DEFINITION: The colloquial term “rainmaker” refers to an individual in the higher echelons of the business world who comes to a new employer, bringing with him many new clients.
More specifically, the term tends to be applied to such individuals who seem able to bring in new clients of unusual kinds or from unexpected places, that their new company might never have known about without the services of the rainmaker.
ETYMOLOGY: The term is presumably an allusion to the Native American ritual dance known as a “rain dance,” which is performed during a drought to persuade the heavens to bring forth rain.
The basic point of the term is to highlight the fact that the new business brought to a company by a “rainmaker” seems to come from some hidden or mysterious source.
USAGE: In the business world, rainmakers are highly prized because, by definition, they generate substantial new business for the new company they join, and thus additional cash flow for the company.
Since this new business usually comes from outside established business channels, the rainmaker has an unusually close personal relationship with his clients. For this reason, his services are not easily replaceable by anyone else.
Although rainmakers are usually most highly valued for bringing clients from hidden or non-traditional markets, sometimes their talent may lie more in the ability to convince current clients to spend more money.
Thus, the term “rainmaker” has a certain elasticity.
On the other hand, a rainmaker is nearly always a key figure in the organization he joins—that is, a highly compensated principal or executive, as opposed to a salesman.
More recently, the term “rainmaker” has begun to be used beyond the bounds of the business world, for example, in the field of political fund-raising.