Why Encouraging Mentorship in Your Sales Culture Matters
By Maddy Osman on Apr 10, 2019
Many successful salespeople can look back on their career thus far and identify that
person. The one senior rep, who had it all figured out. And more importantly, they knew how to translate their experiences into wisdom that could accelerate the efforts of all those who followed in their footsteps.
It was this — sales mentorship by my peers — that helped me so much while working at Groupon. Regular encouragement and shadowed sales calls strengthened my skills across the board. And I’m certainly not alone.
In analyzing a number of mentorship-based studies, it’s been found that mentored employees are more likely to:
- Receive higher compensation
- Receive promotions
- Feel satisfied with and committed to their careers
- Believe they will advance in their careers
Why is this?
For starters, the hands-on training a mentorship provides sticks.
Someone can talk at you all day long — as those of us familiar with college lectures know all too well. But it’s the doing that helps you learn.
The doing is also what brings to light your weaknesses. You mirror process as you’ve seen it performed and you make mistakes. Mentors can bring those missteps to light in a constructive way. They can guide rather than simply dictate.
With this approach, mentors pick up where managers leave off. They go beyond day-to-day tasks and quarterly goals to dig into what a mentee really wants out of their career on a bigger scale. This long-term interest and dedication, in turn, greater solidifies a sense of loyalty in their organization.
On the flip side of the coin, mentors are given an opportunity to further develop their own leadership skills. They find growth from the reflection done on their own careers. And solidify the skills they possess when having to present them in a teachable way.
How to Start a Mentorship Program at Your Company
The best intentions can only take your company so far. Without a plan, your attempts to encourage mentorship in the office will more likely turn into a frightening tale rather than a successful program.
This is especially true when trying to encourage mentorship in your sales culture. The nature of sales alone — centered around competition and commissions — makes it hard for some to see where the benefit really lies.
As such, you’ll want to get strategic around the start of a mentorship program at your company, keeping the following steps in mind:
#1: Make the Announcement
Before flushing out the nitty gritty details of your company’s mentorship program, make an announcement. Notify the team as to what lies on the horizon with some basic parameters and reasoning.
If it makes sense, send out a survey around the office to gauge interest in the potential of a mentorship program. Ask a handful of questions to guide your approach, while also leaving room for open-ended suggestions.
#2: Develop Structure
The last thing you want to do is match random people with each other and let them run wild. You’ll do a disservice to both mentor and mentee, as well as company culture with this kind of half-hearted attempt.
Instead, lay out a mentorship program blueprint of sorts. Before going live with the initiative, gather the names of interested parties and build out a guide.
For example, you might want to identify a checklist of skills every new sales rep should possess at 30, 60, and/or 90 days. Streamline shared goals that every mentor should be guiding their mentees towards, along with some potential strategies around how to do so.
Part of the beauty in mentorship is the development of that unique relationship between mentor and mentee — a certain level of trust. You shouldn’t be defining strict rules and regulations. But a little guidance goes a long way.
#3: Advertise the Incentives
As your company solidifies the finer details, push out regular updates to the team. Advertise the incentives for both mentor and mentee to further drive interest.
While you may only want to test the program with a select handful of representatives at first, it doesn’t hurt to plant the seed early for everyone else. Reiterate that being a mentor is a leadership position, offering extra incentives around promotion consideration.
#4: Host a Meet-and-Greet
Once the groundwork has been laid, host a kick-off meeting for mentors and mentees to mingle. Sales managers should help in organizing participants and walking them through expectations.
It might be useful to provide some questions up front that can help both parties in getting to know each other. These can involve general discussion points around mentee career goals, areas of perceived weakness, learning style preferences, and so on. You want this time to be used for building a foundation of open communication and comfort.
#5: Build in Metrics and Checkpoints
Once mentors and mentees are paired, it’ll be easy to lose track of progress.
For the sake of keeping new mentors accountable, provide them with metrics for measuring success along the way
for mentees. These could be set as a measure of the number of meetings led, proposals created, deals closed, or some other variation.
You’ll want to set an end date to the program. This ensures that a sales rep doesn’t become reliant on their mentor’s guidance. If it makes sense, host a final meeting that requires reps to present on what was learned and next steps.
#6: Solicit Feedback and Provide Ongoing Training
Once the first trial run of your company’s mentorship program has come to a close, gather feedback. What worked well? What could’ve been done differently? The insight you receive will help with improving the program for future iterations.
Additionally, take some time to debrief individually with participating mentors. Provide leadership training to those in need and create opportunities for mentors to learn from each other as they take on their next class of mentees.
Final Thoughts: Why Encouraging Mentorship in Your Sales Culture Matters
Seeing, doing, asking questions, repetition — all of these actions prove invaluable for a new sales rep learning the ropes. When they can do all of the above alongside someone who’s walked in their footsteps, the potential for learning runs deep. Embrace mentorship as a vital part of your sales culture and watch your team (and sales) flourish in the process.
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