The Sales Engagement Podcast
The Sales Engagement Podcast

Episode · 3 years ago

Mentors & Sponsors. Why You Need Both to Succeed w/ Roderick Jefferson


There’s an old poem that says, “No man is an island.”

Nobody does it alone. Nobody gets to the place in their career where they want to be on their own, without others helping them get there. Ask anybody at the top of their field how they got there, and they’ll talk about the people that helped them get there.

The people who believed in them. The people who gave them chances. The people that helped them see something in themselves that they couldn’t see on their own.

Roderick Jefferson, CEO of Roderick Jefferson & Associates, was on the Sales Engagement podcast lately talking about mentors and sponsors. What they? Why do you need them? And what is the difference?

Welcome to the sales engagement podcast. This podcast is brought to you by outreach dot ioh, the leading sales engagement platform helping companies, sellers and customer success engaged with buyers and customers in the modern sales era. Check out sales engagementcom for new episodes, resources and the book on sales engagement coming soon. Now let's get into today's episode. Everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Sales Engagement Podcast, and we are welcomed once again by the amazing, the incomparable Roderick Jefferson, CEO of Roderick Jefferson Associates twenty years in sales and sales enablement. I'm not gonna Steal USUND number Totson, on over to Roderick, who can once again tell us about his extensive, extensive background in sales and sales enablement. Roderick, thank you so much for being on the show. So once again, thank you for having me. I am incredibly honored and humble to be a part of the show and be able to share some of my experience in Best Practices from a background perspective. Sales Guy. First and foremost, started off as a BDR, moved up to an AE, moved up to sales leader, did the President's Club a couple times and then decided hey, I really enjoy the process of selling. Not so much is selling transition into sales training. have been incredibly fortunate and blast to have been at some incredible companies over the last twenty five years. seeble that work compliance business, objects, EB A, HP, Oracle, sales force, Marquetto. So it's quite an extensive background, but I think the thing I always like to point out is they started out as very small companies and I was fortunate enough to be able to be on an incredible ride with them and now have the opportunity to share that across the space with the companies that we can solve it. I mean, that sounds like you're listening out like the fortune five hundred or something like that. Did one lead to the other? I'm obviously a day, but think how did you make such fortuit? It's jumps into these amazing logos? Well, there are a couple things. One and enormous amount of research and having a great network. But the second piece is kind of around the topic we're going to talk to. It took a village to get me to that level, and that village included both some incredible mentors and some unbelievably clear, concise and helpful sponsors as well. Now those sounds somewhat similar. Mentors and sponsors. What's the difference? While there are a couple differences. One is where you are in the maturation process of your career and the other is the definition I give. Mentors are people that speak about you, that is, I can get you to the hiring manager, I can push your resume up to the front of the line, I can help you to move forward in your career. Sponsor is someone that speaks for you,...

