A great deal of companies use mentorship programs. There are usually two reasons for this. The first: so that new salespeople can gain experience. The second: so that existing senior salespeople can become better leaders. Unfortunately, most mentorship programs fail or do not live up to expectations. This is due to a lack of preparation and effective strategies.
Why Should a Company Create the Sales Mentorship Program?
It’s simple. Hands-on training matters. There’s no better way to get hands-on training than to work with a mentor. Sales mentors will teach reps how to close deals in ways that the reps would not be able to learn on their own. Those same reps who receive mentoring will someday be able to pass on what they’ve learned. They will then educate your less experienced reps. It’s a cycle of knowledge and techniques. Studies have proven that mentorship programs lead to many benefits. These include: increased salaries, higher retention rates, and in-house promotions.
1) Hold an initial meeting.
A great first step is to have face-to-face conversations. The mentor, mentee, and manager should all be in the same room. This is to ensure that everyone is on the same page. The manager can introduce questions to stir up a conversation. The mentor and mentee will be able to understand if they are a good fit. Here are some examples of those questions:
“Where do you envision yourself in five years? 15 years?”
“What is your plan of action to get there?”
“What learning method works best for you?”
“What times during the week will work best for you to meet?”
“Is there a location outside of work that would be convenient for us to meet?”
These questions knock out two tasks. The first is that they establish objectives to work toward. The second is that they are beneficial to both parties.
2) Define exactly what the roles are for both the mentor and mentee.
It’s human nature for anyone to ask, “What do I get out of this?” Don’t run from this question. Instead, answer it for both the mentor and mentee. Be as transparent as possible. The relationship will not benefit anyone unless benefits get established. This will ensure that the manager and rep have some sort of common interest. Otherwise, mentorship would be pointless.
For example, say your company has a rep who struggles with CRM. Pairing him or her with a manager that thrives in technology would be an excellent choice. You may want to divide the first commission checks between the mentor and mentee. If senior mentors aren’t rewarded, they tend to act as a coach instead of a player. This leads to slower deals and not as much involvement in the negotiation process.
3) Create an action plan.
It’s best to have an action plan or playbook. Don’t leave it on the computer. Print it out and stick it to calendars. Seeing a physical plan will lead to greater progress. The manager that’s in charge of the mentorship program must write the plan. Never consider the plan/playbook finished. It’s always a work in progress that adjusts to previous happenings. It may be effective for your action plan to have a checklist of buildable skills. The mentee can check off the list as he or she progresses. The skills management feels a rep needs on day 1 are going to differ from day 100.
Start out with what the rep needs the most. For example, say the rep struggles with inbound. He or she should learn production information, effective chat methods, and CRM. Say the rep is outbound. A good starting point could be email templates, script re-writing, or demo presentation. The mentor will provide a lot of support at first. Over time, the rep will develop his/her skills and the mentor won’t need to be as involved. Always be as clear as you can. Oftentimes, inexperienced salespeople will have no idea what your acronyms refer to.
4) Let your best practices shine.It’s often effective to do a monthly lunch for the mentors. This will help you check off two tasks. The first: it will show appreciation for their help. The second: it will instigate a discussion about what’s going well and what needs improvement. Don’t let the conversation go to waste. Make sure every meeting has a certain topic. Ask your mentors about what areas the mentees are struggling in. Once those areas are clear, they should be a point of focus for the next few months. But don’t be too hard on your mentees. You don’t want them to get overwhelmed. These meetings also determine the areas that the sales team has been struggling in.
5) Create an exit scheme.
Mentorship cannot last forever. At some point, the mentorship must come to a natural conclusion. The timeframe depends on your particular sales cycle. Most mentorships for sales last 6 to 10 months. Your company could set up a system where a presentation or quarterly review must take place. This way, your reps can “graduate.” The reps should be able to showcase their skills and abilities to management. Fellow reps can also be present to learn and ask questions. This will create a learning experience for the entire sales room.
6) Calculate value.
Before the mentorship begins, key metrics should be clear. This will allow you to determine if the mentorship is worth it or not.
There are three key areas to measure:
-Movement (telephone calls, emails, messages, meetings)
-The pipeline (generated new opportunities, proposals)
-Finance (ACV. the number of deals closed, how long it took to close)
You will be able to tell if mentees are making progress in a large variety of ways. One of those ways is to see how mentees answer management’s questions. If the mentorship is working, a rep ought to be able to answer almost every question that comes his or her way.
7) Use small victories to your advantage.
A mentorship program can only be successful if accomplishments are often highlighted. For example, ask a mentor to tell a story involving team accomplishment in front of the sales room. You want your reps to recognized by management. This will boost morale and inspire more reps to take part in your mentorship program.
Here are some more ideas to consider while setting up your sales mentor program.
-Give some incentives to your mentors.
Management should make it very clear that they value the work of their reps. Mentorship can be part of promotion and compensation decisions. This is a surefire way to generate enthusiasm amongst the reps. The specific numbers are up to you. But don’t make your programs so easy that your cash flow decreases.
-Give mentors and mentees some freedom.
Allow them to set some of the key terms of the partnership. But don’t be too lenient. Make sure that certain parameters are in place. Otherwise, chaos may ensue. For example, you could allow the mentor and mentee to decide when they will meet every week. This will make both of them less likely to feel like they have more work to do. A little freedom will ensure that stress level stay low. As a result of having some freedom, their bond will stay strong.
-Mentor/mentee matches should be natural.
Some personalities don’t fit well together. It’s as simple as that. A great mentor/mentee relationship has to be organic. They should discuss career goals and common interests. Otherwise, despite being a good fit on paper, it will be a bad match. The last thing you want is to waste your sales manager’s time. Consider meeting with mentors before they begin the mentorship process. They can tell you who they see as a good fit to be a mentee. This will take some potential awkwardness out of your salesroom.
-Give your mentors some guidance and direction.
Never assume a great sales rep will be a great mentor. Management should offer formal training. It will ensure the mentors know what they’re doing. Don’t abandon the mentors after the training process. Check up on them to make sure everything is going well. One solution could be to give mentors their own mentors. This is a great way to make sure that you have taken cautionary steps to have a smooth operation.
-Give your reps opportunities to provide feedback.
Mentors and mentees must feel comfortable communicating with management. Have a structure in place so that everyone can give their feedback. You may realize a relationship that you thought was blossoming is actually soured. Never penalize or discourage honesty. Encourage the mentors and mentees to always be honest about what isn’t working. Also, don’t let dissatisfaction ruin your sales room. Make sure any issues get resolved as fast as possible. Hard feelings can take away sales and lower morale. It’s not the end of the world if a mentor/mentee relationship doesn’t work out. There are other mentors that can help.
-Consider hiring a consultant.
Not all mentors need to be in-house. Sometimes it’s better to have a coach or consultant step in. He or she can offer a fresh perspective that your experienced sales reps may not be able to provide. This will allow your top sales people to focus on selling. The less experienced reps will meet with a consultant. This will help ensure that your bottomline doesn’t suffer.
Don’t stress yourself out about creating a mentorship schedule for you and sales team. At the end of the day, it needs to be nothing more than an engaging learning experience. Management’s goal is to have competent reps. How do you go about this? The possibilities are endless. Stick to the 7 steps above as best you can. You will be well on your way to maximizing the skills and techniques of your reps.