Sales Mentorship: You Can’t Survive on a One-Way Street!


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We know what we are, but we know not what we may be.—William Shakespeare

“You better take that last spot in the overhead bin,” implored my seatmate on a recent flight, as I contorted my bag so that the door would latch. “If you don’t, somebody behind you will grab it.”

“Assertiveness and opportunism co-mingled . . . that seems awfully familiar . . . ,” I thought. “I’ll bet she’s in sales.”

In fact, she was—for a global advisory services company. But as I learned during our conversation that continued for the duration of the five-hour flight, she had a specialty that makes mere mortal salespeople quake and tremble. Her job was to resuscitate her company’s former customers. Not just any former customer, though. Angry former customers. Customers who had said in a thousand different, unpleasant ways, “I’ll never buy from your company again . . . or the horse you rode in on!” No need for manual gestures to embellish the sentiment.

“I like taking on the challenging ones,” she said, adding, “I’ve gotten pretty good at it.” She told me she was heading to a sales meeting for her DC-based company, and I could tell from our conversation that she was making a solid living in this unique sales niche.

Whatever you think it takes to excel in sales—motivation, tenacity, focus, empathy—it was abundantly clear that she had the right stuff. No need to waste time checking a list of top-producer attributes. “Some salespeople want to get to ‘no’ quickly, but I simply don’t accept ‘no’ at all.” Put herself through college. Paid off her loans in six years. Highly confident, and not shy about dictating terms to management. “I tell them, ‘this is what I expect for commission. If I don’t make my number, six months from now, you’re either going to fire me, or I will have already quit because I’m not making the money I want to make. So neither of us has to worry if this isn’t working out.'” All is fair in love and war.

She explained how other salespeople learn in her organization. “Our knowledge sharing is not one-way. When new salespeople come on board, we require them to learn a specific area of the industries we serve, and then to teach that to others. It’s the best way to gain understanding, and management insists on it.”

She told me that others outside of her division frequently call on her to mentor them. “I listen in on a lot of phone calls, and they listen in on mine,” she said. “But I require two things right up front: they have to tell me one thing that they learned from me, and they must give me feedback on two things that I could improve. I’m prepared to hear whatever they tell me, and I let them know that. And if they don’t give me feedback within a day or two, I don’t help them again.”

No surprise she’s a top producer. With mentorship, you can’t survive on a one-way street.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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