...and that is the individual that says this person may not be ready, but I'm ready to stake my brand on them and I will get them ready. This person is now prepared to move into a larger role and I am going to ensure that they are successful when they get into that role. Whether they are prepared today or not, I will get them there and they will be the best at it that you've had. THAT HELP IT FART clarity? Yeah, absolutely, and it sounds like they have kind of very, very distinct roles within one's career maturation right where where you are kind of in your journey. Where do you start finding these people? where? How do you find a good mentor? How do you find a sponsor? Where they come from? That's an interesting question because you can only find one. The other find you. On the mentor piece. That and again another one of those delineations on the mentors. Generally early on in your career and you find out who either top performers are. You find a way to get yourself a line to a specific executive or leader in your group or Business Unit and you approach them, and the best approach I've found is an informational interview, because it is the most disarming thing in the world. It says I actually want to learn about what you do and how I could follow your footsteps. Okay, there's a little ego stroking too, but how I can follow your footsteps to get to that piece. And and bear in mind that's both what's worked and what has not worked, and people tend to leave that last feat out because they don't want to talk about the failures. There's an enormous amount of learning in the failures. Now to the sponsor piece. You can't pick a sponsor. Sponsors will pick you based upon generally a few criteria. One, they see a lot of promise in your potential. Secondly, they may see a lot of them in you as they were coming up, or thirdly, they see something very, very unique in you that they don't see in someone else, that you may be that diamond that they'd love to Polish and kind of groom and get you to that next level. Now let's go back to the informational interview portion. Now, I've heard that advice a lot. You got to go from the informational interview. That's kind of you get your foot in the door, how you learn things from people. But a lot of times people do those informational interviews in hopes of landing a job or something like that. Right, how do you ensure that's an authentic thing, right to go and just actually learn from someone and have that person on the other side your potential mentor go? Okay, no, there's no ulterior motive here, we're just talking. Well, let's go back to the last episode we did a while back together and we talked about how to approach whether it's a conversation or a presentation, and I think that's really the delineating mark right there. If you go in and truly have a conversation, it will kind of organically work its way into where you can figure out and the other person can figure out if there is a connection the dots and a mass there. If you're going in to present, especially you're talking to a leader or senior leader, we're going... read that right away and more than likely they're going to shut it down where they're going to see you with someone that came at on one falls pretense and really one another way. So set and agenda up front is how you do this and make sure that the person you're talking to has that agenda before the meeting so that they can ensure that they're prepared and they know the Road Map. Look, none of us go to the movies without knowing the plot or who's in or how long it would be. Why would you do that in a meeting? That's a good point. I never thought of it that way. I do fail often with the not setting an agenda for meetings and just kind of go yeah, let's talk about x, Y and Z and I. It's kind of a Lucy Goosey way of going through a topic. But yeah, setting agenda ISS a good kind of baseline. Takeaway from from this. Talk to me about how you ask someone to be a mentor, you know, it almost sounds like you're asking someone out on a date or like, you know, will you be in a relationship with me for months, years, maybe my entire career? Well, I always describe it as it's even further down the food chain. It's kind of like when we are in elementary or middle school. Hey, will you be my friend? Right, because you're the popular person at the table everybody wants to sit with, and you have to kind of go back and humble yourself to that level and say, look, I enjoyed where we went, I've learned a lot and I'm certain that we've kind of hit the tip of the iceberg. If you will, would it be possible for us to spend some time, and I'll make sure I schedule it with your your Admin, or however you look at it, but spend some time, because I've got a bunch of the questions, but I don't want to throw them all at you right now and I want to take some time to kind of absorb this and come back and give you my thoughts. Would that be possible, because now, what have you done? All you've done is said, another informational interview and organically those kind of daisy chain together and before you know it there's the litmus test you got to pass, there's the are you asking good questions, there's the is this an effective use of my time? And then, finally, as a leader, you're looking at this person going is this someone that has the potential to move forward that I could help with, and is there anything that I could actually add to as being a part of their village? More than likely that leaders going to look at you and say, you know, why don't we kind of formalize this talk maybe once a month or a couple times a quarter, and before you know it they turn into your mentor. And what is the mentor get out of it? You know seeing someone grow advance, but that's that's a time commitment, that's an emotional drain, that's there's resources involved here. What is the mentor get out of it? That's a phenomenal question. I have a number of manteas and I've got some minty rules actually, and it's really that how do you make this thing mutually equitable? Other than I'm just feeding into you and when I always talk to people, when I agree to be a mentor. I say there are a few things. One, if we agree to this time, we have to keep this time and if not, then we move it. But I won't move it at the...

