Investment: 10 minutes – this is a thorough ‘how to’ post that should make significant impact on your sales performance if you apply what you learn
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Consider this week’s post a ‘Special’. In it, you’ll learn:
- where the solution to your biggest sales challenges lies
- the top 4 most common and costly mistakes made when picking a sales mentor or role model
- where and how to find high quality sales mentors and advice
- the vital four groups that you should be choosing your sales mentors from
- the one thing you should do to get the results your mentors have been getting
- the one trick that has your sales mentors doing big favours for you
- how to get 10 times more out of this very article to impact your career and life too
A comforting fact
Someone somewhere out there is the perfect sales mentor for you.
They should be your sales role model, your sales hero. Your white knight (or perhaps dark knight!). The person who holds the solution to your most agonising sales challenges that weigh down on you every day (you know the ones).
By ‘perfect sales mentor’ I mean the ideal person out there to guide you through the specific sales challenges you face right now.
I mean the person who’s top of the pile – who fits your circumstances and style as closely as possible.
I don’t mean the person who’s at the top of the mountain barking instructions down to you at the bottom about how they made it up there. For all we know, they might have got up there before the blizzard!
No, I mean the person who comes to you out from the blizzard, grabs you by the shoulders, shakes you, then, puts their hand out to you and says:
“Come with me if you want to live”.
This person – if you understand them correctly, apply what they say, emulate their behaviour, tread where they tread, and follow their lead, will guide you through whatever sales challenges you currently face to the other side. To a better place. To a place of success and safety.
This ideal sales mentor is out there, and I’m going to help you find them.
Take charge, determine the right thing to do, and do it
Most challenges in sales or business development have been solved in the past by someone else.
Somewhere out there, is ‘the best thing to do’ in your situation. And someone either already did it, or did something very close to it that you can transfer to your situation.
But here’s the thing. It probably wasn’t one of your default ‘go to’ sales mentors or role models.
Which is why I’ve come out of this blizzard and am here shaking you by the shoulders. And I’m telling you, you may need to recruit a new dream team of mentors.
And it’s important to think carefully about who your sales mentors should be. One slip in your decision and you could end up following The (or a) Joker rather than the dark knight. And you don’t want to get caught up following jokers.
In fact there are common blind spots and mistakes I often see made by all the sales (and non-sales) people I’ve worked with over the years when they discuss sales mentors:
Mistake 1: they don’t decide on their mentors or role models
First, there’s the people who don’t purposefully find and select their perfect sales mentors. They just use whoever is within reach, whether consciously or not.
Look, if you’re not purposefully following someone somewhere desirable then you’re almost certainly being led somewhere less desirable. In sales, that ‘somewhere’ is usually over broken glass and out the door.
This mistake usually results in unconsciously making mistakes 2, 3 and 4…
Mistake 2: they seriously narrow their options
“Hmm…who could my sales mentor be? I know. I’ll ask Dave.” No, we’re not going to find our hero, our white knight in Dave. At least it’s unlikely that Dave, sitting over at the next desk, has just come out of the blizzard to save us. No offense, Dave.
The thing is, we can go anywhere and everywhere and build our sales mentors out of whatever we want. (What?) I mean we can pick from people dead or alive, fictional or real, within the pages of books, or those who have written books, the relatively unknown, the famous, friends, colleagues, or even, if you’re that creative an animal (tip: in sales, you’re better off being a dolphin than a shark.)
If you’re short of ideas, the links in the paragraph above might help.
And because we’re being creative here and building a solution that’s tailored, we can purposefully pick aspects of different characters. So you don’t need to just rely on picking Dave, even though he got ’employee of the year 2012.’
Mistake 3: they pick just famous people
Ask them who their role models and mentors are and they’ll say, “Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and the two Google guys – sorry I forget their exact names.”
Perhaps it’s the question that’s the problem. Most people seem to hear it as, “list 3 people who made it in business.” So perhaps we should ask, “who do you think has already solved and could best lead you through your current sales challenges?”
The problem of course, as I alluded to above, is that famous people are at the top of the mountain shouting down.
They succeeded at a different time to you. Usually years, or even decades before you, when the game was different, possibly operating within a different culture to you.
And they were elevated by that bit of luck they don’t make a habit of talking about. (Note, I’m not taking their hard work away from them – I’m suggesting that we all have things within our circumstances that help or hinder, and what they had, will almost certainly be different to what you currently have.
All this to say, they probably didn’t even solve the very problem you’re trying to solve. The one that’s blocking your career progress the most. And so that does not make them your white knight.
