5 Tips for Seeking a Sales Mentor as a Minority
When working in sales, having a mentor to show you the ropes and help you avoid pitfalls can shave years off the learning curve and help you achieve your career goals.
While many salespeople have their boss or team leader as a sponsor or mentor, it may not be the best option if you’re of a different gender, race, or sexual orientation.
It’s important to find a mentor that understands your unique challenges and can help you navigate the more complex career and personal circumstances often faced by minorities. Here’s how to look for an adviser that’s right for you:
DEFINE YOUR OBJECTIVES
Consider what you want to gain from the relationship with a mentor — for example, to help you gain an understanding of your specific territory, guide you through professional development, overcome specific challenges, or advance your sales career as a minority.
When you’re clear on your objectives, you can choose a mentor that can focus on a specific aspect of your career development. Sometimes you may need a mentor who’s more sympathetic with the fact that you’re different from the majority of your team (e.g., to navigate interpersonal relationships), but other times, you just need someone who possesses a specific skillset to show you the ropes.
CONSIDER ALIGNMENT WITH YOUR VALUES
As a minority, you may also have different perspectives and values from your peers, so it’s important to seek out mentors that can relate to your point of view and understand your value system so they can help you find your place and define your niche in the work environment.
A mentor that aligns with your values can help you with bigger-picture challenges in personal and career development. They can help you develop holistically as a sales professional by understanding your strengths, defining long-term goals, and charting a career path that works for you.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Don’t be intimidated when you’re speaking to potential mentors — you don’t want to waste anybody’s time. Asking the right questions can help you determine whether someone can be the right fit for you at this moment.
Find out what contributed to their success, why they chose to pursue a career in sales, and what their experiences are in overcoming challenges and achieving goals that are similar to yours. You can also ask their mentees — especially those who have the same background or goals as you do — about their experience (e.g., whether they have reached their goals, if the mentor is a good listener, or whether the mentor’s input is relevant to their circumstances).
SEEK A MENTOR THAT SUPPORTS DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
While a mentor that has the same gender, ethnic, or sexual orientation background as you do is likely to be more sympathetic toward your circumstances, many sales leaders that are considered as “majority” (e.g., white male) are also invested in promoting diversity and inclusion in their organizations.
Your mentor should be supportive and have a good understanding of diversity and inclusion in the workplace so they can help you develop professional skills and show you how to navigate interpersonal relationships, advocate for your interests, and build professional alliances.
WELCOME DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES
A mentor can help you see your challenges and situations from a different perspective, so don’t be afraid to consider those from other industries or backgrounds. They can ask questions that provoke thoughts and inspiration that may surprise you.
Additionally, you can have multiple mentors, each with a skill you want to master or who have achieved the success you aspire to. Some may have a similar background as yours and be able to help you navigate your career as a minority, while others can support you in developing skills.
Mentoring is an ongoing process, and you should always be on the lookout for mentors that are the right people in the right place at the right time for your career development.
Select a mentor who can be your confidant and strategist. You should be able to speak openly in the relationship and be prepared to handle honesty and constructive criticism from your mentor without being defensive. Take the recommendations, but also know you’re ultimately responsible for your career decisions.
If a relationship doesn’t work out, it’s entirely okay to have a candid conversation with the mentor. If you don’t share a common vision, or your personalities don’t jive, it’s better to mutually agree that it’s not a good fit than to waste both of your time.