Each time you go through the hiring process, you probably have sky-high hopes for your new team member. However, that pesky law of averages dictates that the vast majority of employees will fall into the middle quadrant, performance-wise. In other words, they’ll probably turn out to be competent and capable workers, but they won’t send your firm hurtling into the sales stratosphere.
But every so often, your new-hire hunch is different. This time, you just have a nagging sense that this salesperson might be the one to help you take your business to the next level. So, what’s the best way to polish your diamond in the rough?
Well, there are as many different answers to that question as there are sales gurus. But one common theme that seems to have emerged from the sales literature is the key importance of a mentor. To make sure your high-potential employees make the most of their natural talent and blast off instead of burning out, hook them up with a seasoned sales professional who knows his or her way around the industry. Here are some guidelines for fostering an effective mentorship program.
Be a skillful matchmaker. There’s much more to mentorship than the novice/expert dynamic. Make sure your mentorship teams are a good match in terms of personality, temperament, experience, and areas of expertise.
Provide a loose but defined structure. Don’t micromanage the mentorship program, but don’t be too laissez-faire about it, either. Make sure your mentorship teams work together to achieve a predetermined set of goals and benchmarks each year.
Commit organizational resources to the program. Your mentorship program is unlikely to be fully effective unless you put your money where your mouth is. You don’t have to dedicate big bucks to the program, but allocate at least a nominal budget as a show of management support.
Follow up. Once or twice a year, schedule an informal tête-à-tête with your mentorship teams. Ask each team to prepare a casual “progress report,” as it were, and to provide you with input on the strengths and weaknesses of their partnership. This will help you get a better sense of whether the mentor/mentee match-up is working well for both members.
Does your firm have a mentorship program? If so, what advice do you have for others seeking to get one started? Tell us what you think in the comments.