Mentoring new sales reps is a technique many companies use to “jump start” new sales reps. It’s a logical approach providing new sales reps with an opportunity to work with someone besides their sales manager to learn about the customer base, product portfolios, marshaling internal resources, etc.
Sometimes companies put in place formal sales rep mentoring programs. In those situations, mentors are given training as to what mentoring is, how to be an effective mentor, roles and responsibilities, feedback techniques, and so forth. Many companies consider the mentoring program as part of a “pre-management” development effort for the sales reps serving as mentors.
In other cases the mentoring effort is less formal. Regardless, 4 best practices around sales mentoring that are worth highlighting:
- Position the mentoring program. Make sure everyone on the sales team knows mentoring is going to happen, why, and what’s it all about. This is the first step in laying the groundwork for a successful sales mentoring effort. Not only does this let everyone on the sales team know that mentoring is happening; it builds initial support.
As a part of this initiate positioning, sales managers should reinforce the message that mentoring is worthwhile. If a sales manager has had other sales people on their team who have had a positive mentoring experience … sharing those experiences provides a powerful message.
- Set expectations. Setting expectations includes what the sales person will get out of the mentoring process and what their responsibilities will be. Time should also be devoted to helping the mentor understand their role and responsibilities. Discussions should also occur between the sales person being mentored, the mentor, and the sales manager – summarizing roles and responsibilities, procedures, expectations and surfacing any concerns those participating in the mentor process might have..
- Develop a plan. The biggest trap in implementing a mentoring process is that it that it turns into a ‘just follow me around and watch what I do” exercise.
The sales person and mentor should work out a plan that will enable the sales person to meet the goals that were developed as a result of initial expectation setting.
As a part of this planning the mentor should assess the capability of the sales person they’re working with – level of sales skills, product knowledge, industry knowledge, etc. This assessment will help the mentor determine the missing pieces that need “filling in” to meet sales person and sales manager expectations for the mentoring process.
- Don’t forget closure. The relationship between the mentor and the sales person should not go on forever, the formal mentoring process isn’t open-ended. Closure is a planned ending to the mentoring relationship. It’s more than lunch or dinner. It’s an opportunity for all parties – the sales person, mentor, and sales manager – to celebrate their success as well as to reflect on what they’ve learned through the process and what changes can be made to improve the mentoring process.
If some basic structure and planning are provided, mentoring can be a valuable part of a company’s developmental efforts. Mentoring should not, however, be viewed as a substitute for coaching or for formal training. Mentoring, coaching, and sales training are all viable processes to help sales rep get up to speed and maintain a high level of competency. It all works best when thought is given to how each piece can contribute to building a superior sales team.
Training new sales reps and getting them up to speed quickly is critical to the success of a sales team. Some additional blog posts on this topic include:
- On-boarding sales people – it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile
- New hire sales training – analyzing four poor substitutes
- New hire sales training – it’s important it’s underemphasized and it’s different
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