Have you ever come across somebody that’s an excellent salesman and convinces you to buy their services, but then sucks at performing them? You know how they are – charming, personable, even good-looking. They make you just want to be in their presence and buy whatever they’re selling.
But when you do buy, the problems start. They don’t do the job well, are hard to get a hold of, and become an absolute pain. Sometimes, they’re even con men. I call them beautiful idiots, and you’d do well to avoid them. Here’s how they operate.
Of Rainmakers and Technicians
So let me speak about my professional field (law), because it’s the one I know best. You can split lawyers (and basically anyone else who provides a service) into two big groups: rainmakers and technicians.
A rainmaker is someone who gets new business. They’re usually charming, and are the ones who wine and dine potential clients. You can usually tell who they are because they spend most of their day dealing with people. They’re on the phone, and at the restaurant and country club. They make lots of friends and are often seen engaged in conversation.
In short, they have superb people skills and magnetic personalities.
On the flip side, you have the technicians. In law, these are the attorneys that have a deep and thorough understanding of the law. They know all the ins and outs, every nook and cranny. Ask them about a subject as impenetrable as antitrust, and, if that’s their practice area, they’ll be able to recite the most arcane details by heart.
Technicians abound in other detail-oriented professions. Think of engineers, computer programmers, and doctors, for instance. The nerdy guys and gals who can’t hold a conversation at a party but can build a rocket in their backyard or map the human genome. Their skill and competence is second to none.
A good example from sports might be Tiger Woods, back in his prime. He was probably the best golfer in the world for some years, but he was never known as a charmer. In fact, as I remember, he was considered kind of awkward. But no one can argue that he was an absolutely amazing athlete.
It’s Almost Impossible to be Both a Rainmaker and a Technician
Yes, they do exist. Some folks excel in both areas; they have awesome people skills and technical know-how. As I remember him back from his playing days, Michael Jordan was one of these rare unicorns. He was well-liked, and the best player on the court to boot.
However, finding both traits in a single person is a rarity. I think it’s because the skill sets are totally different and have little or no overlap. It’s a matter of people’s natural inclinations, and how they spend their time. I’m even going to venture to say that, based on my personal observations, introverts tend to be technicians, while extroverts tend to be rainmakers.
Rainmaking Requires People Skills
So rainmakers are inclined to spend their time dealing with people, and can shy away from books and technical work. Most are probably extroverts who are energized by interacting with others. But think about it – if they’re spending their days in conversation, they’re not spending them learning the ins and outs of their craft or profession.
I think a good example might be some politicians. To get elected, they need to be good at charming people. If their time is spent campaigning and giving speeches, however, are they really studying up on the minutiae of governing?
In fact, I’ve had direct experience with this, since did I’ve done legislative affairs work in the past. As I learned, very few (if any) lawmakers actually live up to that name: law-makers. They don’t actually write the laws. Instead, what they do is serve as the face of a law-writing operation. You know who writes the laws? I’ll tell you: mostly, lobbyists, staffers, and lawyers.
For example, take this budget law, described as “An Act Making appropriations for the Department of the Interior, environment, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018, and for other purposes”. The thing is 1,658 pages long.
Do you really believe that your elected senators and representatives wrote this themselves while sitting down at their computers, typing away? Fat chance, right? So, who really knows more about that law: the politicians who passed it, or the people who actually wrote it?
Technical Competence Requires Technical Skills
I’m not saying those are bad politicians. After all, if they spent all day writing laws, they would not have time to campaign and explain their ideas and vision to voters. What I’m getting, at, though, is that they’re probably not the best at actually writing laws. They might be awesome at communicating policy, but they usually would not do a great job of actually enacting policy if they didn’t have staffers and advisors to help them out.
And that’s the second group of people, the technicians. The ones who actually know every in-depth detail of that budget law, all 1,658 pages.
Both government and private businesses need technicians, and can’t make do with rainmakers alone. If you’re having your house remodeled and you go with the charming contractor who doesn’t really know what he’s doing, your roof could fall right on top of you five years down the road. If you buy the terrible car from the slick salesman, you’ll have an owner’s nightmare on your hands.
Beware of Businesses that Lack Technicians
From a businessperson’s viewpoint, I think businesses need both rainmakers and technicians. A company with just rainmakers will get clients but provide terrible service. Conversely, a company with just technicians will have no clients to buy its excellent services. Also, a technician-only operation may actually fail in its goals. Consider, for example, an ornery doctor who knows everything about medicine, but is hated by his staff, which underperforms because of its low morale.
So my advice is that, when you’re considering a service provider, you make sure that there’s actually technical skill behind the charmer who’s making that irresistible sales pitch. Even if you like him personally (or even consider him a friend), it’s important to know that he can actually do the job well, or delegate it to someone who can.
Look for the red flags. A one-person business owned by a charmer is probably not someone you’ll want to hire; the same goes for a company with great salespeople but unhappy past customers and bad reviews. Nowadays it’s easier than ever to find out the quality of something, especially if it’s a physical product. So check it out and put in the time to do a thorough investigation – the last thing you want is to fall prey to a beautiful idiot.
What do you think of technicians and rainmakers?
Tom @ Dividends Diversify says
I think your analysis is spot on Miguel. It is the rare individual that can combine both skills successfully. The few who are able to, can really do well in the business world. Tom
The Rich Miser says
Thanks, Tom! I agree, it’s rare to find people that are both technicians and rainmakers. I think the danger is falling for charmers that don’t really have technical skills.
Millionaire Mob says
This is amazing. I come across this a lot in finance. Beautiful idiots are everywhere!
This post is spot on. In my current position, I receive calls and emails from salespeople daily. I have found the the businesses that provide superior products or services do not have to employ shady salespeople.