Sales Kickoff Meetings: Do This, and Please Stop…


As many organizations’ 2019 fiscal year comes to a close, hundreds of planning teams and committees are going through dry runs & final preparations for their Sales Kickoff (SKO). It’s a great time to establish a cadence for the new fiscal year. The main objectives are motivating your sales reps, managers, and leaders; laying out your strategy; and celebrate last year’s wins. You’re setting the tone for the next 12 months and getting the entire organization — from top to bottom — fired up to hit their goals.

So let’s look at the do’s and don’ts of preparing for the SKO to get everyone marching in lock-step as a result of participating in the meeting.

Do This…

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Often an SKO feels like one big data dump supported by heavy drinking and far too many late nights. We want you to have fun, but high performance is also about being disciplined enough to remain focused on the new goals right from the start.

So, before you start planning sessions or figuring out who will speak, ask yourself “What does a successful session or workshop look like?” Then think, “What do you want participants to think? How do you want them to feel? What are the top 3 actions you want them to take as a result of the workshop? Is this an emotional, education, or rationally led event?”

Sales reps want to learn what the top people performers are doing and have done so they can achieve similar success. These stories are both inspiring and insightful. With that in mind, schedule 1-3 panels where your highest performers discuss their most important deals. They can talk about how they started the conversation, how the process went, which obstacles they encountered and how they got past them, etc. These panels can be during the general session, small breakouts or even spread across breakfast or lunch.

You should also include at least one tactical sales training session. Successful salespeople never stop learning, so give them plenty of insights and new techniques to try in the new year.

Having a coaching culture also means empowering the individuals that work at your company. A sales kickoff meeting does just this; it empowers people who wouldn’t usually have a platform to talk about their everyday challenges. It also allows sales reps to feel connected to the rest of the team and get excited about the work they’re doing.

Once you’ve finished getting through the content and training that you need to cover, make sure you build in time for fun. Have team-building activities, so your team can get to know one another even better and spend time together outside of the office.

Below are a couple of ideas – make sure to make this optional not obligatory:

Morning Fitness or Meditation Sessions. Investing in the well-being of your employees is monumental to their success. These options are an excellent counterbalance to late night events (and conversations with HR during the Sales Kickoff).
Schedule a No Business Talk team dinner. No Business Talk Dinners is an excellent way to all sit around a table and let loose and talk about your everyday lives. It allows people to interact with each other that may not typically or ones that don’t live in the same city.

Following these guidelines will allow your reps not to absorb the information from your sales kickoff but also enjoy it and feel empowered.


Recognize Performance Individually

Recognizing individual performance is about having one on one conversations reinforcing positive behaviors and outcomes with each individual on your team.

As you’re brainstorming about the sales meeting and what success looks like, you can also create a survey and ask what your sales reps feel is most important to their success.

People are more invested in what they’re learning when they’ve had a hand in shaping it, so ask reps what they’d like to see. Involve them in pre-planning by asking them what’s most valuable to their career and growth. What frustrations are common? Where do people see room for improvement or issues that should be addressed?

To get this information, start sending out surveys or polls a few months out from your meeting, which will help you identify common knowledge gaps. Then based off of the results you can dig deeper into exactly what people want to learn.

This is a unique opportunity to hear from your whole team and give people the chance to be heard.


Setting Expectations

Laying the groundwork for a successful year starts with establishing the right mindset.

According to Forrester Research, while 88% of key decision makers feel that salespeople can speak knowledgeably about their products and services, only 24% feel like they understand their business needs.

During the sales meeting, you want to make sure that your salespeople understand not only the product and services but also your business needs. To do all of this you need to stay on task and share precisely what you will be talking about to show value to the entire team during the sales meeting.

If you don’t do a good enough job of giving your team a reason to be at the event, this unique opportunity you have to motivate and inspire can fall flat or turn into consecutive open bar nights.

Networking is another vital ingredient of a great kickoff. This is the one time everyone on your sales team is in one place, so let your reps take advantage of it. They can create valuable connections that will lead to mentorships, friendships, and collaborations.

Overall, these sessions get everyone on the same page, so you’re as effective as possible.


Please Stop…

Making Every Presentation the same length of the Keynote

Nobody wants to sit in a conference room or ballroom for 8 hours listening to key speakers talk at them. They need to move around and break up the monotony.

By shortening the length of presentations and giving teams a chance to interact, ensures that the day has a large element of variety. Think ice breakers, videos, photos, interactive learning based games, team building and of course lots of breaks, to let that content sink in.


Repeating the same information over, and over, and over

A nod to the theme is one thing, but rehashing it thousands of times is not. While good ideas are worth repeating, be careful not to overdo it. It can backfire. What’s the best way to filter this? Do a dress rehearsal with all the key stakeholders.

Yes, of course, everyone will be taking notes; however, if possible, give one person the job to take notes during the meeting. This way you can keep track of everything that happens in the session and lessen your chances of repeating. That document will allow everyone to compare what was understood and offer a basis for the actions to be taken.


Adding too much information

Shorten the length of presentations so that presenters have to prioritize their messages. Then punctuate those talks with enough breaks to let the content sink in. To do this, you need to practice and know what you want to say.

Don’t leave this meeting until the last minute. Doing so, you may find that more work needs to be done to your presentation. Practice in front of friends or colleagues and get their feedback. This way your work won’t feel rushed or be compromised.

Don’t Miss This Opportunity

Your sales kickoff meeting, whether virtual or in-person, is an opportunity to reunite your team. It can also build camaraderie and educate them on the tools and processes they need to compete in today’s cutthroat environment.

It’s a unique opportunity and one that you shouldn’t overlook just because you think you don’t have the time or the resources. Great companies invest in their team as much as in their tools, and a sales kickoff is a great way to show your reps you’ve got their backs.

And remember, it’s an investment in your future as a company and in your sales team as individual performers. Let’s get this new fiscal year started with the right cadence and focus!


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