By Tammy Shaw
Whether young, new to sales or a seasoned veteran, every salesperson needs guidance. Even the best of us need a successful and wise colleague to approach when the going gets tough – someone who’s been there before, persevered and found success on the other side.
A mentor can help teach, guide, expand contacts and commiserate with you when things aren’t going your way, even if it’s temporary.
First, put your ego in check. Everyone needs help now and then. Be open to new ideas. Don’t argue, don’t short sell your mentor.
Second, not every great salesperson will be a good mentor and not every mentor will be a good fit for you.
Pick someone you personally admire and who is demonstrably successful at what they do. Remember, cash not flash. Choose a mentor who is positive and listens to your concerns.
Finding a mentor
It’s awkward to ask someone for help.
Before you do, ask yourself what you’re looking for in a mentor. Do you want someone whose brain you can pick for sales strategies, help you recognize or attack specific weaknesses, either personal or professional, or an advocate for your next position?
The issue you need to address will determine what type of mentor to seek.
Direct managers as mentors is a tricky proposition. After all, do you want to tell your boss your personal inadequacies? Pick someone with whom you can be totally honest.
No need to announce to the world – or even to your mentor – that you’re studying them to learn what you can. Or you can simply ask for advice on a specific problem and let the relationship grow.
Choose someone who shares traits you like in yourself. For one thing, you’ll get along better, and secondly, there’s a better chance for a personal relationship is more likely.
Make a list of potential mentors. Include professionals you respect, like on a personal level and who inspires you.
- List the candidate’s experience and strengths.
When you look back at the list, one or two prospective mentors will jump off the page.
- Arrange a meeting.
Ask the prospect for coffee or tea. Don’t announce you intend them to become your mentor. Keep the meeting short – under an hour. And don’t let them get away without “the ask.”
- Set expectations.
convey what you expect from the relationship and ask what the mentor wants in return. Be flexible. You won’t be a mentor’s top priority. After all, they’re successful because they work hard. Don’t dictate when, where and how often you meet. Ask, don’t tell. Set a schedule together and decide how to meet – in person, online, etc.
Ask yourself after the meeting if you felt comfortable, felt a connection and felt this is the right person to help your career. If the answer is “no,” move on, diplomatically.
Keep up the relationship
Don’t force the relationship if it’s not working. Like Goldilocks, don’t be too hot or too cold. Instead, work for a natural balance. Too many questions or too much contact may sour the relationship with an already busy sales professional.
However, keep communication open. If no regular meeting has been set, periodically ask your mentor for a few minutes over coffee. If the mentor seems willing, ask to set a regular meeting.
Don’t take your mentor for granted
Mentors give their time not for financial reward, but to see a kindred spirit survive and thrive. Be sure to report your successes and tell the mentor how their advice made your success possible.
When you get sales or personal accolades, be sure to thank your mentor.
Be enthusiastic when your mentor recommends a particular path. Directly thank your mentor for their time and expertise.
A mentor doesn’t expect you to give them a lavish gift, but you can pay for their coffee, send them personal thank-you note or gift cards to a restaurant or coffee shop they enjoy.
Whichever path you choose, know you’re not alone and that a wiser soul may help you achieve even greater success.