The word mentor means many things in different contexts. Recently there has been a
significant level of interest in the relationship between sales management and mentoring.
What is of particular interest is how peer mentoring could benefit particularly new recruits.
A lot of work has been done on the role that a salesperson’s peers play in influencing
personal motivation and skills development. Peer mentoring has been described as the
relationship between a more experienced salesperson (mentor) and a less experienced
protégé.i The relationship is usually aimed at providing the protégé with orientation, support
and skills development. These relationships can be formal or informal and are often most
successful when they are entered into spontaneously. But what of the benefits of
mentoring- both to the new sales executive and the more experienced team member,
including the sales manager?
For the mentor, the clear benefit is an opportunity to look at old ways of doing things in a
new light. There is also overwhelming evidence that mentoring reduces absenteeism and
increases sales staff motivation –two huge hurdles in the context of the current global
crunch. For the protégé there is the opportunity to be fast tracked and take learning from
the sales training classroom and discover quick, accessible routes to implementing sales
principles in an efficient, timeous and practical way. It is generally accepted that the
benefits for the protégé are both vocational and/or task related on the one hand and
psychosocial on the other. For the sales manager there is the reassurance that on the job,
just in time learning is happening, and whilst this does not let the sales manager off the
hook when it comes to sales coaching, there is a reinforcing of best practice in a managed
environment. The peer mentoring process can go a long way to supporting both medium
and long-term sales objectives that the sales manager may be looking to institute.
Given this background, it may be worthwhile approaching some of the more experienced
sales people on a team to establish both their mentoring ability and willingness. By
identifying those sales members who are open to starting and maintaining new
relationships and encouraging peer-mentoring, a sales manager can go a long way to
creating that high performance team.
The current research certainly indicates that peer mentoring is one way of addressing
issues around job motivation, job involvement, job satisfaction, and overall organizational
commitment. One word of caution, if you begin a formal peer mentoring process, then it is
important to manager both perceptions and expectations because the research also shows
that protégés often expect more than they receive.
Andy Brough is an organisational and learning development consultant and can be contacted on andyb[at]andrewbrough[dot]com