Managers as Mentors. Building Internal Sales Partnerships.

Managers as Mentors. Building Internal Sales Partnerships.

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at


“I speak to three of four corporations a week on the subjects of customer service, leadership, and management,” said Chip Bell. “I began to see a major shift occurring in the way people were being managed and it wasn’t good. Corporations large and small were overlooking the key aspect of leadership.” It led to his book, “Managers as Mentors.”

“Perpetual innovation when trying to be synergized with the corporate half-life cycle on most projects, jobs and even human resource, created mixed messages and frustration.” Bell continued. “I found one interesting common thread among the winningest corporations. Incessant learning. Nonstop learning. Daily learning. Learning. In fact, the ability to learn faster than the competition may be the only sustainable competitive advantage of the 21st century.”

“Every element of success has with it a learning component,” Bell offers. “The challenge is to convey the knowledge.” The concept of Chip Bell’s brilliance is that every leader must become a mentor to his employees in order to place his company (team) in a leadership position. The dilemma is how?

The dictionary definition of a mentor is a sensitive trusted advisor. The word mentor first appeared in Homer’s “The Odyssey.” Mentor was a family friend who was left in charge of tutoring Telemachus (the heir apparent son of Odysseus leader of Greece), while his father was off to fight the 10 years Trojan War. (The war about safe sex.)

Most people think of a mentor as someone not in their chain of command. True but not true. It’s all in how you approach the opportunity to coach and lead. A mentor is the highest level, most respected coach. He’s the one the coach calls for advice.

How does the leader carry out an insight goal from an in-charge role? By taking the position of mentor and leveling the learning field (making everyone in the chain of command an equal learner). No hidden motives. No political motives. Since learning involves experimentation, risk taking, and trail and error, you (the protegy) may have to make mistakes.

Bell’s book, “Managers as Mentors” documents that step-by-step process in a way that makes it seem as: “that’s the way we should have been doing it for the last twenty years.”

Bell’s short formula for beginning to think and act like a mentor (to your employees):

  1. Anchor all learning to a mission, vision or purpose. Break it down to a specific goal or job to be achieved. People will learn faster if they have a why behind the what.
  2. Demonstrate confident humility. Walk the thin line between self confidence and arrogance. Confidence breeds confidence. But the authenticity is bred from the roots of being humble. Acceptance from humility.
    “Jeffrey, let me make that point to you the way it was made to me,” said Bell as he leaned forward. “My then teenage son said of me once, ‘When my dad tells me something, I don’t buy it, but when he cries, it makes me cry.'” (Wow, I get it.)
  3. Use dramatic listening. Listen as if you were interviewing a hero you always have wanted to talk to. For example if you were interviewing Abraham Lincoln or Moses or Madonna, and the phone rang would you say, “Just a second, Abe” or take the call? Would you be reading your mail while you were talking? Or would you be listening, dramatically hanging on every word taking notes furiously.
    Bell says, “Everyone knows how to listen, they just don’t make it a priority.”
  4. Ask permission to give advice. The crux of mentoring is giving advice. However, the challenge of advice giving is the resistance to it. People not taking it for whatever reason or circumstance.
    Remember (your reaction to) the last time someone said, “Let me give you some advice.” By saying instead, “I have some ideas that might be useful if you think they might be helpful,” keeps control where it belongs with the learner while eliminating resistance and creating an atmosphere of acceptance. (non-judgmental or prejudicial)
    Remember (your reaction to) parental advice. Too often parents advice was ignored sometimes until after their death. All of us with a deceased mother or father wishes we could thank them for their wisdom we now follow.
  5. State advice in the first person singular. Tell a story. Use personal experience to share wisdom. Eliminate “should” and “ought to.”
  6. Be a learning role model. Let people follow your learning lead. If you want your people to demonstrate curiosity, demonstrate yours. If you want your people to take risks, they must see your mistakes as well as your triumphs.

Celebrate the (excellent) effort not the victory or defeat. If you only reward results, you’ll never get the learning, risk taking or growth necessary to emerge as a leader.

“The secret to mentoring is simple,” Bell offers. “Just recall your mentors and ask yourself what traits they demonstrated to get you to listen? Use those.”

The basis of sales success is mentoring. If you want to be a successful sales manager, you have no choice but to become a superior mentor.


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