Not many of us learned how to mentor as we were growing up. We may have done some of it in college but it was more accidental than by design. As a salesperson, if you performed above the average then other salespeople seemed to hover around you wondering how you out performed most of the other reps. Or, if you really hit “mentoring paydirt” the company sent new reps out to work with you, assuming that you could direct them in how to be an exemplary salesperson.
Mentoring is one of those sales management responsibilities that most managers are not prepared to do. According to Webster the word mentor is defined as “an experienced and trusted friend and adviser.” Now honestly, how many of you think of yourselves as a trusted friend and adviser? I sure didn’t, I know that.
I believe that if you execute the role of sales manager correctly others in the organization, from salespeople to customer service reps to other support personnel, will want your advice and guidance as to their career paths. There are two ways to approach this. One, you can mentally throw your arms up and say to yourself that I really am not equipped to mentor. Two, you can listen to people and explore what makes them tick, what they think their career options are, and where they want to be three, five or ten years down the road. Some reasonable questions to ask are:
- You’ve thought about your career. What do you really want to do-long term?
- What do you think are your strongest traits relative to what you do now?
- What are your weakest traits relative to what you do now?
- What really excites you about business/sales/marketing etc.?
- What makes you most nervous about moving beyond where you are now?
- How as your current position prepared you for what you really want to do?
There are dozens of questions to ask beyond this paltry few. The key is to get people talking about what they see themselves doing and how they see themselves doing a different job. The last part of the tri-fecta is to ask what fears they have about change, because everybody does fear change.
The key to mentoring, as it is in sales, is listening to what people tell you. Do you have to offer immediate feedback? No. Often, when I meet with people who either want to get into sales or sales management, I tell them to give me some time to think about their questions. There is nothing wrong with doing that. In fact, it makes sense. If you respond too quickly you may make the wrong call or you may inadvertently turn someone off. Take the time to process what people tell you because, in many cases, their careers are in the balance.
One final comment. In order to mentor others you have to be open to others. What does that mean right? In Friday’s post I will offer some comments on this.
The Final Thought: Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction. John Crosby.