Working Wounded: Find Big-Time Success at Work

Tips and secrets for increasing your sales and your salary.

Feb. 29, 2008 — -- Dear WOUNDED: I'm a decent salesperson, but no rainmaker. How do you become a big-time salesperson?

ANSWER: It's a story that I heard from a sage salesman at my dad's car dealership when I was a kid. Two shoe salesmen land in Africa. Upon seeing hundreds of people walking around barefoot, one salesman sends a telegram back to his home office. "No sales here, no one wears shoes." While the second salesman wrote back, "Huge market, everyone needs shoes."

Rainmakers aren't witch doctors who dance to make it rain. Rather, they're salespeople who see markets overflowing where most of us see nothing but desert. Below, I've listed three dos and one don't for making sales fall from the sky. For more, check out Ford Harding's book, "Creating Rainmakers" (Wiley, 2006).

DO Listen and synthesize. The biggest difference between an average salesperson and a rainmaker? Mr. Average assumes his most important tool to making a sale is his golden tongue. While Ms. Rainmaker knows that it's her ears. Test yourself by asking a co-worker to guesstimate the amount of time you spend talking versus the amount of time your customer talks.

Chances are that you'll think that it's close to 50-50. But if your coworker is honest, you'll probably hear that it's much closer to 75-25. Rainmakers always let the other person do the majority of the talking, because every word adds more insight. It also provides fewer chances to put your foot in your mouth.

DO Make a friend, not a sale. There is no such thing as "company" to a rainmaker; everyone seems to be part of their family. Rainmakers take the time to get to know each customer. Their likes, and yes, their dislikes. What challenges they face. Where they are and where they're going. Part of making someone family means there are times when you talk them out of a sale that isn't right for them, realizing that the trust you gain will translate into more opportunities down the road.

DO Always be on the lookout. I'll admit, I've been known to put on the dancing shoes when things are going well -- to kick it up and celebrate. And I'm not alone. Many sales folks are famous for "over-indulging" after a big sale and commission. Sure, you are entitled to celebrate, but rainmakers always have their eye on the horizon for that next big sale.

DON'T Be part of the pack. A friend of mine built a very successful brokerage practice by teaching a class at a free university. Another friend who was a graphic designer would watch the want ads for marketing director positions being advertised. She'd then contact the company two months later, figuring that the new marketing director might not have a graphic designer they'd like to work with. Rainmakers do just that to make opportunities. Find the not-part-of-the-pack marketing strategy for your product or service.

Follow these tips and the only shoes that will be hard to fill will be yours, because you'll be a rainmaker.

Thought for the Week

List of the Week

Hiring handicaps … Workers reactions to company interviews

Employees who rate company's interview process as excellent or good, 75 percent.

Employees who said the job they accepted matched up with the job described in the interview, 20 percent.

Employees who did not meet their boss until after they were hired, 19 percent.

From: Hudson

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, speaker and internationally syndicated columnist. He'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, especially if you have better ideas than he does. His books include "The Boss's Survival Guide" and "Gray Matters: The Workplace Survival Guide." Send your questions or comments to him via: publishes a new Working Wounded column every Friday. This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.