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How Clients Buy

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How Clients Buy

A Practical Guide to Business Development for Consulting and Professional Services


15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Doctors, lawyers, and other professional experts need to learn how to market their services. 

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Professional firms find business development especially challenging primarily because of the explosion in the number and variety of such firms in recent years. The number of attorneys in the United States, for example, more than tripled as a percentage of the population since 1970. Growth in other professional services firms has been equally impressive, and that creates tremendous competition, yet  few professionals know how to market their work successfully. Business development consultants Tom McMakin and Doug Fletcher offer the basics of rainmaking and explain how professionals can become more effective in marketing and business development.


To get to the top in big firms, professionals must be “rainmakers.” In small firms, rainmaking means survival.

Business development in general is an uphill fight. It’s even more of a challenge for professional firms. No matter how good you are at your profession, to succeed in a large firm or an independent practice, you have to become a rainmaker – someone who regularly brings in new clients. This is true for all professionals: attorneys, accountants, architects, business consultants, and everyone else.

Professional firms of any size can’t survive without rainmakers. Yet, most young professionals have no idea how to make it rain.

Clients don’t buy professional services like they buy other products.

Most products are tangible. Clients can compare their features against other products’ features. Selling professional services is completely different from selling tangible goods. In professional services, the people with expertise are the product. Only three product features matter: “reputation, referral and relationships.”

Young professionals learn to do their work but not how to get the ...

About the Authors

Tom McMakin is the CEO of Profitable Ideas Exchange, a consultancy focused on helping professional-services firms with business development. Doug Fletcher teaches at Montana State University’s Jake Jabs College of Business & Entrepreneurship and serves on the board of The Beacon Group, a growth-strategy consulting firm.

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    R. T. 3 years ago
    Really nice read covering the basics of "selling" in a consulting environment. Weirdly, I've never heard the term "rainmakers" before, but it's obviously standard in the industry.