Navigating your sales career in a shifting economy is easier with support from those who might have more expertise, those you trust, or those who have a unique outside perspective. The right mentor can help you aim higher, dream bigger, and achieve greater career success even as the economy is in a recovery period.
A mentor can be someone that you work with, a manager or a colleague whose opinion you respect. A mentor should be someone that you can be open with and trust implicitly. They might be in a different role or industry that parallels your own. They may be like-minded but have more experience than you. They may have the same experience but bring a fresh perspective to the table. It might be someone that you emulate. Or it might be someone who has helped you in the past.
A mentoring relationship can begin rather informally, and then becomes more formalized when a situation arises that requires a more deliberate conversation. Or a mentoring relationship can begin very intentionally with a specific goal and fixed time period. You might reach out and request a regular standing appointment or just a one-off meeting. In either case, you need to understand the importance of the mentoring relationship and what it can do for you if nurtured carefully.
Here is an example from my own experience of why mentorship is so important and how it can take your career to the next level. It started with two firsts for me; although I had lived abroad in Europe before, this would be my first trip to Asia. Importantly it would be my first million-dollar deal, a collaboration between the Philippines’ Minister of Health, United Laboratories, and my employer (a major medical center).
When navigating unchartered water, I always reached out to my long-time mentor, Liz, an elegant, articulate, intelligent, no-nonsense, professional Black woman. She was tall and imposing, who often had a serious, purposeful look on her face. She was also warm and caring with an earthy sense of humor. As president of the Minnesota State University Board and former civil service commissioner, Liz played a key role in establishing a state university program in Akita, Japan. When I called her, she provided critical insight and guidance enabling me to close my international deal. She guided me on cultural differences and business etiquette, and how these influenced the way business was conducted. Liz emphasized the importance of hierarchy, relationships, and family values that were critical success factors while doing business in Asia.
What I learned about mentorship with Liz can be summarized by implementing “The Five As”—you can use these to build a mentoring relationship of your own that will drive your career forward.
The Five A’s
Accomplish: Be intentional, what is your vision for the mentoring relationship? Do you want to increase your sales competency, advance your career, or navigate the C-Suite? Use SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals or write a mentor job description to get clarity about what you want to accomplish with a mentor’s help.
Appointments: Take responsibility for all the logistics around your appointments. Send calendar invitations, reminder notices, provide clear instructions (directions to the restaurant, Zoom links, etc.). Send an agenda out the day before your meeting. Make it easy for your mentor to work with you.
Agenda: Have a meeting agenda. What’s the most important thing you would like to focus on? What questions do you have for your mentor? Think about what would make this an EXTRAORDINARY conversation. Include an update on pending action items and conclude with day/time for next meeting.
Action Items: Keep a list of action items, status, and outcome. Bucket the list using the MECE framework (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive) to make it easy to read and reference: who’s responsible for each item, when will it be complete, what comes next? If you have any remaining action items, make sure you finish these before your next meeting and send any documents when you send your agenda.
Appreciate: Have an attitude of gratitude and say thank you, often. Thank your mentor for the contacts, ideas, time, and any resources they have shared. Include the value or impact of their time and efforts. You want your mentor to feel appreciated. Be sure to include an expression of good will—any good mentoring relationship works both ways. If there’s anything you can do to help them, you should do it gladly.
Part of the secret to a successful sales career is finding the right support and building the network you need to achieve your goals. A mentor can be a key source of support in building your sales career.
Here’s to Sales Mastery,
Chief Learning Officer, Sistas In Sales
Global Sales Keynote Speaker/Trainer/Executive Coach, has been a sales executive for 20+ years. With her natural talent for teaching and a drive to sell, Cherilynn uses her skills to coach and train other executives and sales professionals. Author of What’s In the CARDS? 5 Post Pandemic Sales Strategies.