Sales Advice: Who was Your Most Valuable Sales Mentor?

July 16, 2018 | Alec Shirkey
Sales Advice: Who was Your Most Valuable Sales Mentor?

Sales Advice: Who was Your Most Valuable Sales Mentor?

Have you ever met a great sales rep? What qualities helped that person excel, and why?

In truth, most standout sellers did not find success overnight, nor did they do so alone. Many realized their full potential with the help of a mentor, whose guidance and sales advice set them on a winning path. It’s for this very reason that sales organizations often rely on mentorship programs to onboard new reps and cultivate strong sales management.

In the spirit of learning, we asked 7 sales experts to name the mentors who most influenced their professional growth, and explain why their perspective was of such value. Read on to see what they had to say.

[Peer learning provides a great opportunity for salespeople to share knowledge and best practices. Download our exclusive eBook to learn how your organization can harness its power and benefits.]

Beverlie Heyman, Sales Enablement Manager, Brainshark (@bheyman)

Early in my career, I was fortunate to work at Symantec in a sales management role reporting to Jackie Comp. To this day, Jackie has been my mentor. Jackie differentiated herself from other managers that I reported to in my career because she was always a sales leader, not just a sales manager. She was committed to everyone’s personal growth and took the time to develop all of her staff.

Her strengths included:

  • Embracing a vision and committing to it – there were times when we had lofty goals or competitive challenges, but Jackie was able to align 100-plus people to commit to the marching orders. 
  • Empathy – the ability to understand different points of view and negotiate a win-win solution.
  • Process – a deep understanding of the sales cycle and the willingness to work on optimizing sales process and methodology.
  • Delivery – the ability to deliver a message fairly. Even if it wasn’t the outcome I wanted, I understood the “why” behind it and was able commit to the resolution.

I knew as a newbie starting off that she was a person to watch and to emulate. These skills are unique and allowed me to understand the difference between a sales manager and a sales leader. To this day, I still turn to her for perspective and know her advice is reflective and worth following!

Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions (@PeopleFirstPS)

I have been blessed with many exceptional mentors who saw more potential in me than I did. The first to do so was Vanessa Scruggs, my supervisor in my first full-time job. I took calls from people placing ads in the classified section of The Kansas City Star. Back then, people used classifieds to sell nearly everything. The phones rang all day long and 30-plus people were there to accept calls and take ads. 

We were measured and paid by the number of classified ad lines we placed. Accepting more calls and selling longer ad runs meant more lines. Within a few weeks, I was at the top of the leaderboard, placing more lines daily than anyone ever had. Apparently, a few co-workers were suspicious and thought I was cheating. They complained to Vanessa. She responded, "You're in here talking to me, and she's out there taking ads. I think I know why her line count is higher than yours."

Vanessa told me what happened and that she believed in me. Those words, at that time in my life, meant everything to me. Vanessa taught me a lot that year, including how to rise above the fray.

Dave Brock, President and CEO, Partners in Excellence (@davidabrock)

This may sound odd, but my greatest mentor is my wife. She had a long career in technology sales and executive management, and now has her own business, so she understands a huge amount about business and sales. She's probably the best sales manager I've ever seen. Although she left her last technology/management job over 15 years ago, her people still call her up for coaching and to get ideas.

She's a terrific mentor and sounding board for me. She knows me better than I know myself. I can often get caught up in something and be totally blind to what's really happening, or let my emotions drive me. She sees that happening and can cut through it really clearly, helping me refocus on the critical issues.

Dinners are interesting – deal reviews, account reviews, and pipeline discussions. The only downside is she keeps raising my quota!

Gerry Praysman, Director of Account Development, Brainshark (@gpraysman)

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have a number of mentors that have influenced my career and outlook on life. One who always sticks out is my management professor at Babson College, who stressed two things that I will always carry with me.

The first is that what you think, feel, and hope about something is good, but it’s hardly a strategy. Make decisions objectively, base them on data, and rarely listen to others who don’t. The second is that one of the consistently greatest advantages you can have as a person is tough-mindedness in any situation – it’s the underlying factor that defines winners in the wake of adversity.

Matt Heinz, President, Heinz Marketing (@HeinzMarketing)

As a business owner for the past several years, it’s absolutely been the members of our local Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO) chapter. It’s a unique and amazing group of roughly 160 business owners in Seattle across a wide variety of industries, all invested in their businesses, their families and their communities. As an accidental and first-time entrepreneur, this group collectively has shared an amazing amount of knowledge, insight and experience that has helped me grow, stay focused on my objectives and values, and keep breathing along the way!

Colleen Francis, Owner, Engage Selling Solutions (@EngageColleen)

My dad was my first sales mentor and the best I’ve had. He took me on sales calls on my days off from school. I watched him interact directly with customers, and then with his team once he was promoted to manager. I learned early on to value all my relationships, never be afraid to ask a tough question (or ask for the sale!), and to make “just one more” call before the day is done. Recently in my consulting practice I’ve been reminding clients that learning by observing and doing, as I did, is the best way for young sellers to be trained.

Barbara Giamanco, Founder and CEO, Social Centered Selling (@barbaragiamanco)

Every mentor I’ve worked with has helped me in many ways, and my very first sales manager had the greatest impact on me and my sales career. Fortunately, I’m wired this way, but the most important advice she ever gave me was that we should always treat everyone equally, with courtesy and respect. Her point was that you never know who might influence the selling decision, because titles don’t always tell the real story.

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