Having a mentor is one of the best ways for early career talent to receive professional guidance, build strong relationships and unlock new opportunities. This is especially true for young sales and presales colleagues who must learn to manage complex deals, field challenging questions from customers and meet ambitious sales targets.
As part of the SAP Academy for Sales and Presales, associates gain knowledge and experience primarily in the classroom and during their field rotations. To provide an additional source of support and guidance, associates are also paired with experienced mentors who offer personalized advice and the encouragement they need to succeed.
If you’re curious about what having a mentor is like, we asked SAP Academy graduates to share their experience.
Anaïs Guesné, Account Executive – Digital Supply Chain
My mentor was (and still is!) an experienced salesperson on my team when I started at SAP.
He helped by giving tips, explaining who’s who in the company, who’s in charge of what and more. It may look easy now, but when I was starting my job in a global company like SAP, his guidance was precious.
He introduced me to the right people, which enabled me to do things much faster and to quickly deliver results. Today, I know that if I ever get a complex question from clients or colleagues, I can reach out to him and he will generously share his experience and views. Reliability makes the difference.
My mentor taught me that if you want to deliver as a salesperson you need to trust yourself and act like you are running your own company. Things depend on you! So, dare to ask, initiate, and undertake all the actions you can. That’s how you’ll get results.
I know my questions will evolve over time in my career at SAP and I’m grateful that he’s just a call away to share honest answers and new perspectives.
Michael Abbott, Senior Solution Consultant – SAP SuccessFactors
What kind of relationship do you have with your mentors?
A fun one! Before the pandemic my catch-ups with mentors would usually be over breakfast or a drink after work. I consider my mentors my friends. I don’t think that has to be the case to have a great mentoring experience but, for me at least, so much of the guidance I seek is about the future, what I want to achieve and the best path to take. Knowing each other on a personal level has made a real difference in allowing them to tailor their mentoring to me as an individual. How has mentorship assisted your growth and success?
Without a doubt I have sought out and accepted more opportunities (of all kinds) because of guidance and support from my mentors. I think I would have done some of the same things eventually on my own but certainly not as soon as I have – the constant encouragement to ‘get on with it’ has accelerated the process. In other areas my mentor’s guidance has led me down paths I would not have taken. To give an example, one of my mentors advised that I complete an accounting qualification to develop my financial acumen, which they said would prove invaluable across all areas of SAP. He was right: completing a qualification has been hugely helpful. I would never have thought to do that on my own. Even if I had I don’t think I would have committed to it and enrolled if I didn’t have a mentor pushing me forward.
What is something your mentors have taught you that has stuck with you? OR what is something you have taught your mentors?
I have received so much wonderful advice. One of my first mentors really encouraged me to say ‘yes’ to as many opportunities as possible. I should be clear that they were not proposing that I be a ‘yes man’ who always agrees even when the answer should be no or that I neglect my time and other opportunities. Instead, they encouraged me to accept as many opportunities as possible, especially at that early stage in my career. Even though at times the circumstances may not be ideal they believed that it was the experience that would prove worthy long-term and that being open to challenges was the best mindset to have.
Another mentor took to championing the Nike philosophy: Just Do It. The context is that we would often discuss ideas – some were his and others were mine – and we would discuss what had worked well in SAP previously, but his belief was that those who differentiate and succeed just get on with it and do it. Regardless of the million excuses which we can make. He isn’t wrong and I still try to live by this philosophy.
Another sound piece of advice was to network. This sounds a bit of cliché but it is true. Investing in people and investing in relationships is only going to pay dividends and really doesn’t take long.
I think the thing I have always been struck by with mentors is that the relationship is two-way, and mentors want that. This may sound surprising but in almost of all my mentor/mentee relationships I have been the one seeking guidance but in all of those relationships the mentor has been just as interested in learning from me! I guess it shows that we never stop learning.
Are you still in communication with your mentor(s)?
Yes, absolutely. All of my mentors have evolved to become good friends and I am still in touch with all of them – even those who have left SAP for the next stage in their journeys. One of the amazing things about SAP is that you are part of this incredibly large global community – I like to think of it as a family. You have endless access to expertise, guidance, coaching and friends all over the world. To me it is special, and I love being part of it!
Hajime Moriya, Account Executive
What kind of relationship do you have with your mentors?
I have had two mentors so far in my SAP life. During my time in SAP Academy for Sales, Momoko Ishio, who was an Account Executive at the time, was my mentor. She joined SAP as a new grad, and experienced the Academy as well. She was very close to me and gave me many opportunities to join her customer calls. After I graduated from SAP Academy, Masahito Konno became my new mentor, as Ishio-san had changed roles. I have also known Konno-san since I joined SAP, and I was able to communicate with him actively regarding how I should proceed my deals and other sales related matters. This relationship continues even now, and I have a weekly call with him to improve my sales execution.
How has mentorship assisted your growth and success?
I am always bringing my current challenges to my mentor for his advice. He advises me on what he would do from an Account Executive point of view, even when other sales team members say different things. Asking for a second opinion makes me feel more confident in my decisions and prepares me for what I will face in daily sales execution. As a result, I believe I was able to win the Ariba deal with Japan Airlines even though they are struggling with COVID-19, and I expect more S/4 deals to come with Travel and Transportation industry customers in Japan.
What is something your mentors has taught you that has stuck with you? OR what is something you have taught your mentors?
The most important thing I have learned from my mentors is sales tactics when negotiating. I was very inexperienced in price negotiation with customers, but my mentors gave me advice based on their past experiences and real case studies. On the other hand, I think I have taught them how to look after people who joined later. I think I can serve as a model case of how to empower young people at SAP Japan.
To learn more about SAP Academy for Sales and Presales, visit sap.com/sapacademy. Read Part I of this series here.