Reading How to Become a Rainmaker by Jeff Fox felt somewhat like a much-needed cold shower or a dressing-down from a person in authority. In other words, this book will do you good. Like The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (see my 2011 review), Fox’s no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase, drill-sergeant approach to sales education left me feeling slightly ashamed. Fox’s layer-by-layer depiction of the “rainmaker” ideal bore a great degree of similarity to The War of Art in that it distinguishes precisely what it means to be a professional.
But more importantly, when I put down this book, I felt motivated to make up for lost time.
Fox shows that the best of the best salespeople respect selling not just as a profession or a means of making money—but as an art in itself. There came a Zen-like moment for me, about halfway through the book, when I realized an obvious truth that has been sitting in front of me all these years.
If you have read any of my past guest posts on Alice’s blog, you likely noticed a recurring theme: I’ve read and reviewed book after book in search of the key to building a successful business out of a creative endeavor. How to Become a Rainmaker illuminated a blind spot in my thinking. I always thought of sales as peripheral to art. Selling a book is necessary in order for an audience to enjoy reading it. You can’t just paint a painting; you have to sell it. The musician who plays a beautiful violin solo must be paid for the performance. Selling, I thought, was necessary to sustain the artist and allow the art to continue. But I never saw sales as art. I saw it as a process. I saw it as a job. Sure, I believed that it was possible to make an art out of selling—the same way one can artfully mop a floor using the same painstaking care with which a master painter brushes the canvas. But that’s not the same.
While Fox details a number of important skills, qualities, and techniques that separate ordinary salespeople from rainmakers, it wasn’t the science that allowed me to see what I was able to see from reading this book. It was the spirit—the heart—behind the words. Fox illustrated what it is to sell for the love of selling.
The love of selling is the love of people.
Fox didn’t say this directly, but here’s what I saw. Salespeople who are on their “A” game derive real fulfillment from selling not because they are looking forward to a big commission check at the end of the day, but because they love being related with people at a highly intimate level. They love the art of building and earning trust. They love seeing the smile on a customer’s face when they’ve over-delivered. That’s what selling is really about. It’s about being comfortable in long silences. It’s about showing deep reverence and respect for someone else’s time. It’s about being of service. It’s about taking criticism, forgoing the right to be treated any particular way, and experiencing every conversation as a privilege. Top salespeople make things happen, but more importantly, they build relationships for life. They get invited to the best parties. They have real friends to call at 2:00 a.m. They go to bed happy and fulfilled every night, knowing that they made a real difference in someone’s world.
The stereotypical image of the sleazy used car salesman no longer exists in my mind after reading How to Become a Rainmaker. I’ve realized that salespeople who lie, cheat and steal are not salespeople at all. They are amateurs at best, and thieves at worst. Fox shows what it looks like to be a real salesperson. It’s an honor and a privilege. It’s a challenge that most people don’t have the guts to take on. Real salespeople build economies. They create jobs, sometimes by the thousands. They put an end to wars—or prevent them from starting. They bridge gaps between cultures. They blaze trails to new realms of opportunity. And they often do so without any thanks or recognition whatsoever.
I decided that I’m going to become a rainmaker.
I had it all wrong. Success in writing isn’t about being a writer first and a salesperson second. A great dancer, sculptor or engineer is a rainmaker first and an artist second. Why? Because art isn’t art until it touches someone’s soul. The mark of a great salesperson—a rainmaker—is the bravery to risk rejection. Selling is what makes art beautiful to the viewer (not just the artist). Selling is about getting into someone else’s world. It’s about training the eye of the beholder to see the hidden beauty in the art. Rainmakers that practice what Fox’s principles teach their valued clients to see new worlds of possibility—by first learning to see the world exactly the way their clients see it.
When a great salesperson asks for the close, they aren’t just asking you to hand over your money. They are inviting you into a long-term business relationship—one of the most intimate relationships of all. This is where a rainmaker is distinct from an average salesperson. A rainmaker sees the first sale as the beginning of a lifelong partnership. A sales call by a rainmaker is an act of love. Rainmakers get up early, forgo luxuries, and spend their spare time preparing for their sales calls. Why? Not because they are driven by greed, but because they have given themselves to a higher purpose.
When I put down Fox’s book, I felt ashamed for one reason only. For most of my life, I have never paid my proper respects to the profession of selling. I have never fully appreciated the personal sacrifices that professional salespeople make so that the rest of us can live in a more prosperous world. And I’ve never embraced selling as an art. I put up with it as if it were a necessary evil. The truth was in front of my face all along, but I didn’t see it until Fox pointed it out to me.
If you want to learn how to make good money doing what you love, How to Become a Rainmaker may show you a new perspective as it did for me. Pick up a copy and get started.