Mentoring – Accelerates, Doesn’t Replace Experience

In life and in sales, no amount of education can replace real experience. While experience is a gift of time, much of the wisdom gained from it can be passed on directly, if not indirectly, through sales mentoring. As the name implies, mentoring entails a junior salesperson or salespeople being overseen by a veteran who will not only try – for it’s what worth – to instill concrete knowledge and wisdom, but to also guide each individual into finding their own sales style and voice. In a word, it is the job of the mentor to make the mentored more comfortable in his or her skin and more knowledgeable about how to answer some of the “how do I” and “what do I do” questions that invariably arise everyday in even the most veteran salesperson’s course of business, rather than to feed them an answer per se.

Only experience can hone intuition enough to successfully respond to a client, for instance, who tries to bargain on price: “Competitor X has promised to get me theirs for 10% less than what you’re quoting me,” in a case where the salesperson has pricing discretion. A mentor is someone who will look at the issues that salespeople are facing on a regular basis and try to talk them through the rationale for any given course of action so that each individual can reason on his or her own and take the best approach: one that is honest and most likely to culminate in a sale.

Sales mentoring is no substitute for experience, but it in some sense accelerates it. By focusing salespeople on problem-solving and honing their strategies and techniques, mentors are able to accelerate the pace at which the sales force learns from its mistakes, adapts to unique clients, deals with rejection, and parlays its successes. What’s more, mentors often provide useful contacts and set up meetings that can translate into beneficial business partnerships or sales.

A mentor program can be easily established (with some guidance) in in-house sales teams that have enough experience and expertise to have produced mentors. But even for those in young or small companies, industry sales veterans can be contracted to guide the sales team in its personal and professional development. A company with expertise recruiting, training, and administering salespeople should be able to find the right mentor(s) for sales teams of any size.

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