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Graduation Is Not Just for Kids: Three Simple, Zero-Budget Celebration Rituals That Will Boost Performance and Retention on Your Sales Team

Sales Leaders: It’s May, which means Graduation Day is just around the corner for a lot of students. If one of those new grads is in your family, it’s possible that you’ve given some thought to special family celebrations that will take place.

But let me ask a question: What about the salespeople you’ve recently hired? Or the ones who report to you? How much thought have you put into those celebrations?

I realize that may not be a question that’s on your mind this month if you’re a sales leader… but maybe it should be.

Think about it for a moment. What is a graduation ceremony, anyway? It’s a celebration of hard work. Someone committed to a stretch goal and made the short-term and long-term changes in behavior, attitude, and technique that were necessary to attain that stretch goal. Isn’t that what you want a new sales hire to do during the first, say, 120 days on the job? And isn’t that what you want a salesperson who’s already part of your team to do when they take on a revenue goal that is going to move them beyond their comfort zone?

The answer to both of those questions is “yes.” And the truth is, appropriate celebrations – graduations, if you will – can make a team-focused event out of goal achievement. Celebrating the fulfillment of goals that stretch the salesperson, or the team, is an important part of your leadership toolkit.

Here are three simple, powerful, zero-budget celebration rituals you can start using this month to improve performance, engagement, and retention on your team.

Simple Celebration Ritual #1

You Have Been Successfully Onboarded! Welcome to the Team!

Why on earth wouldn’t you call a special team meeting whose sole purpose is to recognize and celebrate a new hire’s completion of the onboarding process? A lot of sales leaders don’t do this – and have never done this. What a wasted opportunity!

No. This meeting/ceremony/party/ritual/whatever-you-choose-to-call-it doesn’t have to eat up half of the selling day, and it doesn’t have to cost your organization a single dollar. It does require a minimal investment of attention and creativity on your part, but isn’t that worth it when someone hits all the behavioral benchmarks necessary to earn a formal slot as one of your trusted team members?

I believe that the reason this celebration is so often, and so needlessly, overlooked, is a simple one: Too many sales leaders have no formal onboarding process, so they don’t see graduation from that process as anything to celebrate. If this is the situation in which you find yourself, it’s time to shake up the (dysfunctional) status quo and design an onboarding process for your new hires that works.

Here are five keys to effective sales onboarding. At Sandler, we make a point of sharing these five keys with our clients – and indeed with leaders of any organization willing to make attracting and retaining the very best sales talent a priority. The onboarding process that results can be easily executed – and, eventually, celebrated – using remote workplace tools like Zoom.

  • Most sales leaders do not prepare any onboarding process. They just react once the person has been hired. This is the single biggest mistake, and perhaps the easiest to rectify. Allocate the (minimal) time and bandwidth necessary to set up a personalized onboarding plan before the salesperson’s first day on the job. The tips that follow will point you toward what you should be preparing.
  • Identify and discuss the top ten behaviors this person will be responsible for executing consistently. Don’t focus on outcomes. Focus on behaviors. The top ten behaviors that salespeople execute on a consistent basis are the key to sustained success; it is imperative that each new hire understand what these behaviors are and what their impact will be on the bottom line. In most situations, these behaviors are:
    • Lead generation
    • Building relationships
    • Qualifying opportunities
    • Making presentations
    • Servicing customers
    • Account management
    • Territory development
    • Refining and executing the behavioral plan
    • Continuous education
    • Execution of the organization’s selling system
  • Set up a coaching cadence. We recommend following what we call the Rule of 20-90. That means we spend the first twenty days onboarding someone with daily one-on-one coaching to establish a consistent model of behavior, and then do weekly coaching check-ins for the 90 days following. Note that effective coaching is always a safe, one-on-one conversation focusing on how the salesperson can achieve their most important personal goals. Coaching is never conducted in a group setting.
  • Set weekly goals. The process of setting goals is one of the keys to helping the salesperson maintain a strong sense of self-worth. We recommend helping the salesperson to focus weekly on developing three new professional goals and two personal goals, and to commit to achieving these each week, as part of the coaching process referenced above.
  • Build a “feedback loop” for new hires. This means following a coaching model. There are four steps in the Sandler coaching process. Each of these steps must be executed in order, in a sequence that builds from what has gone before.
    • Assess: In this initial step, the coach diagnoses the current business situation, evaluates the salesperson’s competency, benchmarks the timeline for success and establishes the specifics of the coaching relationship.
    • Establish: During this step, the coach works with the salesperson to set expectations for the coaching process as well as create the goals that will be used in the measuring of success.
    • Define: In the third step of the coaching process, the coach explores new behaviors. This means sharing feedback and working with the salesperson to better utilize existing skills in need of improvement. This focus on behavior modification is the result of awareness garnered from the Assess phase.
    • Execute: This step involves the execution of the new behavior plan, as well as the corresponding skills.

