Business Development

Strongest rainmaking partners often have these characteristics, new study says

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Partners who choose an “activator approach” are more likely to be successful at business development, according to a new study called Unlocking the Secrets to Successful Business Development: The Rainmaker Genome Project.

The study identified five business development styles and found that 27% of the best rainmakers fell into the “activator” category. The other categories all had a lower percentage of top rainmakers.

Activators commit time and effort to business development, connect with others in person and online, and create opportunities to engage with clients on potential new business opportunities. had the story. An Oct. 19 press release with a link to download the study is here.

Matt Dixon, founding partner of DCM Insights, an independent research and consulting company, told that the most important trait of activators is consistently putting aside time for business development.

“They are proactive and don’t wait for the phone to ring,” Dixon said.

Dixon also said activators are “network builders” who “do live events and firm-sponsored events. They build a network from which they can build business. They make introductions for other partners. They often do some free work for a client to build some goodwill. And they look to deliver personal value. They talk about their clients in personal terms.”

The press release described the five business-development types this way:

  • Activators are “network builders with a proactive business development approach that includes information-sharing and making high-value introductions.” Twenty-seven percent of partners in this category are high performing rainmakers, while 15% are low performers.

  • Realists are “transparent with their clients about capabilities, cost, outcomes and value.” Twenty-four percent of partners in this category are high-performing rainmakers, while 18% are low performing.

  • Confidants are “client-centric partners with a track record of strong work who are highly protective of and responsive to their clients.” Twenty-one percent of partners in this category are high-performing rainmakers, while 28% are low performing.

  • Experts “rely on their reputation as deep subject matter experts to bring in new business.” Fifteen percent of partners in this category are high-performing rainmakers, while 21% are low performers.

  • Debaters are “subject matter experts who have strong opinions on what’s best for a client’s business and are not afraid to share them.” Thirteen percent of partners in this category are high-performing rainmakers, while 17% are low performing.

Twenty-two percent of law partners fall in the activator category. More are in the categories of confidant (30%) and realist (23%).

The study is based on a survey of nearly 1,800 partners from 23 global accounting, consulting, investment banking, legal and other professional services companies. About 30% of the respondents were from the legal community, according to

The study was conducted by cloud-based software company Intapp in partnership with customer-behavior research company DCM Insights.

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