This the time of year when many sales organizations hold their annual or bi-annual sales kick-off meetings. The idea is to bring all sales team members together using the kick-off as an opportunity to rally the troops in support of new sales goals, priorities and strategies, product launches and to deliver training of some sort.
I think kick-offs are a good idea if done the right way.
As the term implies, a sales kick-off (SKO) is – or should be – the springboard that sets the tone and foundation for sales priorities in the new fiscal mid-year or annual sales year. Unfortunately, most SKO’s totally miss the mark.
Here are a few ways, I believe, you can improve the success of your sales kick-off meeting.
Shift thinking to long-term versus just what will happen at the event. In the SKO’s I’ve participated in during my corporate days or the ones that I’ve spoken at since then, the plan is often focused on the SKO “event” and not what comes before and after the actual meeting takes place. The SKO is the launch point for achieving sales success all throughout the year. Your plan must include what happens prior to the SKO and how the learning will be carried forward and acted upon after the event. That plan should be clearly communicated to sales management because they will have roles to play in the before and after the kick-off activities. If they aren’t bought in and committed to making it happen, it won’t happen.
Be selective with the content you deliver. Many sales kick-offs tend to focus on delivering “product” information versus spending time on the development of the selling skills of their salespeople. This is a BIG missed opportunity. Product training can be done prior to the meeting using sales enablement tools or online sessions to get reps up to speed.
The importance of business acumen and strong consultative problem solving and selling skills has never been more important. That’s what buyers want. Yet, too much of the time, there isn’t enough investment made in training your salespeople to be the kind of seller that buyers want to help them. Buyers want sellers who help them solve business problems. Yes, I know, you have a great product. But products don’t sell themselves, as a rule. If you can’t sell to the problem, a sale is unlikely to materialize. Selling is a problem-solving business. It is less important what your salespeople sell and more important HOW they sell it.
You are trying to cram too much information into the agenda. SKO meetings are typically time compressed because it is expensive to bring the entire sales organization together in one place. As a result, meeting planners try to pack so much into the meeting time that people leave these events feeling as if they were forced to drink from a fire hose. You can bet that most of that information wasn’t absorbed and probably forgotten about within days. Even if you are conducting virtual sales kick-off meetings, which present other unique challenges, don’t overstuff the agenda.
As it relates back to my first point, plan for pre-work prior to your kick-off event. Brainshark’s recent 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.”
Retain and reinforce. Behavior rarely changes after one meeting. You can have the most motivational speaker of all time leading off or closing your event, and the euphoria of that rah rah session won’t last long, nor will it affect lasting behavior change. Change is a process. If you want people to embrace the new skills they’ve just learned, coaching, training and management reinforcement must happen consistently after the event concludes. If you don’t plan for the reinforcement work that must happen after the meeting, not much is going to change at all.
Bringing it home.
I believe in the power of the sales kick-off meeting when thought about from a longer term more strategic point of view. Your kick-off is the launch pad to greater success throughout the entire sales year but if your only focus is on what happens during that meeting, and not what also needs to happen before and after the event, your investment in time and money could probably be better spent elsewhere.