Yes, you can admire their abilities and the challenges they overcame. And there’s definite value that you can leverage if you interpret it and use it intelligently (I’ll explain how in a moment). But, for our purposes, it’s a bit dreamy, isn’t it? Well done them, but back to reality. There’s a blizzard in your face. And it’s getting worse.
Mistake 4: they pick from the ‘convenient pot’
If they’re not claiming that their role model is Steve Jobs, they may, in a remarkable and mind-numbing display of lazy (or ‘un-useful) thinking, say that their mentor is their sales manager or sales director.
Nope, they’re the sales manager or sales director (and hopefully provide great value in that role) but they’re not necessarily your perfect sales mentor.
In fact, a great sales leader knows that. A great sales leader should be leading you to your perfect sales mentor rather than claiming to be ‘the one’.
Of course, if you’ve thought it through and chosen them as ‘the one’ then that’s fine.
And note, that they can and should mentor you anyway (or at least provide you with the support). (That link is to my site to help sales and non-sales teams increase their performance and results fast.) But they’re not necessarily the white knight that YOU need for your immediate unique situation.
If they’re not picking their direct manager, I often hear sales people picking someone else from the ‘convenient pot’.
Often it’s a colleague (which is great by the way but perhaps not enough – more on that in a bit). Or potentially worse, using their family or friends as a mentor just because it’s easy (ever shared your sales challenges with your partner or spouse over dinner? They’ll have good intentions but you’re probably better off talking to Dave.)
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So how do you pick the perfect sales mentor?
Let’s do this properly (and pay particular attention to number 5 as it’s perhaps the most important):
First make sure that you understand and avoid the above 4 common blindspot mistakes.
Then you could do this (if you want to live):
1.Know that most sales challenges you face have been tackled and solved before by someone else
2.Know that somewhere out there is an ideal sales mentor – the person best placed to guide you through your immediate unique challenges
3.Do a quick “around the world in 80 minutes” search for your white knight – to find someone who has solved the specific challenges you face, and who can deliver their solutions to you in a way that suits.
Use Google and whatever resources spring to mind and seek out SPECIFIC information as close as possible to your circumstances.
Don’t forget to use your mouth and your legs too (old school style!!). Work hard to find your white knight. The benefits of finding them massively outweigh the effort you’ll put in.
Keep in mind that you’ll want:
- a credible resource that you identify with – that feels like it was made for you and delivered to you in the way that you want. You’ve got to feel, “this is it – this one actually makes sense!”
- to get specific (if you want videos vs a blog post vs an ebook then stick that in your Google search term). And add your industry or specific circumstances rather than searching for generic content (and note, most of the ‘sales gurus’ provide high-level generic advice that’s often quite hard to action.) (Also beware of the sales gurus who have much bigger and whiter teeth than you do. If that’s not a clue that the metamorphosis process turning them into sharks has started, I don’t know what is.)
- an up to date solution – if timing matters, and it probably does, use Google then click on ‘tools’ below the Google search box. Under the ‘Any time’ drop down list, select ‘past year’ for recently published articles (see pic below).
4.build and maintain a list of potential sales mentors who could make your ‘dream team’. These are your candidates. It’s a great resource for future reference too. It kind of makes you feel you’re not doing this alone!
Start with whoever comes to mind. Those who might hold the solution to this challenge or any typical challenges you face.
Who do you know, whether ‘sales people’ or not, who could confidently and competently tackle the challenge you face? Who would you send in to do it for you if you could? You should learn to think like them, and gradually your behaviours and results will shift more in alignment with theirs.
Add anyone to your list who you discovered online just now. They’re probably worth keeping in your ‘mentor dream team’.
5.Most importantly, add to your list mentors or role models from these four levels or groups:
1. Visionary or inspirational sales mentors
Go on, stick Branson or Jobs down.
I encourage you to choose someone famous who inspires you, who you love to learn from, and who guides you at the higher-level.
Obviously, if you pick well, then you should absolutely be inspired to buy their books, read their autobiography, follow them on social media and so on. If you aren’t compelled to follow and learn from them properly, well, you probably didn’t pick someone you’re that bothered about. Remember, you’re not listing famous successful people. You’re picking your hero to follow.
2. Strategic level sales mentors
You must not miss this level. Get two or three mentors or role models down who are a milestone or two ahead of you.
They achieved the ‘next level’ in your career or business that you want to get to. And they’re as close as possible to your circumstances, industry, or ‘local world’ however you define it.
But most importantly, they’re ahead of you by just a milestone or two.
They’ve trodden the path you’re about to go down. You’ll find them if you’re prepared to look using the steps above. Ask around. Use your network. Google and find them. Then follow them, reach out to them for advice, and learn from them, daily if you can.
