Guiding Light

Motivate yourself--and others--by becoming a mentor.
Magazine Contributor
8 min read

This story appears in the July 1997 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

There's no way to discuss sales success without including the subject of mentoring. My own career has been positively influenced by mentors every step of the way. Becoming a mentor is a part of entrepreneurship that goes beyond improving profits or producing the newest, fanciest gadget--it's passing on valuable information to those just getting started in business.

Floyd Wickman, who has mentored thousands of people through his seminar program, The Masters, offers tips on mentoring in his recent book, co-written with his protégée Terri Sjodin, Mentoring--A Success Guide for Mentors and Protégés (McGraw-Hill).

Wickman says people must be trained in how to become mentors. "It's a process that carries a heavy responsibility," he maintains. "A boss says to a veteran in the company, `You are going to be the mentor for this employee.' He thinks he can assign a mentor to a protégé and a relationship is created. This is not the way it works. Two people have to find their own connection."

Once they find that connection, a process must be followed to get the most from the relationship. In their book, Wickman and Sjodin pass on 16 laws of mentoring. Here are just a few:

1. The Law of Inspection. "Your protégé is more apt to do what you inspect than what you expect," says Wickman.

In other words, if you agree to be someone's mentor, then you must implement a system with your new protégé to measure his progress. It's a waste of your time and his to spend an hour teaching him how to make more money via phone sales and then just expect he will do exactly what you taught him.

You need to assign him a specific task, such as: "Use the following dialogue, and call 30 prospects. Fax me the number of positive responses you had by 3 o'clock Thursday afternoon."

2. The Law of Tough Love. "If the mentor is going to give of his time, wisdom and experience, then the protégé has to do his part, too," says Wickman. "This must be clarified upfront in the relationship."

Wickman uses the "three strikes and you're out" rule. "If I see a trend--the protégé repeatedly does not implement my advice--I'm going to lose my motivation of wanting to spend time with that person. Usually when it happens three times in a row, that's a pretty good indication the protégé doesn't desire that goal enough for himself."

3. The Law of Independence. The best mentors don't try to control their protégés.

"A true mentor will do and say everything to help their student become independent of them, not dependent on them. To create a dependency is the work of a control freak," warns Wickman.

During my own days as a sales manager, this was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. I had been a top-producing salesperson, and my tendency as a new sales manager was to insist salespeople reach their goals exactly the way I did and at the same speed. It took me a while to realize that I could pass on my methods of prospecting or closing the sale to my students, but they had to overcome their fears in their own time frame.

Part of my mentoring included giving salespeople the freedom to fail. The value my salespeople put on what I was teaching them was realized only after they were free to experience their own setbacks.

4. The Law of Limited Responsibility. "I am responsible to you but not responsible for the outcome," says Wickman. "For example, over the years I had a number of potential mentor relationships that were not successful. That's why I believe in that old cliché `When the student is ready, the teacher appears.'

but not responsible for the outcome," says Wickman. "For example, over the years I had a number of potential mentor relationships that were not successful. That's why I believe in that old cliché `When the student is ready, the teacher appears.'

"My co-author, Terri Sjodin, epitomized the student who was ready. Like so many others, she came up to me after one of my training seminars and said, `I want you to be my mentor.' I knew she was hungry to learn because everything I told her to do she not only wrote down but went out and applied.

"My own mentor, Zig Ziglar, brought home what I'm trying to say. I asked him one time why I was so blessed to be mentored by him. He said, `Of all the people I have tried to give direction to over the years, you are one I've heard back from and who I have heard of.' "

What Ziglar meant was that Wickman always reported back his progress, and at the same time Ziglar was hearing of Wickman's excellent work out on the circuit. Ziglar told Wickman he was motivated to give more of himself because he knew his protégé was doing something good with what he learned.

5. The Law of Reciprocation. "You really do get by giving," Wickman believes. His classic example involves his protégée Sjodin.

"Terri wanted to write a book on how mentors made her successful," Wickman says. "But she kept getting rejections, until one publisher told her it would be better to write that type of book from two points of view."

Terri pushed to have Wickman be her co-author. In this case, she planted the growth seed for her mentor, broadening his company's marketing penetration.

In my book Seven Figure Selling (Berkley Press), Evelyn Echols, the CEO of Echols International Travel and Hotel Training Schools in Chicago, tells the story of how her most successful company came into existence, illustrating the benefits of becoming a mentor. One night in Chicago, at the height of her career as a travel agent, she and her husband were having dinner with several judges from the local family court. They were telling her how impossible it was to educate children in reformatories.

"I told the judges I could teach the kids the travel business because it had a dream-like quality," says Echols. "It was a business they could get excited about. They could travel around the world and go places and do things they never experienced in real life."

The judges took her up on the offer, and she ended up teaching a travel course at the prison, acting as a mentor to motivate the kids to reach their full potentials. When the kids graduated, Echols held the ceremonies 35,000 feet up in the sky in a United Airlines plane. The vice president of United contacted the press. The following week Time and Newsweek did stories on it.

"My phone started ringing off the hook," says Echols. "People from all over the U.S. wanted to know how they could sign up for my travel school."

An evening with the judges opened a brand-new market for Echols--a market that would eventually make her a legend in the hotel and travel training world. The enthusiastic response generated by the publicity made her realize there was a big need in the United States for a first-class travel and hotel school. Prior to her efforts, Europe was the only place travel and hotel people could get first-class training.

Quick Study

Wickman has mentored thousands of salespeople long term, but he says that isn't the only type of mentoring.

"There is the instant mentor," Wickman says. "It happens fast, and the results can be far-reaching. One time I was sitting in a lounge, and a fireman came up to me asking if I would like to buy a ticket to the Detroit Firemen's Field Day. I said, `Sure,' and gave him a dollar.

"Then I asked him if I could share a technique with him that would help him sell more tickets. I told him to ask the person he was trying to sell a ticket to how many children he has. `When he gives you the number, that's when you should peel off that number of tickets.' "

The fireman thanked Wickman and asked him how many children he had. "I said three," Wickman recalls. "He peeled off two more tickets, and I handed him two more bucks."

One of those two extra tickets won Wickman a brand-new car.

Try "passing it on." It may be just the boost your business needs.

Contact Sources

Terri Sjodin, c/o Sjodin Communications, P.O. Box 8998, Fountain Valley, CA 92728, (714) 540-5594;

Floyd Wickman, c/o Floyd Wick- man Courses, 1707 W. Big Beaver, Troy, MI 48084, (810) 637-1500.

Page 94: Advertising Workshop

Don Sims, (501) 754-4424, fax: (501) 754-5842.


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