What Is a Rainmaker?

A rainmaker is an individual who brings in large amounts of business to a company. Rainmakers can appear across a number of industries. What unites them is their ability to acquire affluent clients and generate significant revenue for the company they are employed by.

Key Takeaways

  • A rainmaker is an individual who brings in large amounts of business to a company.
  • On Wall Street, a rainmaker would be a broker or financial advisor who brings in several wealthy clients, or a banker who secures many merger and acquisition (M&A) deals or mandates for initial public offerings (IPO).
  • A rainmaker could also be a senior partner who captures lucrative work for a law firm, a politician who uses his or her contacts to sway votes and raise funds, or a salesperson in any other industry who closes a lot of contracts.

Understanding a Rainmaker

Rainmakers have a special quality that makes them productive. Most of the time they are simply extremely skilled at their craft, whether that be providing investment advice, putting together and executing a merger transaction, sorting through complicated tax issues, or demonstrating the value of a product.

In some cases, the skills of rainmakers lie mainly in knowing how to work a room, making key connections, and schmoozing their way to signed contracts. Provided that their techniques are legal and ethical, employers are not that bothered about how they go about their job. The company enjoys the harvest that the rainmaker brings and in exchange is often willing to be flexible—and pay them lots of money.

The term rainmaker is believed to originate from the Native American practice of dancing and singing to bring rain for crops.

Companies frequently do whatever it takes to stop rainmakers from jumping ship. Because of their proven ability to generate revenue, rainmakers may be heavily recruited by competitors and offered significant financial incentives to make the switch.

In the Hunter-Farmer model of sales, rainmakers are generally considered to be particularly successful Hunters. Though rainmakers are considered especially desired and are heavily recruited, a sales team that also includes Farmers, or others who focus on building and maintaining client relationships rather than closing new sales, is often necessary for long-term success and to allow a company to fully capitalize on the rainmaker’s abilities. 

Types of Rainmaker

Historically, the term rainmaker was applied to influential members of the legal profession, such as ex-politicians with law degrees. Over the years, the name caught on, leading successful individuals working in other fields to also begin being referred to as rainmakers.

Wall Street

On Wall Street, a rainmaker would be a broker or financial advisor who brings in several wealthy clients, or a banker who secures many merger and acquisition (M&A) deals or mandates for initial public offerings (IPO).

Business

Any salesperson elsewhere is considered a rainmaker if he or she closes a lot of contracts.

Law

At a law firm, a rainmaker may be a senior partner who captures lucrative legal work through his or her network of contacts or word-of-mouth.

Politics

Some politicians can also be referred to as rainmakers. Those that command this title usually have a lot of connections that can come in handy for swaying votes or fundraising campaigns.

Example of a Rainmaker

A wealth management firm has enjoyed considerable success due to the work of a rainmaker called Lisa. However, due to her success, a client that she has worked with on a huge deal tries to recruit her away. If the shot-callers at the firm dig their heels in when Lisa asks for a pay raise and more commission, she may decide to leave, recognizing that she could get paid much more at the rival firm. If Lisa does this, she may also take some of her clients with her.

This decision could have drastic consequences. Without Lisa's clients and contacts, the wealth management firm would suffer a significant loss of future revenue, as well as a hit to its reputation that comes with losing a well-known head broker/advisor.

Instead, recognizing all the business tied to her that they would lose, the firm could be expected to offer her a bigger salary and even more leverage in the company to pursue bigger deals with other clients on par with the one that offered her a job. In this case Lisa turns down the job offer.

Rainmakers often have teams of brokers or advisers who work under them, and these teams may be part of a package deal when a rainmaker changes firms, which would leave an even bigger hole at the firm left behind.