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Mentoring – Up for the Challenge?

April 24, 2013, 07:00 AM

When I began my career in the finance industry as a credit trainee and credit analyst, I often watched in awe as the seasoned sales guys returned to the office after a day of appointments wielding briefcases filled with signed loan and lease documents for a soon to be funded deal – deals I had underwritten and helped structure for credit approval. I wanted to be one of those guys because they seemed to have it easy, and they were making the big bucks. So, I decided to leave the comfort of my well-paying “non-goal driven” credit analyst position to enter the world of sales. And to be honest, I thought it would be easy – after all, most of these guys were smart, but not exactly rocket scientists.

But, soon after being handed my first prospect list, I realized that achieving success in sales is anything but easy.  Sure, I knew how to talk balance sheet, cash flow and even the elusive “sources and uses of cash statement” with a CFO, but I had no idea how to get a CFO to even let me in the door to start the conversation. I never really thought of that part of it before asking for the job – despite the warnings of many seasoned sales people.
So, I turned to my new sales manager for help. And, I got lucky because he, like many supervisors back in the 80s, believed in something seemingly foreign to so many today – mentoring young professionals.

But what is mentoring? Isn’t it really just training? Well, not really – and that’s where the lost art part comes in.

Mentoring is defined many ways but perhaps the best way I can describe it is as follows: Mentoring is a partnership through which one person shares his/her knowledge, perspectives and skills to encourage the personal and professional development of another person. And, because of this focus on personal and professional development, mentoring can often create unique opportunities for both personal and professional goal achievement.

I was never assigned a formal mentor. Rather, I was fortunate to have a mentor-like relationship with a very engaging and successful supervisor who, through daily conversations, joint sales calls and impromptu conversations, taught me more than I ever imagined I could learn. I quickly picked up on selling skills I would never have learned in a classroom or from a slick “how to sell” book. And, I valued the personal and company investment that was being made to ensure my success.

One of the reasons I enjoyed learning from one particular supervisor so much was because I liked him, respected him and found that he approached sales in a consultative manner rather than utilizing a hard-core approach. This was more in line with my personality then as it is today – and so, I learned quickly.

When I had questions or difficulty finding solutions to problems such as how to win a deal using a higher rate via creative tax-lease structuring, or how to get past the “gatekeeper” of a prospect I had targeted, he wouldn’t tell me how to do it. Rather, he would discuss similar experiences he had over the years with difficult prospects and deals requiring creative structuring. And he also shared the many mistakes he had made in sales. And, I learned. I learned a lot and I learned it fast.

Today, we live in different professional environment where it’s hard for a young sales professional to find a bank or finance company willing to train them (admittedly there are a few). Most banks and finance companies simply cannot budget the dollars required to invest in training employees that are not productive during the training period (an expense) and who may leave within two years of completing that training to go to a competitor. But guess what, studies show that most young people want to be trained in a hands-on manner and hope to find a company that will commit to their success – especially the younger generations (Y or Z or whatever they are called now). Remember, most professionals do not leave an employer when they feel valued and can foresee a fruitful future.

But I’m not talking about standard sales training in this post.  I’m talking about taking the time to find that one new hire that has “the right stuff” and committing the time to helping that person achieve success both professionally and as an individual. I’m not talking about handing them a canned speech or telling them how to dress or behave on an appointment; I’m talking about using your own experiences as a sales person and exposing a trainee to new and different approaches and perspectives that will truly improve his/her problems solving skills.

Mentoring is hard, personally draining at times and time consuming – and it’s also another seemingly lost art form. But the payoffs from mentoring are wide and create a true win-win scenario for all those involved. So, keep an eye out for the diamond in the rough who just might give you the opportunity to try out your mentoring skills – he or she may have the right stuff and be worthy of your commitment.

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” John C. Crosby – former U.S. Congressman from Massachusetts

Founder / Publisher | Equipment Finance Advisor
Michael Toglia's experience in commercial finance spans over 30 years having held various roles in senior management, business origination, capital markets and commercial credit underwriting. Prior to entering the publishing industry, Toglia served as Vice President of Capital Markets and as the National Sales Manager for both the Equipment Finance and Asset-Based Lending Divisions of Textron Financial Corporation. He also held various roles with General Electric Capital and CIT Group.

Toglia currently serves as Marketing Chair for the Turnaround Management Association (TMA) Philadelphia/Wilmington Chapter and also serves on the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) Communications Committee.

Toglia served as the Executive Director/CEO of the National Equipment Finance Association from 2018-2020 and has been an active member of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association for years having served two terms as a member of the Service Providers Business Council Steering Committee.

Toglia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and an M.B.A. in Finance.

Contact Michael Toglia at 484.380.3184 or

[  View APN Profile for Michael Toglia  ]

Comments From Our Members

Paul Knowlton • View APN Profile
Great article Mike. As I have "matured" I have really enjoyed becoming the mentor, whether through the CLP association or simply within my sales teams. There are "givers" and "takers" and I think the long term path to sucess is to be a giver, because you will eventually get a lot more back.
Thanks for the insight.
4.24.2013 @ 12:17 PM

Merv Lennon
Great piece on mentoring Michael. You're right, most companies today don't want to make the investment, so folks in the leadership role don't enjoy the luxury of being able to groom and grow someone they feel has the right stuff to become successful. The upheaval in our industry has made so many people available that are experienced, or can "bring a book of business" with them that companies seem to have lost interest in growing their own talent. I have personally benefited from being mentored, and have had the opportunity to in turn help others learn and grow, and it is a very satisfying to look back on where those people started, then where you help them grow to.

Regards, Merv
4.24.2013 @ 6:03 PM

Lori Fowler • View APN Profile
Michael, I enjoyed your article. These days most companies are running so lean and mean there is little bandwidth to spend time training and mentoring new employees. At the same time, I often hear concerns about the graying of the equipment finance industry and the challenge of attracting new young talent. There aren't many college graduates who state "when I grow up I want to be in the equipment leasing industry". I work for an organization that places college undergrads into unpaid internships for academic credit in New York, Boston, Toronto, San Francisco, Singapore and Mumbai. We have some very bright & motivated finance and business majors who would probably love to get introduced to our industry through a summer internship if they had the right opportunity with good training,and retained with effective mentoring. Best regards, Lori Fowler
5.7.2013 @ 9:00 AM
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