Coach or Rainmaker – What sort of Sales Manager do you need?

​A few years ago the business I was working in was looking to recruit a new Sales Manager; I asked the General Manager what he was looking for – a Coach or a Rainmaker. He replied that he was looking for both; I suggested to him he needed to decide on one or the other as the skill sets and personality traits required are almost polar opposites.

A Coach seeks to achieve results through their team whereas a Rainmaker is (as defined by Wikipedia) “….a person who brings in new business and wins new accounts almost by magic”.
I have worked with both during my career and at a very basic level my experience is that a Coach is selfless and a Rainmaker is selfish.

Exploring this a little further, a “Coach” is motivated by the achievements of his or her team and working with them bit by bit to improve their performance and results. Their pride and sense of satisfaction comes from when their employees achieve budget, convert a difficult client or close a new deal; their shared satisfaction of achieving what would not have been possible on ones own is where the magic lies.

Conversely, a “Rainmaker” is far more concerned about getting their deal across the line. Guiding and pushing the opportunity through the pipeline (often at the expense of all others) to ensure their deal gets over the line. The Rainmakers strength is their single minded ability to focus on what they want and close the sale.

I am not saying that one is better than the other but most certainly it is my opinion that companies best be honest with themselves, identify what they really need for their current situation, whatever it is and then ensure that is what they recruit.

There are significant challenges for businesses and individuals who get this wrong. Coaches can struggle to convert their own opportunities and Rainmakers can burn others out of the team by inadvertently making them feel inadequate.

At one point in my career, I worked with a Rainmaker who was desperate to become Sales Manager because he thought he had earned it. After the company rewarded him with the promotion, he struggled to get the team behind him and they subsequently lost three solid performers. Luckily for him he recognised where his skills were and was able to move back into a purely Business Development role but the organisation took some time to recover from the loss of the other team members.

I have also been in companies where they were desperate for short term revenue wins; the company hired a Coach because he came with a good reputation and references but he couldn’t convert quickly enough – his career was disrupted and the company lost more time and money on their next search.

The reality is that whilst most businesses are looking the perfect employee they can’t find them because like unicorns they don’t exist.

It is imperative that individuals and organisations are honest with themselves about what they are good at and what their team needs at that particular point in time to avoid these costly mistakes.

Charlie Pidcock

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