The people who are real rainmakers in professional services have a few traits in common. They are smart enough but not always the smartest. They are hardworking enough but not always the hardest working. The key differentiators for bringing in new business are that their clients like and trust them and that they bring a unique insight.

In order to differentiate yourself, your clients have to trust you and believe that you are acting in their best interests rather than in your own. They cannot feel that you are suggesting a transaction or engagement that will benefit you more than them. You are engaged by a client to solve their problem and you can develop trust only if you deliver a result that they perceive is in their best interest.

Placing the client's interests first applies to any interaction you have with a client, whether it is directly transactional or not. One time I was flying on a private jet from Geneva to London with a very urbane CEO and his new wife. We were talking about which languages are spoken in Switzerland, and I noted that the Swiss speak German, French, and Italian. The CEO's wife asked, “When we get to London, will they speak English?”

I froze like a deer in the headlights. The CEO was staring daggers at me. I paused and then replied, “That is a great question. London is part of the United Kingdom. In Scotland, they speak Scottish Gaelic and English. ...

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