Inexperienced salespeople don’t know what they haven’t seen for themselves. Usually, they gain their experience through the school of hard knocks. Unfortunately, this takes time. But if they emulate a successful practitioner, this timeframe can be shortened and the predictability of results can be improved.
A sales mentor’s sales intuition has been honed by many years of customer calls; therefore, their judgment is respected and advice highly sought after. However, in a typical sales organization, role modeling occurs very informally and irregularly. If the sales organization truly a mentor-based environment, what percentage of salesmen and saleswomen have had sales mentors?
A recent research project involving more than 1,000 sales professionals I conducted to determine The Personas of Top Salespeople provides the answer to this question (You can read more on the findings from this first-of-its-kind sales research on the attributes, attitudes, and actions of top salespeople here). The study results indicate that 54 percent of men and 59 percent of women had a significant sales mentor in their life whom they wanted to emulate or impress. Conversely, 27 percent of men and 28 percent of women did not.
While the percentages for men and women were very similar, the impact of having a mentor is quite different. The measurement of the previous year’s average quota attainment shows the greatest impact is for women. Women who had a sales mentor outperformed their counterparts who did not have mentors across the board: vice presidents of sales by 34 percent on average, mid-level sales managers by 3 percent, field sales reps by 29 percent, and inside salespeople by 51 percent. Men experienced positive but lesser results overall: vice presidents of sales who had mentors outperformed their non-mentored counterparts by 12 percent, mid-level sales managers by 16 percent, and field sales reps by 10 percent. The only exception was for male inside sales reps, who were 11 percent below their counterparts.
The culture and structure of the sales organization will mirror the sales management style of its leaders. Naturally, sales leadership will seek to imprint themselves on their organization. Your sales manager can make your life enjoyable, tolerable or miserable. However, the statistics above provide direct proof of the benefit of having a sales mentor in your life. Being part of a sales force, you are surrounded by experienced sales experts day-in, day-out. Take the time to ask them questions and learn from them no matter how knowledgeable you are.
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