Book Review – Rain Making – Ford Harding

Ford Harding wrote: “Sales mean survival”, and Rain Making is aimed at teaching what most schools (engineering, accounting, law) have neglected to teach – knowing how to build a business, and to have “more control over one’s destiny.”

I was fortunate to receive a review copy. It’s a good read, and I know of a few friends who’d also be interested in what Mr Harding has to share.

Ford divides his book into four parts:

I) How Professionals Build Reputations and Generate Leads
II) Building Networks: How Professionals Develop a Sustainable Source of Leads
III) Sales Tactics: How Professionals Advance and Close a Sale
IV) Tactics to Strategy: What works and What Doesn’t

In Part I, Ford explains how articles are written for newspapers and trade journals, how to build relationships with reporters and the pitfalls of working with reporters. Ford offers this pithy advice – on how to get one mentioned in a news report.

Be quotable“, he wrote. “One decent quote is the difference between dog food and caviar“.

Ford also introduces the idea of running seminars and other events to build visibility.

Part II tackles the etiquette of networking and client development. Ford has helpfully provided a page of checklist to overcome resistance of professionals to spend time on client development. For me, it really demonstrates that Ford understands how professionals think, and then gives concrete steps to get out of the rut.

Part III. There are many books on “closing the sale” that advocate techniques that border on unethical. In Rain Making, I find the advice sensible, and inviting. There are no high pressure tactics. Instead, he recommends starting with a high level need to create compelling openers. He even offers a few well tested themes to get a presentation going.

Part IV is a relatively small section on high level strategy. I didn’t get much out of this section, as the discussion has moved from tactics to strategy, and I suspect I am not quite ready for strategy yet.

Although there are tomes of books devoted to marketing, I find Ford’s voice credible because he cut his teeth running a location consultancy, not a marketing consultancy. He understands how professionals dread the idea of selling and how professionals think. For instance, he debunks “Non billable time is wasted timebefore he gets to chapter one.

Furthermore, I could not think of many professions that tackles a niche more unique than location consulting (helping companies to relocate their business) and thriving, despite building contractors offering to provide location consulting in exchange for their business. Running this kind of consultancy requires one to be careful with how marketing resources are used. Ford Harding doesn’t try to list every marketing trick in the book, instead he delivers advice with great precision. This is what he said on networking:

I suspect that more time is wasted on so-called networking than on any other area of the professional services. This is disturbing because the value of time spent on marketing far exceeds the value of out-of-pocket expenses in most firms. That so much is spent for so little shocks my puritan soul.

Ford Harding writes with a kind voice. It is almost like you are sitting with the principal in the boardroom at the end of a long day, cold beer in hand, and the principal of your company is recounting war stories and giving you concrete advice on what you need to do to progress your career.

I would like to add that this book is a good antidote to Keith Ferrazi’s Never Eat Alone. There are not many people who can muster Keith’s extrovert self to execute the kind of events Keith wrote about, but Ford’s approach is very doable – and I suspect – that the results are more measurable.

My recommendation – if you are a professional, and you think you can do better things for your company, visit his blog first, and see if you think his approach is suitable for your business.