Mentoring: A Lost but Much-Needed Art
Finding a sales mentor used to be standard practice. Some sales people found a mentor on their own. In other situations, companies created formal mentoring programs for new sales people. The result was that new sales people became more productive and generated more revenue. Learn why you need a mentoring program and how to create a mentoring program to help your company grow.
Why You Need a Mentoring Program
1. You Need to Give New Sales Representatives a Head Start
Historically, companies created mentoring programs because they helped to jump-start the productivity of new sales representatives. Sales training is still important. For most industries, including the post-acute health care industry, there is more to learn than one person can absorb and put into practice after a sales training course.
New sales people need on-the-job training or mentoring. Training programs, regardless of how extensive, can’t possibly cover all the situations a new sales representative will encounter. It doesn’t make economic sense to keep a sales rep in training until they have been exposed to every objection or competitive situation.
2. Your Sales Manager Can’t be the Mentor
Many people think that mentoring new sales representatives is the role of the sales manager. Here are some excellent reasons why that doesn’t work.
- If your sales manager is doing their job right, they’re involved in meetings, long-term planning sessions, and goal setting and review sessions. They don’t have time to mentor.
- Your sales manager conducts performance reviews with the sales staff, including new reps. How do you think a new sales rep will feel going to the sales manager with their problems? They’ll often be too uncomfortable to ask what they might view as stupid questions.
- Sales managers are too involved in the sales rep’s reporting structure. If a sales rep is frustrated, it’s not possible to share that frustration with their boss, who needs to be loyal to the company. If a sales rep wants to cement their knowledge by asking a lot of questions, the manager may not have the patience required and it could have an impact on the new rep’s career.
Sales managers can offer guidance and support, but it’s best to leave the mentoring to someone else.
How to Create an Effective Mentoring Program
1. Get Internal Support
Develop a case for creating a mentoring program. Get stakeholders to agree to the potential benefits and to identify the goals of the program. Goals may include increasing revenue generation among new sales representatives, retaining new hires or passing on knowledge from staff members who are nearing retirement.
2. Define Your Program
Based on internal support and the goals for the program, you can determine the mentoring approach that will work best for your organization. You can consider the following types of issues.
- Should the program be formal or informal? Should employees have the option to participate or not? Should management match participants or should the new employee choose their own mentor? Will the new employees or mentors have the option to reject an assignment?
- What should be the length of the program? Mentoring shouldn’t go on indefinitely. You’ll need to decide how you will tell when a particular mentor relationship should end. You may decide that there should be a standard term of each mentorship.
- Develop a mentoring process. Don’t be caught in the “just follow me around” mentality. Some structure is necessary. You could structure the process so that mentoring pairs meet once a week. You could ask the mentors to create a topic list for discussion. You could decide to leave it up to the new employee to prepare questions based on their week’s work.
3. Recruit Mentors Carefully
Not everyone can be an effective mentor. Look for employees who are open-minded, patient, good communicators and good at what they do. You want your new hires to learn from the best.
If you want to take advantage of the knowledge your company has gathered over its history, and get new hires to generate revenue as quickly as possible, a mentoring program may be just what you need.