Even the greatest, most experienced salespeople have to start somewhere, and almost all of them will have had a good mentor who helped them on their journey.
In a recent study, 92% of small business owners agreed that mentors have a direct impact on the growth and survival of their business.
Companies are increasingly realizing the value of a mentoring relationship not just for new hires, but also long-term employees. According to the HR Institute’s State of Coaching and Mentoring 2021 report, more companies are investing in mentorship and coaching programs since the onset of the pandemic.
This begs the question, how does this increase in coaching apply to sales mentoring specifically?
Another recent study found that new sales employees that participated in a formal sales mentorship program are more successful than those that did not. The researchers reported that sales mentoring participants brought in 18% more revenue in their first two months of their sales career than non-mentored agents.
In this article, we will look at the benefits of a sales mentor program for individual career development and the sales organization as a whole. We’ll also share insights from sales experts about the best piece of advice they received from a sales mentor, and how it has helped them take their careers to the next level.
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The benefits of a sales mentor program
As we have seen from the above studies, sales leaders that go beyond standard sales training give way to more top performing reps that boost the bottom line. As such, developing mentor relationships is also vital to sales performance.
Whether you choose to hire a consultant to set up a mentorship training program or train your sales force yourself, here are the benefits you can expect from sales mentoring:
Increased employee engagement. A mentor relationship helps you build more meaningful relationships with your employees. In turn, employees feel motivated to work hard to reach both individual and organization-wide goals.
Improved skills. A great mentor goes beyond standard sales coaching (e.g. this is how we conduct lead generation) and invests heavily in career-building skills, such as leadership development and appropriating an entrepreneur mindset.
Better retention. A study by the Association of Talent Development shows that companies with formal mentoring programs have 50% more retention and engagement.
My sales mentor’s best advice
We asked seven sales experts to share memorable advice they received from the best mentors in their lives. Here’s what they said.
Founder of UpLead.
“Don’t be too preoccupied with winning the battle, to the point where you lose the war.”
“While it’s important for your sales team to hit your targets and bring in enough revenue for the company, don’t push them to do this at all costs. At the end of the day, it’s important to do right by your customers, instead of aggressively selling them products/services simply to hit your own targets.
“If you do this, you might experience a temporary increase in your sales revenue, but it’s unlikely that your customers will stick around in the long run because there’s no trust or rapport involved in your relationship.”
Head of Business Development at Seraph Science.
“Learn to say no.”
“Sometimes saying no is the most powerful sales tactic you can have. Whether it’s building scarcity because you’re too busy or just being frank with a customer and explaining what they are asking for won’t drive the results they want.
“This is when you build a genuinely consultative relationship. And sometimes it starts with saying no, big or small.”
Marketing Manager at Nextiva.
“Know your customer base like the back of your hand.”
“The best sales advice I’ve ever received is from my Dad (lifelong VP of Sales; President of 2 companies).
“He taught me the importance of knowing and understanding your customer base like the back of your hand, so you can add the maximum value possible during each part of the sales process.
“Done correctly, sales is all about helping other people solve their problems, scratch their itches, or measurably improve their lives in some way. Once you develop a deep understanding of your customer base, you will enter each conversation ready to help.
“You’ll have a mindset that’s focused on giving instead of receiving. You’ll be naturally more trustworthy, convincing, and likable. But it all starts with knowing your customer base, that’s the foundation.”
Director of Marketing at Sales Hacker.
“It’s one thing to build an argument. To move people, you must make an emotional argument.”
“I had a sales mentor once who spent a lot of time teaching me logical fallacies and cognitive biases. He was showing me how to build a rational argument, and how to see the reason in others’ arguments. It was like a crash course in debate club.
“I got pretty good at it, too. Then I started to notice that most of the time my prospects themselves weren’t being too rational. It was frustrating to present a rationally airtight argument, backed with evidence, only to find myself still falling flat.
“When I asked my mentor about it, he said “it’s one thing to build an argument that makes sense. That’s just table stakes though. To actually move people, you need to learn to make an emotional argument.
“What I appreciated most about his approach was that he didn’t just tell me how to make an emotional argument straight away. He let me spend weeks learning the hard way that rational arguments alone won’t cut it. So, when I heard the lesson, I was actually ready for it.
“He put his numbers on the line for my learning. That’s what separates a mentor from a coach.”
Sales Engineer at GoSquared.
“Every time you pick up the phone or send an email you have to bring value to the person on the receiving end of the message. Every time you follow up, always follow up with new information.”
“The one piece I’d have to say I have used the most was given to me by my first Sales Manager at Panasonic, Mark Rose.
“I remember being in the office and hearing one of the more seasoned sales reps doing his follow-up calls and they went something like this: ‘Hi it’s Pete, I’m just following up to see if you were any closer to making a decision on our proposal.’
“Which was followed by something like: ‘Oh no. no problem. Thanks for your time. I’ll follow up at a better time.’
My sales manager overheard and came onto the floor to speak to us all about how we could better approach our follow-up calls.
“He said, ‘Every time you pick up the phone or send an email you have to bring value to the person on the receiving end of the message. Every time you follow up, always follow up with new information.’
“It really stuck with me. Usually, someone’s decision about buying your product is a very small part of their day and responsibility. To be interrupted with a follow-up call that was self-serving and offered no real value was rarely more than a nuisance.
“It doesn’t mean following up wasn’t important, it was critical in keeping momentum in a deal and keeping our product front of mind, but it could be done in a much more effective way. We were never really short of new information to take out.
“A follow up could start with letting a prospect know about a new award our product had won, a new feature we’d launched or even a new offer we were taking out. Anything that added a bit more value to the process.”
Sales Operations Manager at Pipedrive.
“Aim to do three things that will get you closer to your goal every day.”
“You can go into work thinking, ‘I’m going to save the world,’ or you can be realistic, target your objectives and chip away.”
Founder of Grizzle.
“Give senior decision makers everything they need to make a decision to take the next step.”
“Common best practice for email sales or marketing is to make your messaging as short and sweet as possible. The goal of the copy is to get the click-through or response. But this doesn’t always work, and when reaching out to the c-suite or senior decision makers, sometimes they want all pertinent information right there in their inbox.
“So, when starting Grizzle, I took this advice literally. I prospected 100 people and reached out to them via cold email.
“To say it was a ‘wall of text’ was an understatement, and most marketers would shake their heads. But of those 100 people, three became clients in approximately 46 days. All they had to do was hit reply and say ‘I’m interested.’”
Sales mentoring can help anyone
If you’re a salesperson, whether you’re just starting out or quite experienced, don’t be afraid to ask for advice and request training sessions. If you’re a manager, be open to helping out your team members and leveraging your sales experience if they need guidance. Think of what tips helped you when you were starting out. With the right sales mentoring program, any of your sales professionals could become a sales superstar.
For some ideas on how to advise your mentees when it comes to improving outreach activities, read and share our articles on cold calling and follow-up emails.
You can also still read the previous article in our ‘best of’ series on the biggest sales myths sales experts have encountered.