For those just getting started in a sales career, there’s a lot to absorb quickly — knowing the ins and outs of a product or service, learning how to make a persuasive sales pitch, navigating through competition inside the office and out.
These are just a few examples of why a mentor can be beneficial. Getting advice from someone who has already been through these challenges can help a salesperson find his or her way. Here are five tips to consider when seeking a sales mentor.
1. Determine why a mentor would be helpful: In a story for Forbes, Kerry Hannon writes that there are often many reasons for reaching out to a mentor, and being specific will help that process. Figure out if you are seeking someone who will help you with office challenges, like asking for a raise. If it’s someone within the organization, are you looking for someone to help speed up your path to promotion? Or do you just need a sounding board, someone who will listen to you vent about workplace issues and guide you through them?
2. Start with family and friends: It might be awkward to ask your Aunt Beth to be your mentor. But as Martin Lehman of the Service Corps of Retired Executives Association (which offers free mentoring services to businesses) says in a story on inc.com: “Sometimes you can talk to your own relatives or friends, people you know, trust and can ask, ‘Gee whiz, what do you think about this?’”
3. Or shoot for the stars: Ryan Terpstra, CEO of financial information company Selerity, describes his company’s first steps in a piece for Forbes and recommends targeting high-powered executives for mentorship. “Identify the very best, most successful people in your industry or area of expertise and find a way to engage them in a polite, respectful, but determined manner,” he writes. “I encourage you to find C-level executives and other senior professionals who have demonstrated success and have deep industry contacts. Don’t limit yourself.”
4. Find someone who will have the tough conversation: A mentor doesn’t necessarily mean someone who will offer occasional inspiration or artificial praise. Brad Sugars, founder of business consulting firm ActionCOACH, explored mentoring in a piece for Entrepreneur and says that mentors can be more aggressive than that. “A mentor needs your permission to hold you accountable for what you say you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it,” he writes. “He or she also should be willing to guide you in a different direction or correct potential errors in judgment. Many hard-driving entrepreneurs find such accountability difficult, but it can be one of the most valuable aspects of mentorship.”
5. Don’t limit yourself to one: Having multiple mentors can mean getting a variety of opinions and approaches. Patti Johnson, CEO of consulting firm PeopleResults, wrote a piece for TLNT about starting her business, and how her different mentors helped her grow. “Over time, I learned that multiple, targeted mentors were essential to growing my career and my business,” she writes. “I had a mentor who helped me think creatively about building a flexible and profitable business, a mentor who helped me learn business development my way — through relationships and sharing knowledge, a mentor who has taught me about how to build a brand, and a reverse mentoring experience to fully integrate social media in my business. Not one mentor knew all that I needed to know to be successful.”