Direct sales is a unique business model. We all rely on our teams to be successful, but each of us is also our own boss, running a small business. How can we lead a new team member to success if they don’t actually report to us in a traditional way? The answer is to stop thinking like a supervisor and learn to be a mentor.

That might seem daunting, but consider this: mentors lead with earned authority, rather than “granted” authority. This makes a good mentor’s power to influence far greater than someone arbitrarily named as our boss. Also, keep in mind that your new Rep chose you. They weren’t sent to you by an HR department. He or she is ready and waiting for your mentorship.

Here are some guidelines for mentoring effectively:

Set Goals Together

Remember when you were just starting out and it was hard to know what to expect and what you should be aiming for? One of the fastest ways to get discouraged is failing to meet goals, and the best way to guarantee that a goal won’t get met is to set large, unrealistic goals. Help your new Reps set realistic, and attainable, short-term goals. Help them break down their larger, longer-term goals into smaller, shorter-term goals. Achieving these smaller goals will help them feel successful and keep them motivated for the long haul ahead.

Lead by Example

One of the best ways to help new Reps be successful is to model the behaviors you know will bring them success. Whether it’s being on time for meetings or giving the best customer service possible, show new Reps how to be successful through your example. Not only will you benefit your new reps, but you’ll grow your own business in the process.

Share Your Experiences

The benefit of sharing your experiences is twofold. Sharing your successes will help encourage new Reps and help them build confidence. Sharing your failures helps show them that failure isn’t forever and that it can be used as an opportunity to learn and grow. Sharing your experiences will also help make you more relatable, and approachable, to new reps.

Ask Questions

Asking new Reps questions about their business and how they’re doing accomplishes a couple of things. First, it shows them that you have a personal interest in them and their success. It also allows you to give them the information they need the most without needing to guess what that might be. Beyond that, if you notice there is a pattern to the questions they’re asking, it will allow you to give them more support and training in those areas.

Provide Helpful Feedback

Constructive criticism is a useful skill for any mentor to have. The type of criticism can vary depending on who is receiving it, but a good rule of thumb is to sandwich negative criticism between two pieces of positive criticism. Tell the new Rep something they’re doing well, then move into an area they can improve upon, then give them some form of encouragement that says you know they can successfully improve in that area.

Acknowledge Achievements

Recognition for achievements is a powerful motivator, and it shows new Reps that you are invested in their success and that their achievements are being noticed. The form that recognition takes can vary from a quick “Great job!” during a phone call to sending out a congratulatory email to mailing out a card with a handwritten note. Whatever you choose, sincere recognition is priceless.

Check in Regularly

You are a new rep’s most valuable resource, so being available is important. Touch base with them on a regular basis to see how they’re doing and to offer assistance if needed. How often you check in will depend on each individual Rep and what their needs are. Schedule a standing time to meet, have a video conference, or call.

Set Expectations

Every relationship has a set of expectations, and the mentor/mentee relationship is no exception. Make sure you clearly define what your expectations are for your mentee and what their expectations are of you. This will help minimize miscommunication and make for a smooth working relationship. This is also the time to answer any questions about what expectations are appropriate and to help modify unrealistic expectations before they become points of conflict.

Leverage the Team Dynamic

You’re leading a team, which should mean you’re not doing everything on your own. Pair up a new Rep you’re mentoring with another, more senior Rep to learn a particular aspect of the business. This will let you accomplish several things:

  • Recognize that more senior Rep’s growth.
  • Relieve you to focus on more complex team member needs.
  • Help your senior team member strengthen their mentoring muscles.
  • Allow your new Rep to get to know other team members and learn from other perspectives.

Ultimately, we’re all responsible for our own progress. But just like elite athletes rely on the perspective and wisdom of coaches, new Reps rely on their mentors to help them become effective team members.