chapter is from the book

Rainmakers Are Always Welcome

Over your years as a technical consultant, if you are doing a good job, you will develop relationships with clients. While being a salesperson is not technically in your job description, it is quite the understatement that it never hurts when consultants can start to help bring potential leads to the table, providing material that, with the help of the sales team, can result in opportunity not just for yourself, but your colleagues in the company.

Put another way, one of the best ways to be a hero in a consulting company is to bring a good lead to the table that results in billing work during a drought—or at least helping others who do. Being the person who brings the water to the caravan stuck in the desert is one of the most significant accomplishments you can do for yourself and your colleagues. So how do you go about this?

If you are in the middle of a recession, reaching out to long-lost clients you worked with five years ago might be a valiant effort, but it is probably not going to be terribly effective. To do this really well, you have to think like an account executive, even if you are not. During the good times, you need to establish a Rolodex of people you have enjoyed working for and with and regularly keep in touch with them, checking in once every three months on a friendly basis to see what is up with them personally and professionally. There are two things that are almost always true with people:

  • People love to talk about what is going on with their lives.
  • People love a free lunch or cup of coffee.

If you have genuine interest in keeping up—or can at least do a very good job of trying—there is a good chance you may be alerted to opportunities for your company without trying too hard. The secret weapon the technical person has over the salesperson is that people know telling a salesperson about an opportunity means a barrage of phone calls. Because the technical person has his or her guard down, you might have a chance to learn details a salesperson from the outside could only dream of.

Do you then break this trust and send the salesperson calling the minute you find the opportunity? Of course not. A much better strategy is to dig deeper, see whether your firm can help, and then ask if it is okay for you to get an account executive involved so you can win the company’s business. By this point, since this person already likes you (heck, you have been buying lunch for a couple of years), he or she is more than likely to return your favor to at least be on the field competing for the business.

  • Survival Strategy #3: Keeping in contact with previous bosses, client managers, and colleagues is a good way to build a source of leads that make you very valuable to the consultancy you work for.

By the time things get to this point, you should probably be working with your management team at the consulting company to allocate the account. (Note: Never do this with an active account managed by a current account executive.) By virtue of bringing the relationship, you will likely be part of the pursuit team that will make an attempt to win the business. This activity of building relationships, turning them into leads, and winning business is colloquially known as making rain. It is the job of account executives, but given that you, as a consultant, will have a lot of natural contacts through the course of your work, it is certainly viable for you to work these contacts over time and make some rain yourself. Consultants who are seen as potential rainmakers, even when they are on the bench, tend to be seen as valuable resources who more than make up for their own salary costs.

If you decide to go this route, it is important that you honor nonsolicitation agreements you may have signed with previous employers. Nearly all employers, especially in consulting, bar you from developing business with former clients after you leave the firm for a period of a year or, in some cases, up to two years. If you have any questions, you should contact your management and potentially hire your own attorney to review with them any nonsolicitation agreements you have from former employers, and make sure you are clear to contact anyone you have worked with in the past if it was through a previous employer.

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