No matter where you are in your sales career, there are always opportunities to learn. Thinking you’re at the top of your game is the easiest way to fall behind. One of the best ways to keep developing and improving your sales craft is to learn from expert sales leaders, those who consistently outperform.
To help you get started, we’ve compiled a simple guide to help you determine where to find top sales leaders that you can learn from, and how to maximize the relationships once you’ve identified one.
Where To Find Top Sales Leaders
Before you start searching for the perfect sales mentor, you may want to consider what exactly you’re looking for. Are you looking for coaching in a specific skillset? Are you looking for someone to advise you on future career choices and advancements?
There are many different types of mentors, and figuring out what you’re looking for in a sales leader will help narrow your search. Are any of these common mentor types the ideal learning scenario for you?
- Connectors. Connectors are a rare find. These people find true happiness from connecting people who can help each other or may bring value to one another. It’s great to have a connector in your court because they naturally widen your network.
- Cheerleaders. You may not learn a ton from this type of mentor, but it’s always great to have someone on your side. A cheerleader is a great mentor to have because they will celebrate the wins with you, and help you get through the losses. These mentors act as a support system throughout your career.
- Coaches. Coaches are mentors who you look up to. They usually have more experience than you and can provide great strategic advice in terms of career choices or solving difficult problems. They provide a deeper level of encouragement that helps you develop personally and grow in your career. A great coach will understand your goals and help guide you to success.
- Challengers. You may have a lot of people in your corner giving you two thumbs up, but it pays to have someone who is a little more critical as well. Finding a sales leader who provides honest constructive criticism is incredibly valuable. Challengers help develop your career in a faster and more meaningful way.
If none of these popular mentor types sound quite right, don’t worry, you can craft your own definition of perfect. The idea is to start identifying what’s important.
Many successful sales leaders even suggest grabbing multiple mentors at once to widen your scope. Don’t feel like you need to stop at just one.
Once you’ve identified what you’re looking for, you’ll need to actually find someone. Where can you look?
Here are a few ideas to help get you started:
- Your Place of Employment. Where you work can be a great place to start looking for sales leaders to learn from. You already spend a lot of time with coworkers, and finding a time to meet can easily fit into both of your schedules. Typically you’ll want to find someone at a higher level than you currently are in your career, but ultimately that may depend on which type of learning you’re looking to do.
- Networking Groups. If you’re involved in any networking groups or other after work activities like board involvement or charity work, those are great resources to tap into. Start being a little more aware of the people you meet and the relationships you may be able to build.
- Former Employers and Colleagues. Never burn a bridge! Past employers can be good sources of sales mentors too. There is often less pressure on the relationship, allowing both parties to be more honest and helpful. Identifying top sales leaders from past organizations may be the perfect way for you to gain additional skills and industry insight.
- Friends and Family. If you have family members in the sales profession who you look up to, include them as potential learning sources. Family members are more likely to indulge in your request, and you may already get together frequently. Friends are another good option for many of the same reasons. Sometimes the perfect sales learning opportunity is waiting directly in front of you.
These are certainly not the only places you can identify successful sales leaders to learn from, but they are a great place to start.
3 Ways to Learn from Top Sales Pros
Once you’ve identified a potential mentor in the sales field, how do you get them on board? There is an art to building a strong learning relationship and we’ve outlined some of the steps for you below.
1. Establish a good relationship.
It may seem obvious, but you can’t just decide a manager or coworker is your mentor without talking with them about it. They may not be interested in investing time in you, and they may not understand your intentions without somewhat of an explanation.
The best way to lay the groundwork for a good learning foundation from an experienced sales pro is to be upfront and honest about what you’re looking for. Ask to grab a coffee or sit down for a few minutes so you can reintroduce yourself and lay out your proposal.
Once you’ve found a time to talk, make sure that you have:
- Honestly described the type of relationship you’re looking for
- Designated the types of things you’d like to learn
- Set clear goals for the relationship and time commitment expectations
Establishing set boundaries and goals for the relationship will help you mentor understand how they can help you, and also make sure they agree with the commitment they’re making, no matter how small.
2. Start learning.
It’s important to realize that the person you’ve designated as your mentor is the one you want to learn from. Don’t think that every time you sit down together you’re there to talk about yourself. It’s actually quite the opposite.
You’ll learn the most from asking valuable questions. Instead of spending all of your time talking about a difficult sales call you just had, ask your sales pro what obstacles they overcame in their career and how the did so. If there’s time at the end, feel free to bring up your issues and ask for advice.
Some high value questions you might want to ask are:
- What are the most important lessons you’ve learned so far in your sales career?
- What major obstacles have you faced in your sales career, and how did you overcome them?
- What are the best ways you’ve found to continue learning and advancing sales skills?
Remember, the value of learning from another top sales professional is that you may be able to skip learning some lessons the hard way.
3. Act and Improve.
Once you’ve gained some valuable insight, the rest falls on you. Simply collecting good ideas and strategies isn’t enough. You have to follow through.
Part of successfully flourishing in a mentor relationship and learning from a top sales professional is developing a good reaction plan. If your goal is to work on developing a particular skill, you may want to find some additional tools and schedule practice time to work on the information and tips provided to you. If the sales leader you’re working with recommended joining a networking group to grow your personal reach, schedule time to start researching options and set a deadline for joining one.
You must take initiative to prove you’re taking the new relationship seriously. Once you’ve identified a great source for learning, make sure you don’t waste it!