Corporate Mentoring and Global Sales Effectiveness

September 01, 2015

Building a global sales team presents many obstacles to efficient onboarding, training and motivation of new talent resulting in very high costs of training and a sub-par succession pipeline.

The Challenge of Global Sales Effectiveness

New hires on a global sales team can take much longer to get up to speed. There's often a training process, then a period of supervisor shadowing, in-field training, etc.

Compounding this problem is a lack of knowledge transfer from managers to supervisors to sales reps. Many companies have sales managers that are stretched much too thin trying to equip a large international sales team with the tools they need for success.

This perpetuates a dangerous cycle. Sales reps become frustrated by a lack of support from management and end up leaving the company. This creates high turnover, causing a loss of revenue, not to mention the enormous cost of recruiting and training new hires. Once you get the right people onboard it is critical to engage, train and retain them especially in Sales.

How do you prevent this destructive cycle from spreading burnout and dissatisfaction throughout your sales team? Is there a better approach to knowledge transfer?

Knowledge Transfer through Mentoring: The Key to Global Sales Success

Above everything else, efficiently transferring knowledge among the tiers of a sales force is critical for the successful management of an international sales team.

Two ways mentoring can improve a sales team’s performance:

  • Increasing time to effectiveness. An excessively long ramp-up time is frustrating for new sales reps and creates more work for supervisors. By more effectively identifying the type of knowledge needed and the individuals who need it, then assigning qualified, committed mentors to geographic areas, one of Insala’s clients was able to reduce its time-to-effectiveness from 14 months to between 10 and 11 months.
  • Creating a succession pool. This particular organization needed mentoring improvement not just for new hires, but also for senior sales reps and supervisors who were frustrated by a lack of advancement opportunities despite an ever-increasing workload. By creating a mentoring chain where supervisors who mentored reps were themselves mentored by management, the company was able to better identify team members best fit for leadership roles and get them on track to fulfill them.

Both of these steps were completed by following a specific process to improve knowledge transfer in a global sales force, outlined below:

Steps for Successful Knowledge Transfer

  1. Identify the specific area of need. Which specific sales function or team needs knowledge transfer improvement?
  2. Identify what knowledge is required by which people. Now that you know which areas are in need, you'll want to figure out what each specific area or function requires.
  3. Identify, qualify and train subject experts as mentors. Remember that not every expert will make a good mentor. Mentors must also be qualified and trained so that they can effectively transfer knowledge.
  4. Assess the knowledge required by specific mentees and train them in their responsibilities. Mentoring is not a one-way relationship: even a brand new hire must accept their responsibilities when it comes to gaining the knowledge they need.
  5. Measure effectiveness. This step helps an organization understand how well a knowledge transfer system is working. Time to effectiveness and training costs are very clear ways to measure the ROI of mentoring initiatives focused on sales talent.

With that being said, the obvious question we get is: how do you identify mentors and mentees who are willing and able to spend time on mentoring? In the sales function this is especially problematic as every minute spent on mentoring is a minute that could have been spent selling.

The short answer is: you may have to financially incentivize the mentors. With a clear set of financial goals at the onset, the cost benefit will be rather transparent to the management team.

Insala’s Director of Mentoring, Judy Corner recently held a webinar that goes into greater detail on this case study and the benefits that mentoring can bring to an international sales team. You can access the webinar on-demand by clicking the link below.

Mentoring for knowledge transfer webinar

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