Sales Mentorship: How to Select the Best Mentors (+ Proven Benefits)
A sales mentorship is a partnership between two sales reps: one with significant experience and a proven track record, and one who’s seeking wisdom and guidance in their sales career.
Sales mentors have been shown to increase rep motivation and effectiveness. In fact, a recent sales study showed that sales mentees brought in 18% more revenue than those who did not have the guidance and support of a sales mentorship.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about sales mentorship, and why it’s a worthwhile endeavor for you or your team.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What Is a Sales Mentorship?
- Tips for Selecting the Best Sales Mentors
- What Makes Great Sales Mentors?
- Benefits of a Sales Mentorship Relationship
What Is a Sales Mentorship?
A sales mentorship is a trusting, mutually-beneficial relationship between two sales professionals: a sales mentee and a sales mentor.
The sales mentee is a rep who makes an effort to connect with successful, more experienced sales reps so that they may perform better in their sales careers.
Sales mentees aren’t necessarily young or inexperienced; rather, they recognize a potential for growth in themselves and want specific guidance in creating and reaching new goals.
The sales mentor is a sales professional (possibly a rep, but they can hold other roles, as well) that has both extensive experience and a record of success. Ideally, someone in a sales mentor position has held a variety of sales positions over the course of their careers.
Many people assume that the sales mentorship relationship primarily benefits the sales mentee, but that’s actually a misconception. Sales mentoring can be incredibly beneficial and mutually rewarding for both parties.
It goes without saying that sales mentees enjoy the benefit of wisdom gained from sometimes decades of experience with their mentor’s trial and error, highs and lows, and wins and losses. There is truly no way to quantify the impact this wisdom can have on a sales rep with the right mindset.
Benefits of a Having a Sales Mentor
Sales mentors, though, also often report feeling incredibly rewarded by the mentorship relationship, noting that it’s a good opportunity to “pay it forward” and have a hand in shaping the potential of some of the brightest minds in sales.
It’s important to note the difference between a sales mentor and a sales manager. Both serve important roles, but they are distinctly different. So different, in fact, that it’s recommended that sales managers not double as sales mentors to the reps on their team.
Sales managers oversee a rep’s performance on day-to-day benchmarks and strategic quotas. In other words, they help reps fine-tune the hard and soft skills required for their job.
Sales mentors, on the other hand, take a bigger-picture approach. They help reps develop and hone skills that are important for a long-term, successful sales career — not just the role they’re currently performing.Accelerate skillsGain insight into what’s working in your outreach and how to improve
Tips for Selecting the Best Sales Mentors
As beneficial as sales mentorship can be, the success of the relationship is highly dependent on the quality of the mentor.
Unfortunately, many reps make the mistake of choosing the most charming rep that they know — don’t fall into this trap. Do not confuse charisma with wisdom.
That being said, great sales mentors aren’t necessarily hard to find. There are plenty of mentor-worthy sales professionals eager to take on the role for anyone who desires that kind of relationship. You just have to know how to find them.
Never Stop Networking
Finding the right mentor will ultimately come down to a numbers game — the more people you talk to, the more likely you are to find an outstanding sales mentor.
Spend as much time as you can networking in your office, at trade shows or on the road, and on LinkedIn. Each new connection will breed several more potential ones; effective networking has a compounding effect, and sales is a surprisingly small world.
More tellingly, you’ll notice that the best mentors seem to know everybody — and everybody seems to know them.
Here are some networking tips:
Many sales reps find themselves in their role because they have higher-than-average people skills. Remember: just because someone is the loudest or takes up the most space in the room, doesn’t mean they’re the most experienced or successful — even if they claim to be.
When searching for a sales mentor, it’s important to ensure and verify that your mentor can walk the walk as well as they can probably talk the talk.
A great sales mentor will have accumulated years’ worth of knowledge and wisdom, gained from hard-earned lessons and well-deserved wins.
They should have a long-spanning resume, one that ideally includes a few different roles in sales. And they may not go bragging about it, either; many great sales reps share a common trait of humility, so it may take a bit of digging to uncover the real hidden gems.
This is one of those times when the length of experience really matters. Try to stay away from reps who have close to your level of experience; the best mentors are the ones who have had time to see it all — and then see it all again a second time.
You’ll also want to avoid working with mentors that landed their role through connections instead of merit.
Get Real Feedback
Although a sales mentor should certainly be supportive of their mentee, their job is not one of a cheerleader.
A great mentor is one who knows how to challenge their mentee to get out of their comfort zone so they can grow and advance in their sales career.
The mentor is not there to solve problems for the mentee, nor fix their mistakes. Instead, the sales mentor’s role is closer to that of a coach — someone who watches the way a rep works from a birds-eye view, and provides authentic, actionable insight to improve their performance.
Sales reps should work to stay humble through the process — great mentorship does not exist without constructive criticism. Allow the process to work by accepting and appreciating any authentic feedback your mentor is able to share — even if it stings a little when you first hear it.
Tip: Although the ebook below is designed for sales managers, there’s a ton of great advice on providing feedback, breaking the ice, and motivating reps that’ll help advance conversations.How to Maximize 1:1 Meetings (Backed by Data)Proven strategies for 1:1 meetings that’ll give reps confidence in their day-to-day and drive higher revenue across the team.
What Makes Great Sales Mentors?
Great sales mentors play several key roles in the mentorship relationship. The person who takes on the mentor role needs to be proactive in outlining and consistent in maintaining the duties and expectations between the two sales professionals.
In addition to their many tangible expectations, the best sales mentors also need to possess a few important characteristics in order to be effective at their job.
The role of sales mentor requires a lot of passion. Those who take on the position have to really want to do the job.
Great sales mentors need to have long-term enthusiasm for the role. While it’s rewarding for both parties, it’s nevertheless a significant investment of time and energy for everyone involved. Mentees will undoubtedly face challenges throughout the course of the mentorship relationship, and the sales mentor will need to keep spirits buoyed through the rough parts.
Ability to Prioritize
For the most part, success for a sales rep means success for the organization. That being said, there may be times when push comes to shove, and the well-being of the mentee may conflict with the well-being of the organization.
A great mentor should be able to help their mentee spot that kind of situation and coach them through any necessary action steps to work through the conflict. A great mentor always puts the needs of the mentee above the needs of the organization.
Perhaps their most important trait, successful sales mentors are always empathetic. The sales mentorship is a very personal one, and mentors should take care to develop their emotional intelligence skills. All that being said, there is no one set of skills or traits that qualify or disqualify a great mentor. It’s the kind of thing where “you know it when you see it,” and not necessarily a list of boxes to check.
Benefits of a Sales Mentorship Relationship
Although sales mentorship relationships require significant time and attention, they’re well worth all of the effort. Organizations with successful sales mentorship relationships see results like:
- Increased employee engagement: Engaged employees are more productive, efficient, and produce a better quality of work. They’re also healthier and happier.
- Improved sales skills: Provided they dedicate the necessary energy to the mentorship, sales mentees can expect to strengthen and optimize their sales skill set, both in the day-to-day sense and the big-picture career one. In particular, sales mentorships are great for helping reps develop leadership and entrepreneurial mindsets.
- Better retention: Organizations that have strong sales mentorship relationships see outstanding results with employee retention. In a recent study, they retained talent 50% better than organizations that didn’t prioritize mentorship.
The data is clear: over 90% of small business owners agree that mentorships play a key role in the success and potential of their companies.
Do you have a sales mentor, or would you consider becoming one? Do you encourage this kind of relationship to your sales team? What tips do you have for a successful sales mentorship relationship?
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