Note that those four coaching steps – Assess, Establish, Define, Execute – repeat in order, indefinitely, for as long as the coaching relationship continues. However, once you have done weekly coaching sessions for the 90 days following those 20 days of one-on-one coaching, it is time to gather the team together and celebrate – assuming you want the person to stay on! If you don’t want the person to stay on, this is the point at which you will want to part company. Either let the person go politely and professionally… or throw a party to welcome them to the team!

Simple Celebration Ritual #2

You Just Hit an Important Individual Goal!

Once someone has graduated to earn a seat as a member of your team, the reasons for celebration don’t stop. Your one-on-one coaching with this person should illuminate, on an ongoing basis, important personal and business goals that the salesperson is willing to commit to, take consistent action on, and, eventually, achieve.

Some of these will be goals that connect to generating revenue as a member of your selling team: for instance, hitting the monthly target for voice-to-voice conversations with decision makers who match your template, or hitting a quarterly target for personal revenue production. By the same token, some of these personal achievements will involve things that the person made happen beyond the quota: for instance, completing a marathon run and generating financial support for a charity that’s important to the salesperson. Attaining either kind of goal is a great reason for the whole team to celebrate. (Be sure to talk to the salesperson in question ahead of time to confirm that they want a team celebration to be all about them and their goal; some people won’t.)

Simple Celebration Ritual #3

We Just Hit an Important Team Goal!

When you as the leader set an important performance-related goal for the team you lead, and the team hits the mark, it’s vitally important that you take time out and personally acknowledge the team’s accomplishment during a group celebration. This ritual doesn’t have to be expensive, or cost anything at all; it doesn’t have to punch a huge hole in the team’s working week; but it does need to happen, and you do need to be there to take part. The goal you identify could connect to a team revenue target or to a specific set of behavior patterns (like prospecting) that you want to see improve across the board.

Should you save big team celebrations for big team wins? Absolutely. But for too many teams, there is no recognition at all, beyond financial rewards, when the team achieves something meaningful. Financial rewards are great, but social recognition and team cohesion are, too. That’s why you will want to find and set some measurable goal that the team can achieve… and then be sure to celebrate with them once they cross the finish line.

The best scenario is one where you personally take time out to celebrate critical, quantifiable team achievement several times a year – at least. Once a quarter is great if you can work together to make it happen. Skipping this essential step is one of the most common mistakes sales leaders make – and one of the big reasons high-performing salespeople disengage, become demotivated, and decide to move on.

And here’s one more piece of advice about selling-team celebrations: Be sure remote members of the team have some way to take part! After all, some Zoom calls can be just for fun.

If you use these three simple, powerful celebration rituals consistently, you will see more positive outcomes from your team.

Remember: Recognition is typically the most powerful motivator someone can experience, even more powerful than money. So, if you don’t use these three simple rituals on a regular basis, you are basically taking the highest motivator out of play. That’s a recipe for demotivation and disengagement, which is not where you want your team members to be. Why not get started right now? May is the perfect month to begin letting your people know that you are ready, willing, and able to recognize them when they graduate up to the next level of performance!

 

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