As sales teams mount their final push to finish 2019 strong, someone in a sales enablement, marketing or sales support role is planning what has become status quo in sales. The annual sales kick off (SKO) meeting.
As the term implies, a sales kick-off meeting is meant to be a sales reset. An opportunity to review what worked and what didn’t in the prior year while also creating the positive momentum needed to achieve sales goals for the year ahead.
But let’s get real. Most SKO’s are a complete waste of time and money.
Throughout my sales career, I’ve attended plenty of these meetings and usually left them feeling ticked off that 3-5 days of my selling time was wasted, and I was away from my family to boot.
Though the “goal” is to set the stage for sales success, SKO agendas are dominated with things that do not help salespeople be better at the craft of selling. That includes new product announcements, product feature training, product demos, reviews of marketing materials, or execs who feel their title justifies air time with the sales force when it doesn’t.
Use your SKO time to train your sellers how to be better at selling; otherwise scrap the meeting.
SKO’s are expensive! Studies suggest that the average per head cost is between $1,500-$3,000. Conservatively, it can cost $75,000+ for a 50-person sales team to attend your SKO plus the cost of other people in your company who attend too. That doesn’t even account for event planning costs, or the lost opportunity cost due to non-selling time while salespeople attend the event.
Companies are literally burning cash on SKO activities that do not advance sales performance.
Given the expense of these meetings, it is a huge miss to waste time on anything that does not directly impact a salesperson’s ability to sell more effectively to today’s modern buyer. As Salesforce reported in the 3rd annual State of Sales research, “winning deals still requires human to human interaction.”
And, it isn’t just any human interaction that will get the job done. It must be the right interaction that happens at the right time and in the right way.
Buyer expectations keep rising. How does your SKO prepare salespeople for this ongoing reality?
The surprising thing is that this is NOT a new revelation. What is surprising is how many companies remain mired in their own status quo, and as a result, they fail to adapt and act on what B2B buyers keep making clear. The salespeople they will give their time and attention to are the rare ones who demonstrate that they operate differently from other salespeople.
Nowhere on this list does it say that buyers want sellers coming at them with generic, product feature driven sales pitches. They certainly don’t care if you redesigned your marketing materials.
Buyers do say they have higher standards for salespeople, can take their business anywhere, expect vendors to personalize their approach, and that they will work with sellers who act as trusted advisors.
Use your SKO as an opportunity to train salespeople to be what buyers want them to be!
If buyers want to work with salespeople who are trusted advisors, what does that mean?
Trusted advisor defines the salesperson who has exceptional, targeted knowledge about specific business problems that decision makers in certain roles and industries face. These salespeople solve problems and put the needs of the buyer FIRST. Sales reps don’t become trusted advisors without help and that means training.
With that in mind, how is your SKO agenda training your salespeople to:
- Engage rather than repel buyer interest with sales messaging and approach?
- Conduct sales meetings using business acumen & insight vs. feature dumps & demos?
- Manage multiple relationships with “buying teams”?
- Compete with buyer status quo?
- Reduce the sales cycle length and close deals more often?
A better playbook for designing that sales kick-off meeting.
- Planning beyond the event. Your plan must include what happens prior to the SKO, during the event, and how the training you deliver will be adopted and acted upon after the event.
- Clearly define the behavior you want to change. Be specific. After the SKO we want our sales reps to demonstrate competency in the 3 key traits of a trusted advisor. Then go deeper. What specifically does or will hinder our ability to evolve our salespeople into trusted advisors? Lack of training? The activity KPI’s we set today, which incent the wrong behavior? Are there internal systems, processes or even management biases getting in the way of the objective too?
- Plan pre-work prior to your kick-off event. Brainshark’s research found that “more than six out of 10 organizations (62%) don’t deliver pre-work to sales representatives in advance of their SKO, and 84% don’t conduct training in advance – neglecting to provide a foundation on the skills and topics that will be covered.”
- Create and block plenty of time for role plays at the event. Sports teams don’t show up on the field once a week expecting to win the game. They run plays and practice possible game day scenarios every day. Sales teams should operate the same way. Practice improves skills, turns them into ingrained habits and builds confidence.
- Reinforce. Your SKO sales training establishes the foundation for better sales results, and behavior will not change after one training. For salespeople to embrace and act-on the new skills they’ve just learned, coaching and management reinforcement must happen consistently after the event concludes.
Conduct your SKO with the right “end in mind” or don’t bother to do it all.
A sales kick-off meeting has huge potential if done in the right way.
The end goal should be that salespeople leave the event having improved their selling skills. The skills that decision makers expect of them. The skills that position your sellers to achieve their quota and deal profitability objectives in year ahead.
Everything else is a waste of money and time that can be better spent elsewhere!