The role of sales mentor

It can provide rewards for both the salesperson and sales manager that can last a lifetime


Our series of articles covering the four major roles of sales managers (supervisor, coach, trainer and mentor) concludes with perhaps the most mutually rewarding of the four – mentoring. Acting as mentor can provide rewards for both the salesperson and sales manager that can last a lifetime.

Supervising, coaching and mentoring may seem like overlapping or redundant roles, but key distinctions separate them, based on attitude and values in addition to direction and skill development. Mentorship is in many ways aspirational. A mentor should represent the organizational values and norms to which the mentee aspires. Importantly, the mentor should be wise, capable and highly successful in the role toward which the mentee is working. A good mentor exhibits attitudes and behaviors the mentee can successfully adopt.

Elements of modeling can take place between the mentor and mentee. This isn’t to say that your salespeople should try to be just like you or mimic you, but they should adopt your successful behaviors and be influenced by the positive values that have helped you get where you are – in a position of leadership.

Let’s summarize the special role that mentors play with a three-way comparison: 

 • Supervisors hold formal authority over the team or individual. 

 • Coaches help teams and individuals improve task related performances. 

 • Mentors distinguish themselves as proven star performers in their fields with a sincere desire to inspire others to likewise excel.

What comprises a successful salesperson-mentor relationship?

Since a mentoring relationship goes deeper than that of supervising, training and even coaching, mutual trust is vital for the relationship to work. The mentored salesperson needs to feel safe and be willing to share his or her real concerns about the job. They must sincerely want to learn, develop and grow in their position. They should be willing to adopt the values and successful behaviors integral to the organization’s success. 

The mentor needs to trust the salesperson to be honest about skill deficits and personal shortcomings that need to be overcome. The really great mentors possess a genuine desire to help mentees develop skills even to the point of surpassing their own. Egos take a back seat.

There are a number of different attributes required of both salespeople and their mentors for relational cohesion to develop, and thereby a successful transfer of skills and values.

Let’s examine these attributes from both sides of the relationship.

A mentor is a respected and valued team member, a demonstrated star performer who has sincerity and earns trust. A mentor is a good communicator, has the desire to give back as well concern for the company’s well-being.

A salesperson-mentee has the desire to earn respect, to be a star performer and is willing to accept vulnerability. IN addition, a salesperson-mentee is willing to risk time and take the effort and be willing to be teachable.

Who taught you your most valuable life lessons in addition to providing you with specialized knowledge? Look back and remember your best teachers, coaches and bosses. Then look at the mentor attributes above. Chances are you’ll recognize those attributes in them. At the same time, you probably possessed all of the attributes required of a mentored salesperson: eager to listen, learn and make positive changes to your behavior. 

When you think of the leaders in your life who had the most impact, you’ll best remember those who served you as mentors. Maybe it was your high school math teacher who took extra personal time to teach you better approaches to solving problems. Maybe it was a company owner who took you under his wing because he saw in you the potential to be a top producer. 

In sales management, a mentor isn’t simply a caring individual to whom a salesperson can go with questions or problems to be worked out. Mutual devotion toward quantifiable results must be present to make sales mentorships work. 

Defining success and then measuring the progress will help keep your mentoring relationships effective and functioning. Metrics for mentorship programs can be derived largely from those used for measuring other sales objectives. For the mentoring component, there should be a specific focus on the adopted performance behaviors and values derived from the mentorship. 

Kevin Hallenbeck, principal of Sandler Training – Manchester, can be reached at 603-232-1520 or through

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