This edition of Generational Viewpoints features two individuals fromREDW, a 185-employee firm with locations in Albuquerque and Phoenix. We asked Baby Boomer principal and IT director Marcus Clarke, born in 1952, and Millennial principal Paul Madrid, born in 1984, to share their perspectives on business development by answering the following question:

What is your generation’s perspective on rainmaking, and how does it differ or align with the perspective of other generations?

Clarke’s Baby Boomer Viewpoint

[IMGCAP(1)] For the last 28 years, almost without exception, every new client I engaged came as a result of a referral from a client or a professional with whom I had a past or current relationship.

Quality referrals come from quality people, so cultivating trust is critical. Would you refer your best client to someone you couldn’t completely vouch for? You likely would not and that’s why satisfied clients make for the highest-quality referral sources. Whether the referral source is a client or another professional, it is wise to reciprocate, or at least acknowledge their goodwill in some way. If possible, referring new business to them is always appreciated. This is not always possible and appreciation in the form of modest gifts, or lunch or dinner at a fine restaurant is often a welcome gesture. If even this is not allowed, a hand-written thank-you note is always remembered. In fact, I recommend writing a hand-written thank-you for every referral, even if it does not work out. 

Word of mouth is still the gold standard of referrals. The difference today is that we have far fewer routine interactions with others, as more of our transactions are automated or performed online. Those opportunities to chat with the branch manager at a local bank, a clerk at a local store or a travel agent in person are disappearing. This means that other gatherings, such as charity events, professional association meetings and even social get-togethers are more important than ever.

I have been active on LinkedIn for years and value the connections I have made online, but almost all of them are acquaintances. If your product is a relatively inexpensive commodity item, then surface-level connections might suffice. But if your product is high-value trust, there’s no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. Today, I can use Facebook, LinkedIn, instant messaging and even videoconferencing for certain situations. But when a critical need is to be fulfilled by someone you don’t personally know, you want to look them in the eye, shake their hand, and build rapport, and I don’t believe this will ever change. 

Madrid’s Millennial Viewpoint

[IMGCAP(2)] I am a Millennial by birth year, but my mindset is a blend between that of a Millennial and a Generation Xer. I’ve been active in generating new business and leads for 10 years, which is much shorter than many Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. When I started my career, I had nothing — no referral sources and no clients. The only way for me to develop new business was to start from scratch by building new relationships and gaining trust, which is the same across all generations. However, Millennials don’t have the history and connections in place because we are newer in our careers, which can make rainmaking difficult.

It takes time to make connections and build a network, so Millennials tend to utilize LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media as a shortcut to get ahead. If we write an article or contribute a new idea via social media that goes viral, then the exposure gets our name in front of our prospects much faster than any other venue. This type of networking differs from the Gen Xer and Boomer generations who tend to focus on traditional networking by attending conferences and events. Millennials still use traditional networking, but it’s just one of our many avenues.

Once we get our name in front of prospects, then we build credibility and can start to develop meaningful relationships. At this point, I believe all generational perspectives align. The difference is how and when each generation arrives at this point. Traditional networking alone may take 20 years for the person to become a successful rainmaker, but with the help of social media, it’s possible to cut that in half.

Overall, the Millennial perspective on rainmaking isn’t much different from that of other generations. All generations can agree that networking and credibility are essential in rainmaking and that the underlying method of developing strong, lasting relationships remains the same. The main difference among our generations is simply the way we utilize our tools and our approach to the process. 

This column is facilitated and edited by Brianna Marth, the Millennial consultant, and Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and partner of ConvergenceCoaching LLC, a leadership and marketing coaching and training and development firm that specializes in helping leaders achieve success. 

To have your firm’s generational viewpoints considered for a future Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail them at brianna@convergencecoaching.com.