...last minute because that shows that you have no value of my time. Second if you ever set a meeting and don't sit an agenda, we don't have a meeting. And then, thirdly, everything that I share with you, you are now incumbent upon you to now move that on and share it with someone else. You can't hide that thing away. Go and share it with other folks and start then propagating. And it's not because I'm trying to expand my leadership tree, it's I'm trying to show them the value of not just paying it forward, but taking that and turning that into useful information, not just content that they got from me. Yeah, I like to pay it forward aspect. I think that was kind of where I was I thought you were going to go with. What the mentor gets out of it is that you know, at one point they were probably the mentee and now they're having to pay it forward. And then the the setting the agenda portion or there's no meeting. I think that's fantastic. I just heard a story from a friend who works at a payments company. I won't name which one, but he had a coworker who literally just wouldn't show up to the meeting. If there was a meeting on his calendar and there was no agenda in that calendar invite just wouldn't show. Sorry, no, no agenda and not worth my time. We were just we're going to spend the first fifty minutes figuring out what to talk about. So I think that's that's an awesome and kind of like a hardcore kind of rule, like hey, well, it is, and I don't even get to the point of not showing up. I'll decline it. Because if I decline now, what do you have to do? Come back and find out was there something that I missed or were you too busy? No, I'm not busy, a tough and it's not an arrogant thing. It's really about the appreciation that you're learning and I've always believed that leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders. So I'm trying to pass on the skills that were passed to me in order to make them the strongest leader that they can be, and this is one of those things. That's one of those things. It's about punctuality and it's also about making sure that there's some rigor around this. Yeah, so we've covered mentors. These are all good things for anyone out there looking for a mentor or thinking about becoming one. This is a great kind of framework and rules to follow when doing that. Now US talk about sponsors all the more. You said you can't find a sponsor, they find you. Can you talk a little bit more about that wall? Sometimes it's based upon performance. You know, we see who the top performers are, especially in sales, and then it's what I love about sales. It's no gray area. It's black or white. You're a top performer or you're not. And then certainly there's that middle ground that's trying to get to the top, but on paper you're a top performer or you're not, and so we're looking at those type of markers. But at the same time, sometimes it's just it's been and I'll talk and personal experience, fortuitous introductions of being in the right place and being introduced to people, and sometimes it's going to that mentor and saying, Hey, you got a connection with Soandso. I may not be ready now and I'm not pushing, but my ultimate goal is to get to that person. What's missing in me... get there, and then you start crafting those pieces and before you know what, you're in front of the right audience and then opportunity for that person to get to know you in the sponsorship thing is really more about personal connection than it is anything else, because it's again those pieces. I see something unique in you, I see maybe a younger me that was hungry, or I see something completely opposite of me, and man, I'm really interesting and curious now. But it sounds like there are ways to make yourself more attractive to certainly acquiring a sponsor. Yeah, absolutely, and it starts with working with your mentor to get to that sponsor. And it's interesting because I've had mentors that it becomes sponsors later in my career, not while we are together in the mentor mental relationship, but circling back. So that's why I say it's about that personal connection of making sure that you stay connected to people, not just so that you can excel or propel, but because there is certainly already an established relationship and you never know where people are going to go. I've had people that were managers that you know, at some point became SVPS and evps or or sea level and they remembered what went on earlier in your career and they go hey, I've been watching you and I'm seeing some things. You have some time to talk the answers? Naturally, absolutely. Now here's your chance to put some real world examples behind the mentor and sponsor ship relationships. Have there been times in your life where you've had a mentor who has helped you advance or learn something new and or a sponsor that has opened up a door? Oh, I wouldn't be sitting before you right now if it had happened. And let's talk about the earlier mentoring piece. I remember at one of those tech companies I was pushing and pushing and pushing for a director title because I had in my mind I wanted to be a director by a certain age and I thought that I would be ready. Guess what I wasn't, and that mentor helped me see what the deficiencies were that I was working towards becoming a director, how far I really was away, and it was a difficult lesson to learn. But to this day her and I are still very good friends because she wasn't afraid to say a simple word no, and that know was no, you're not ready yet. No, I'm not going to push you into the category of getting there because you will fail. And No, I won't allow you to continue to denigrate your brand by pushing for something that we all know you're not ready for yet. And that was a very difficult lesson to learn. But I also realized once I got to the director level it wasn't just a glorified senior manager. It was a whole new world and at the time that I thought I was ready, I would have been preparing to fail rather than succeed if they would have pushed me for what I was asking. So obviously, when she said you're not ready to be a director, that's stung. That's an ego hit. It was hard... hear. How did you finally come to the conclusion that you know, okay, I should be listening. I know after the fact when when history played out, she was right and you recognize it then, but in the moment when you're just like I want it, though, how did you navigate that, that emotional experience Oh, it was right in that moment. She didn't just stick the knife and she turned it. That mean is he didn't just say no, you're not ready. No, you're not ready because, and she gave me specific example of how I comported myself in meetings, how I was being viewed by some of my peers, how I had an established relationships with senior leadership and learn to manage up, how I was focused on activity rather than productivity, and she gave me specific exams that I just I couldn't deny it. And was it humbling? Yet? Did it hurt? Absolutely, but again, going back to something that we said earlier, there's a lot that you learned from skin, knees and elbows. And, believe me, I was a bloody mess after that meeting and and I'll be on I was not happy with her for a while, but then I had to sit back and go you know what, in all realism, she's right and she did it from a place of support. That was completely in my best interest and that was much easier for me to take. Yeah, it sounds like your mentor gave you some tough love but also gave you gave you the checklist that to do list of how to get yourself ready for the next step. Well, you nailed it and that was the next step. After we had that meeting and she let me simmer down a little bit, she came back and said, you are the things that we talked about and when you can do these things and their subtle changes. A couple of things were actually big shifts, but most were subtle changes. She said, when you get there, I'm going to be the first one out singing your praises because, and I learned that day, you cannot get yourself promoted. It requires someone else to step in. Even if your top performer and you've got the best results in the world as the salesperson you knocked out of the box, you've killed quota, you're in kickers and accelerators. That's great, but you still need a couple of people to go and because of that, they're now ready for the next level. Otherwise you're just a top performer at that level. So all you lone wolf top performers out there who are just like I'm here, I'm in my seat, I'm kicking ass, but I don't want to talk to anyone around me, because the lower me remember, you need a champion on your side to get to the next level. Absolutely, nobody wins alone, and that's a good transition into sponsors. Can you, can you tell us about a time when a sponsor really helped you out and gut you to that next level? Absolutely, and that was an another one of those tech companies where I was pushing and pushing from a productivity perspective and I'd become that lone wolf and someone had to step in at that point and say, you're a great manager, but you're not a leader yet, but we have this opportunity to put you in. And what will do then is also give... some formalized leadership training, which I had and had coming up the food chain at that point. And also what we're going to do is meet on a regular basis and I'm going to have a checklist for you. You don't get to come to me with it this time. I'm going to have a checklist for you of things that you have to go do in order to prepare yourself for this role that we're going to put you in. And some of it was educational, some of it was pere in social learning, some of it was crowdsourcing and some of it was really a deep introspective inventory and being honest with myself of war I was and how I was going to have to shift my mind, because the sponsor really does that. They helped you shift your mind. It's like getting an executive coach and want they've been there before. And second they're looking at it with a completely different set of lenses. So if you're a VP and you're looking at some one that is at director level, generally the first thing we look at is who's this person and how are they viewed in the given space? But what you have to do is the hard thing and say, okay, for them to get to that next level where they need to be, what's missing and what can I do to help them get there? And it almost sounds like in a sponsorship relationship they may be watching you from a far and you don't even know you're being considered as a potential taking taking you under the wing kind of thing. Absolutely, so I'll say the folks that are pushing to move up, whether you know it or not, you're already being watched. And so this is what I was telling people. You don't own your brand at all. You own your activities and also your attitude and how you're viewed. But that brand is actually crafted outside of you, of how people now view you, how people react to you, or how people migrate towards you or, the opposite, push away from you. And that's a scary thought, right, that I don't own my brand, that it's all in the perception of people and of examining me. You're interacting with me. What do you tell people that? That, when they say like that, freaks me out, like I want to be in control of how people are perceiving me. I use the analogy. We all have social media and that's why there are different social media platforms. You can't, at least I would hope that you wouldn't put the same things on then that you put on facebook, because it's a different part of you than different part of your life. The same things happen, but we're looking at all parts of the of the life now right in a microcosm, because we're there in a small environment. But you know what, people have access to more information than you know and because of social media now we are no longer six degrees. Were more like two and a half degrees of anyone. So back channel information is happening on you and you may not even realize it's...

