If your sales team doesn’t have a mentorship program, it’s something you should seriously consider. Mentorship enables younger sales reps to hone their skills, thrive in the workplace, and eventually work their way into leadership roles at your company. While your training program can offer new sales representatives an introduction to basic sales skills and your company culture, there’s really no substitute for ongoing mentorship.
A few benefits of a formalized sales mentorship program:
- Mentorship encourages young sales reps to think strategically about their long-term career goals, inspiring better performance. Studies show that employees who receive mentorship tend to receive promotions and salary raises at higher rates than employees who go without mentorship.
- A Mentor can help new hires adopt company culture and learn work procedures more quickly and thoroughly.
- Mentors can push sales representatives to the edge of their comfort zone, leading them to develop new skills and adapt faster.
- Mentors themselves benefit from a formalized program because they receive the opportunity to develop leadership skills and connect with more junior employees. The mentor role can even be part of your career ladders.
As you can see, internal mentorships benefit everyone involved. Here’s how you can go about implementing a formal program in your own company.
1. Announce the initiation of a mentorship program, setting expectations for mentors and mentees.
Although you may well have mentorship relationships within your company already, it’s not a defined mentorship program unless it has clearly outlined goals. Let everyone on the sales team know that you will be initiating a formal mentorship program and explain why you are doing so. You might ask senior employees to share their own positive experiences of mentorship.
2. Offer incentives for mentors.
Make it clear that you value the work mentors put in and that being a mentor is a leadership role. You can even factor mentorship into promotion and pay raise decisions. Even outside of these incentives, sales managers should offer sincere appreciation for mentors’ work. Consider holding a lunch just for mentors or otherwise acknowledging them in a visible way.
3. Host a kick-off meeting for new relationships.
When establishing a new mentorship program, managers should oversee a meeting between mentors and mentees. At this meeting, mentees should discuss their career goals and what they hope to get out of the relationship. This is also a good opportunity to talk practical issues, such as where and when to meet.
4. Allow mentors and mentees freedom to set the terms of the relationship, within certain parameters.
Managers should avoid dictating how and when mentor/mentee pairs should meet. Allow the relationship to evolve naturally. Although it’s okay to request that a pair meet once a week, for example, leave the rest up to the mentor and mentee. Allowing them to decide where and when to meet as well as what they will discuss will only strengthen their bond.
5. Encourage mentor/mentee matches to occur organically whenever possible.
Matching mentors and mentees is a delicate business. If these relationships are already occurring naturally, encourage and formalize them. Even if sales managers are assuming responsibility for the matchmaking process, they should try to create relationships that seem like a natural fit in terms of personality, career goals, and other factors. Some mentorship programs allow mentors to choose their own mentee, which can take some of the awkwardness out of the process.
6. Provide guidance to your mentors.
Just because someone is a great sales representative doesn’t necessarily mean they have all of the skills to mentor someone else. Give mentors formal training about how to mentor effectively. Support for mentors should be ongoing. You can even assign mentors their own mentors.
7. Create metrics for measuring the success of mentorship, and track them.
To really measure the success of your mentorship program, you need data. You can use traditional metrics such as activity generated, deals closed, and account value to measure mentees’ progress. But you can also ask mentees to rate their confidence at various aspects of the job—for example, cold calling—at different points in the mentorship. This will help you to identify which mentorships are thriving and which are stalling.
8. Provide opportunities for feedback.
A structured mentorship program should offer opportunities for mentors and mentees to offer feedback on what is and isn’t working in the relationship. Encourage mentors and mentees to be honest with each other and work constructively to resolve any dissatisfaction. If the relationship really isn’t working, offer a procedure for dissolving the relationship. By allowing a formal exit, you limit the damage of hard feelings and leave open the possibility of forming new relationships.
9. Make sure there’s a procedure for closure.
Although mentorship is great, there is a danger that junior employees can become overly dependent on mentor and fail to grow into their role. To avoid this problem, make sure everyone understands at the outset that the formal relationship has a limited shelf life. Create a transition process so that the mentee can become more and more independent as time goes on. Eventually, the relationship should come to a formal end. Plan some kind of event to celebrate a successful mentorship and formally close it out.
10. Encourage employees to seek external mentors.
Internal mentors are great for understanding company culture and strategies specific to a particular market. However, sometimes it can be awkward to discuss sensitive matters with someone else higher on the corporate hierarchy. By talking to a senior person outside of the organization, junior representatives can gain a broader perspective. Sales managers should encourage their employees to seek external mentorship in addition to internal mentorship. Sales representatives can find external mentors by being professionally active and attending conferences.
Like anything that involves human relationships, mentorship can be a delicate business. But investing in a sales mentorship program will be beneficial for mentors, mentees, and your company at large.