It’s easy to sell, but selling is not sustainable… So, sell like a mentor!

Dean Irwin joined The Mentorship Challenge because he could simply not help himself – he’s that passionate about the value of mentoring partnerships in building businesses.  As Director at Edgetec Systems (Pty) Ltd, he sees this value informing some surprising spaces – like sales! A true mentor himself – the best sort: gently self-deprecating and generous – he shares his insights here.

I’m extremely fortunate to have had guidance from many incredible mentors throughout my life. One characteristic I noticed that they all had in common was that they did not even know that they were my mentors; they don’t try to be mentors, they are just incredible human beings who aspire to do good things, and they go about doing things in a simple, yet extraordinary way.

Mentors have convincingly ‘sold’ themselves as leaders, without trying to sell themselves. It’s intuitive and effortless for them. My mentors have been mentoring me for years, and will most likely still be my mentors for many more to come, and so, over time, I’ve kept track of the traits that they all share. These are:


They are authentic and have their own unique style. When they engage with you, they are genuinely interested in you and in helping you, by giving honest advice based on their own experience. Although I’m sure it’s not always easy, they put societal expectations aside and are true to themselves and others by presenting their real, inner character to the world.

The best way, the only way, is the authentic way – don’t betray yourself and others by being someone you are not.


It is easy to criticise, but that’s not what mentors do. We never like to hear that a decision we made was a poor one – and who gives anyone the right to tell us that, anyway?! Real mentors compliment your courage in making whatever decision you made, and will ask you questions to determine what prompted you to make that particular decision.

Mentors are constantly learning by being curious and genuinely interested in others – they’re not pretending to listen, because they’re simply waiting for you to finish speaking so they can tell you all about their latest product or their own experience.

Many years ago, at a Dale Carnegie course, I learnt about the three C’s in life: don’t criticise, condemn or complain – and I try and remind myself of these daily.


Mentors are grateful people, and they express that gratitude constantly. We all appreciate a show of gratitude when we deliver a service to someone, when we teach someone something, when we help someone out. Gratitude is one of the essential laws of the universe: the more grateful we are, the more we will be granted. Mentors are grateful for everything that comes their way – win or lose, they will see it all as a valuable lesson and life experience.


Mentors are naturally positive people. As human beings, we always have the choice to be positive or negative. But in order to pursue either approach, you need to surround yourself with people who share the same sentiment. If you choose to be positive, then you need to exclude negative people from your environment. You are the creator of your own life journey; no one else is to blame for your failures other than you. I have always believed that blaming others just means we’re playing the victim, and – worse! – we’re admitting that we are powerless to lead our own lives. Mentors don’t blame; they learn from their mistakes and move on with a positive mindset.

We see the world not as it is, but as we are. You will be amazed at how positive the world and our surroundings become when you are seeing it through a positive lens.


My mentors have always cared for themselves by doing something every day to nurture their mind, body and soul. Living a healthy lifestyle, reading, travelling and rewarding themselves is essential to their life journey.

It is essential to care for yourself, as this is what builds self-respect. And, besides, how can you care for others when you don’t care for yourself?

These are just a few of the many traits that my mentors share. They have not tried to become my mentors; they have not tried to sell themselves to me, and that’s why they are still my mentors, and most likely will be for the rest of my life. With sales, it’s no different. If you want to create sustainable relationships with your clients, don’t try and sell yourself to them. Be authentic, don’t criticise, be grateful, be positive and have self-respect. You will notice that your clients will want to be with you for the long haul, and not just for that quick cellphone upgrade!

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