...going on. I can confirm that because you didn't go on Linkedin. Right now. Everyone listening, go on Linkedin and just search a title. Doesn't matter what title. Go on Linkedin, search and title and you will see that everyone that comes up is probably, at the very most, a second degree connection group. Absolutely and absolutely, and that's that's a an empowering thing and a very scary thing to so you know, you need to kind of watch how you how you behave in certain platforms and certain words. I, as a leader, have run into some of my employees out in social circles where I never thought we actually cross, or we could be at a game or an event and suddenly that person is there, and it's always obvious right away. It's either that I'm frozen deered headlights are hey. Great to see. That alone speaks volumes about you, because it talks about other or not. The same character I see every day is that same character that you carry when no one is when you think no one's watching, and so you should probably unify those two things if you are trying to make yourself attractive to a sponsor. Absolutely, it's a social world. And so that means we all now have a social view. That's good advice, definitely, and you're right, it is. It's very much a social world. Roderick, if there was a takeaway from this episode for our listeners, what would that be? One thing, one thing. Can I give you two parts of that thing, since we've talked about them. toors. So one more mentors on importance. If you are looking for a mentor, make it a concerted effort, the same energy that you would put into a job search or due diligence and qualification that you're doing for a prospect. And Remember your mentor has to have a mutual fit with you as well as you have to have a fit with them. Just because they've got a big title doesn't mean that there's going to be a click or learning from them. So is that why Elon Musk is in responding to my emails? Could be it's don't take it personal. Doesn't respond to mine either, so it's okay. I think I got a couple ideas for now. On the sponsor side, I'll say that if you are in a leadership position, try and look beyond what's missing in and in that person and look at them for the individual and the propensity and the potential that they have to get to that next level by you injecting yourself and helping them. And Remember, at that point you're as much a part of their village as they become yours. That's a micdrop moment right there. That's a good thing for all the sponsors out there. You go yeah, thissly dropped. Roderick, if people want to get a hold of you, learn more about what you're doing and learn more, I'm sure you're going to get some people emailing you, are calling you or finding on Linkedin saying here, Robert, you want to be my mentor started, I will. If people wanted to do that. How can they do that? What we talked it's a social world. You can find me at Roderick Jeffersoncom can find me on Linkedin at...

Roderick Jefferson. You can follow me and hit me up on twitter at the Voice of Rod and the same on Facebook, at the Voice of Rod, at the Voice of Rod, and this was the voice of Rod Right here on today's episode. I want to thank Roder for being on the show and I want to take all of our listeners for tuning in. Once again and we will see you next time on the sales engagement podcast. Thank you. This was another episode of the sales engagement podcast. Join US at sales engagementcom for new episodes, resources and the book on sales engagement coming soon. To get the most out of your sales engagement strategy, make sure to check out outreach die Oh, the leading sales engagement platform. See you on the next episode.

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