A rainmaker is any person who brings clients, money, business or even intangible prestige to an organization based solely on his or her associations and contacts. Traditionally, the term "rainmaker" has been applied to members of the legal profession, like attorneys-turned-politicians who retired from public life and went on to practice law at nationally recognized firms.
Examples of Rainmakers
Over time, the term gained usage in many other industries and activities, including investment banking, political campaigning and public speaking. For example, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore's association with the environmental movement caused numerous venture capital firms to add Gore as a partner in hopes that his "rainmaking" abilities would help them raise hundreds of millions of dollars for alternative energy initiatives.
In everyday usage, the term "rainmaker" can apply to anyone–from the salesperson who always finishes first in billings to the marketing guru who consistently finds innovative ways to present a company's products. In the purest sense, a rainmaker is a difference-maker, someone capable of turning the tide when things get rough, or bringing new money or accounts to the business that other people could not.
Sectors of Business
Technically, a rainmaker can exist in any part of any business, but the phrase is most commonly applied to people with the ability to make significant change in a few key sectors.
Politics: The rainmakers in politics are usually less visible, but the phrase can apply to past office-holders who hold connections to wealth and political power. Someone who can sway a vote would be considered a rainmaker, as would a personality that could sell out a fundraising event.
Corporate Business: This is the sector where the term is most commonly used. It is usually given to partners or associates (usually in legal teams) that possess the connections or ability to foster connections that bring significant business to the company or firm. Rainmakers in business are defined by their ability to come through with big clients, and the metaphor of rain being money could not be apter than it is in the corporate world.
Entertainment: Similar to the business rainmaker but different in their delivery of equity. In entertainment, talent is the most valuable currency, which is why rainmakers in the entertainment business are individuals who are able to secure talent. A good example would be a stadium being able to book a headlining act like Ed Sheeran when his schedule is fully committed, or knowing how to get Michael Jordan involved in a charity event.
The Bottom Line
A rainmaker is someone who can bring real, positive change to an organization. Although born in business, the term applies to anyone with the unique capabilities of making business, money or connections appear out of seemingly nowhere.