In the A/E world, a rainmaker is a designer, an architect, engineer, or planner who brings in new business almost by magic, since it is often not readily apparent how this new business activity happens. Design firm leaders, especially namesake founders, often grasp this magic themselves but need help passing it on to next generation leaders.

Rainmakers connect proactively every day with the aim of becoming closer and more trusted by key partners, clients and colleagues.

Wanting to answer this question for his practice, Wm. Raymond Manning, FAIA, asked me, “What are that habits that have the greatest impact on business development?” The following article is my response.

For those who’ve been in the business world a while, identifying a rainmaker isn’t difficult. They’re rare but easy to recognize. They’re the individuals who, day in and day out, make success happen. What’s more difficult is documenting the characteristics that are common among the elite individuals considered to be a rainmaker.

Five habits of client development rock stars

They take it on the road! Rainmakers know where they are going and share their vision broadly. They are in front of decision makers and decision influencers almost every day, in person and via social media, formally and informally. They know who their target audience is and where they gather. They are highly visible there and they follow up with new connections.

They don’t mind saying no. Rainmakers focus. They focus on a core group of important client relationships (not just projects) who are essential to achieving their long-term vision. They say no to “shiny object” distractions. They block out time for priorities. (Check out Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule.)

They are helpful. They reach out to clients with valuable information and thought-provoking, helpful ideas. They instinctively foster reciprocal relationships among a close network of friends by being helpful. Rainmakers are always sharing. They make a point to be generous. Without knowing where the next big opportunity will come from, they understand it pays off in the long run to add value to others’ endeavors (strategic serendipity).

They connect. All the planning and insight in the world will get you nowhere if you don’t connect. (Design professionals often get stuck in planning.) Rainmakers connect proactively every day with the aim of becoming closer and more trusted by key partners, clients and colleagues. They find shared interests, professionally and personally, and build on those.

They are team players. Today’s rainmakers understand the genius of the team. They make a point of checking in with the team every day to understand achievements and obstacles. They leverage diverse perspectives and contributions to deliver outstanding solutions to the pressing and complicated challenges of the built environment.


For more on the topic of business development and information about our Discovery-Driven Client Development ModelSM, contact Principal Consultant Kelly Fehr at