How to Become a Rainmaker:
The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and Clients
Jeffrey J. Fox
New York: Hyperion ©2000
The Invisible Touch:
Four Keys to Modern Marketing
New York: Warner Books ©2000
These two little books pack a big wallop that can benefit your business in many ways if you do even some of the things they suggest. Don't let the easy-to-read, one-minute-manager approach fool you. Each author is at the top of his field and, therefore, able to boil down years of painfully acquired experience into the critical elements of success.
The rainmaker in Jeffrey Fox's title is aimed at sales professionals. But as all business people worth their salt should know by now, we're all sales people all the time — or we don't have a business. Before he even gets to the heart of his subject, Fox reminds us that "the most important success factor in any business or organization is having a customer." No surprise there. But just think how often customers are discounted in your company. We forget, as Fox says, that "it is customer money that pays everyone's salary" — and benefits, and rent, and office furniture, and sticky notes, and telephone calls, and so on. It doesn't even matter whether your company delivers the next killer app or the most brilliant business idea, if you don't have customers, your business can't survive. Hel-lo.
In Fox's estimation, rainmakers are made, not born. That should be good news. It means you can learn these skills and techniques, even if you consider yourself the farthest thing from an effective sales person. After all, the way you answer the telephone and help customers solve their problems is part of the sales process. Every contact has the potential for creating a long-term relationship between current/potential customers and your business. Whether your company manufactures a product or delivers a service, it's important to start simple and think big.
One of Fox's key points is that rainmakers sell money rather than products or services. Rainmakers serve the customer's self-interest in solving problems, which usually translates into some kind of dollar savings — better known as "value." And as always, because the fields of sales and business are full of people, and people rely on relationships, good communication is a huge component of any rainmaker's success.
How to Become a Rainmaker uses short chapters, to-the-point stories, and "killer questions" to explain "The Rainmaker's Credo." Here are a few of its points:
- Cherish customers at all times.
- Treat customers as you would your best friend....
- Show customers the dollarized value of what they will get.
- Teach customers to want what they need.
- Make your product the way customers want it....
- Thank each customer sincerely and often.
- Help customers pay you, so they won't be embarrassed and go elsewhere....
Harry Beckwith's approach to marketing in The Invisible Touch focuses on people, relationships, and good communication. After all, he says, "work is not about business; it's about us. The human dimension of business — the messy, emotional, utterly human dimension — is not merely important; it is all-encompassing. As a result, we must plunge into the world of feelings...." And he spends a good chunk of this book exploring the ways interpersonal communication affects business relationships and the ability of organizations to do effective marketing.
We are reminded in the introduction to The Invisible Touch that Beckwith's also excellent first book, Selling the Invisible, explored a key concept: the difference between selling products and selling services. He explains that:
- "Products are made; services are delivered.
- Products are used; services are experienced.
- Products possess physical characteristics we can evaluate before we buy; services do not even exist before we buy them. We request them, often paying in advance. Then we receive them.
- And finally, products are impersonal: bricks, mortar, pens, car seats, fruit — things with no human connection to us. Services, by contrast, are personal — often frighteningly so."
As a result, Beckwith feels we must approach the marketing of services — and the development of a productive, long-term business relationship — as if we are humanities scholars asking, "What does it mean to be a human being?" Because "no one knows exactly...," and because "we cannot wait for the Absolute Truths..., we must settle for some Apparently Useful Premises: assumptions that usually produce good results." Sounds like a reasonable way to get our feet wet in this messy work of creating, nurturing, and marketing relationship-based service businesses.
Simply reading the Table of Contents in The Invisible Touch offers a good idea of Beckwith's style and philosophy. From the first three major headings (Research and Its Limits; Fallacies of Marketing; What Is Satisfaction?), let alone some of the intriguing subtitles (The Unreliable Subject; Data Misleads; When Butterflies Turn Ugly; The Fallacy of Best Practices/Imagination/Leadership/Competition/Quality; If They're Satisfied, You're Doomed), his heretical — and incredibly effective — approach to marketing (especially to marketing service businesses) challenges you to get out the new crayons.
Oh, and here are Beckwith's "four keys:" price, brand, packaging, and relationships. But you really need to read this surprising, enjoyable, and well-written, kick-in-the-pants book. Perhaps you don't expect a marketing guru to spend most of his time talking about the critical value of relationships and the importance of the good (and effective) communication on which they are built. But keep that attitude and the rest of us will benefit. You and your company will miss the boat. Which is just another reason to put Beckwith in your business library.