Company-wide Mentoring

By Lain Ehmann

In the old days mentors were people who took a new employee under their wing and brought the junior worker along for the ride up the company ranks. Now, with the average worker in America changing jobs every few years, such long-lived relationships are rare, says Patricia Gardner, president of Maximum Sales, Inc. That doesn’t mean that mentoring is a thing of the past, however. Gardner has worked with many companies to establish organization-wide mentoring programs that raise morale, increase skill levels and foster a sense of community – without asking for a lifetime obligation from either the mentor or the mentored.

Gardner encourages managers to establish scaled-down programs within their sales teams where reps and even managers can spend one-on-one time with mentors of their choice, whether picking their brains about their experiences or getting hard training on specific skills. Here’s how such a program works.

1. Have an open conversation with your company’s upper-level managers. “You want to have total alignment of goals,” says Gardner. Explain the value of the mentoring program and its scope and duration. Make sure everyone’s on board.

2. Talk with sales managers and get their buy-in. “Mentoring must be a culture change, not the flavor of the month,” says Gardner. The goal is to create an environment where anyone in sales can spend time with anyone else in the sales organization.

3. Communicate goals and responsibilities to reps. Explain that you’re creating a short-term mentoring program where sales reps can choose to spend time with another person within the organization. Mentors are asked to set aside in-person time – from a couple of hours to a full day – and make themselves available to anyone who wants to learn. The trainee is responsible for selecting a mentor, taking an active role in the interaction and writing a memo after the fact that highlights the specific skills or concepts learned.

4. Start small. You might want to begin with your newest hires. Ask them who within sales they would like to spend one-on-one time with and why. After they’ve made their selections, contact the requested people and ask them to lend their support by a certain date, such as end of the month or end of the quarter. Then the mentor and trainee can set up a convenient time and proceed. After the first group has finished, you can launch the second round and so on.

5. Communicate accomplishments to participants and managers. Let everyone know that Mary increased her close rate by 15% after spending a day with the King of Closing. Share successes along the way so participants and staff are clear about the program’s value.

6. Look for ways to expand. Once you have some solid successes under your belt, consider asking other departments to participate. Get the materials manager in the field with one of your reps. Ask the CFO if you can spend some time with her on the job. As the program gets larger, so do the benefits.

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