3. Tactical level sales mentors
Perhaps the most important one of all!
It could be someone from your ‘convenient pot’ (but you’ve chosen them tactically).
Or they might operate in a different town or city to you, but you have access to them online perhaps.
These are the mentors who aren’t a milestone or two ahead of you but who have just recently solved your near-exact problems that align with your strategic plans. They’ve got the battle scars and they’re still sweating from it.
They figured it out.
They advanced into battle and cleared the path for you.
And they can somehow share with you what they did and what they learned. (Perhaps they even blogged about it?)
And why would they share with you?
Because you make yourself invaluable to them too. These mentors are so much more useful than the high-level famous mentors. They help you tackle immediate relevant problems. And you can create a personal connection with them and support them too.
Whatever they’re trying to do, help them. It could really pay off. Help connect them to whoever they need, and share their work online to give them exposure. By doing so, they are more likely to develop a mutual win:win relationship with you. These people are easily within your reach, and if you look after them, they’ll look after you.
4. Sales partner mentors (travel companions)
Pick some ‘partner mentors’ to travel with. The more allies you have who are trying to achieve a common goal, the more effective and efficient you can be sharing learning, suggestions and solutions.
Plus, it’s probably more fun. And you get to tap into their mentors too (make sure you share this post with them!)
Time to pick the perfect sales mentor or role model
You should now have a list of options, and you’ll update it as you progress.
So it’s time to pick your dream team.
I suggest purposefully picking at least one visionary or inspirational mentor. They’re you’re guiding star.
Then I suggest picking two strategic level mentors. They keep you locked on your milestone target that’s within reach.
Finally, I suggest picking three tactical level mentors and a travel companion or two. These will change your world in sales. Talk to them, create relationships and help each other out. It’ll pay off in ways you haven’t even considered.
There you go – a dream team in a 1-2-3 formation!
Note, at no point do you have to formally ask someone to be your mentor. In fact, it could be off putting since most people are so busy these days. Just select your team (whether they agree or not!) and try to build relationships with those who will respond (usually at the tactical and strategic level), and most of all, be helpful to them and flatter them by asking for specific advice when you need it.
Don’t forget too the Ben Franklin effect whereby if you ask for a small favour and they oblige, they’re now invested in you! They’re your new sponsor! And they want to see their efforts pay off. You can probably then ask them for a bit more and it may just surprise you…
This full approach could have a profound impact on your progress and results. (Did you know that we tend to be the average of the top 5 people we spend most of our time with? For years it’s been said that we tend to earn the average salary of the 5 people we spend most time with. Spend more time then with your well selected dream team.
Commit – and stay on target
You’re not done yet. Your dream team aren’t leading you until you hear from them frequently.
So, buy their books, consume their ideas, or at the very least, listen to or read every day what they put out there. Sign up to their blogs, emails, Twitter, Facebook feeds, or podcasts.
You want them beamed into your mind every day if possible (providing you’ve chosen them well). (Ditch all your other subscriptions. Clear the path for what matters most. It’s these that will probably make the biggest impact on your career, and perhaps your life too. Solve this and you’ll probably solve many of your secondary problems and challenges in life.) Programme yourself to become the sort of person who gets the results that they get.
And pay attention specifically to:
- What they’re thinking
- What they’ve learned
- What they’re saying
- What they’re doing
Finally, if you’re struggling to find solutions to your own challenges, I invite you to drop me a note here. I’ll do my best to point you towards a solution or mentor.
And if you would like to follow my own work (weekly posts that don’t just help you to sell but also help you to learn fast, apply what you learn effectively, and reposition yourself in your career) you can sign up here.
And if you think a checklist to implement everything in this post systematically would be useful, please let me know in the comments below. If enough people want that I’ll create one and email it out to my mailing list.
Now, let me know any thoughts, questions or comments you have below, and then go and find your perfect sales mentor (or dream team!)
PS please share if you think others in your network may benefit from this, thanks!
PPS If you want to get 10 times more out of what you learn from this post, you could re-read and replace the word ‘sales’ with the word ‘golf’, ‘career’ or even ‘life’.
Some of my own more famous, inspirational and strategic sales mentors
If you’re interested, I am continuously guided and inspired by, amongst many others, the work of Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Adam Grant, Jill Konrath, Brian Tracy, Alan Weiss, Brian Clark, and John Jantsch.
They’re all ‘sales people’ (just as you are) trapped in the body of someone in another profession, and they do it elegantly, authentically, successfully and in a style that I like, trust and respect. You may enjoy learning from them too. (Note, but they only occasionally help me solve my direct tactical challenges – for those, I have to thank my tactical mentors).