If your company is like many, you’re in the midst of planning and executing an annual sales kickoff event (SKO). For many sellers, these events are often some of the most fun and energetic work engagements they have during the year. After all, you get to spend time with peers who feel the same pain and have the same humor about everyday occurrences on the job.
While showing appreciation for the sales team and keeping them engaged with peers (and the company) are important goals for a sales kickoff event, companies also seek a performance boost by using this time to roll out new tools, training, and processes. The results of these efforts? Some are good and some…not so much.
Many companies have struggled to keep the momentum going in the months that follow a sales kickoff, and even have sometimes found that the new tools, training, and processes that are rolled out are tossed aside by the sales team as weeks and months pass.
What does it take for the investments and planning that go into a sales kickoff to convert into consistent improvements? In this article, we’ll explore some best practices that companies use to more effectively engage reps during these events and generate ROI by supporting the new initiatives’ success even after the energy (and sometimes the buzz) wears off.
Pre-Kickoff: The Power in Planning
Whether it’s a home renovation project, an overseas vacation, or a sales kickoff meeting, success is almost always achieved through proper planning.
You likely have key initiatives in mind that you will be rolling out at the sales kickoff meeting like:
- New processes or workflows
- Changes in territory rules or compensation
- New sales enablement tools and training
- And improved products, of course
Communicate with your sales leadership team
Whatever is coming down the pipeline for a sales kickoff launch, be sure that you communicate – or over communicate – it with your sales leadership team. It is critical that senior sales leaders (and often regional or second-level sales leaders as well) are familiar and bought in to the strategies behind the topics and reveals at your sales kickoff meeting. Ideally, these sales leaders have also had a voice in shaping the strategy up to this point.
Loop your sales managers in on anticipated changes
As the kickoff nears, however, it’s critical to now loop in the front-line sales managers, which are those who are directly managing the sales team. They may not have been involved in the planning that led up to this point, so you’ll have to communicate with them appropriately. Why? Because you don’t want these folks having a knee-jerk reaction to what’s “new” or “different” at the same time as their reps find out. Pre-communication with front-line sales managers allows them to process the change, understand the “why,” and be prepared to support the initiative if and when their team members question it.
Find influencers and champions among your salespeople
Another audience to connect with, when possible, is salespeople who can serve as influencers to support the new initiative. Whether it’s a new enablement software tool, new skills training, or a new process, is there an opportunity to cultivate “champions” amongst the sales team that can become users and evangelists ahead of the broader launch? If so, have their perspectives and stories captured and built into the rollout communication at the kickoff event. Give your salespeople an opportunity to hear the value of the new initiative directly from their forward-thinking peers, either through pre-recorded videos or live demonstrations and testimonials.
Create Room for Interactivity
Sales kickoffs often go wrong when there is a lack of interaction with the salespeople. That is to say, when your sales team shows up for a two-day event, try to avoid making them sit still in their seats and be talked at. If they’re like the salespeople I know, they will struggle to sit still after the first one to two hours, let alone two days. They will also struggle to retain all of the information they’re hearing if they’re taking in a string of PowerPoints.
Instead, balance the one-way presentation of information with interactivity throughout your agenda. Mix speaking sessions with discussion sessions (if applicable) and include “circulating sessions,” if appropriate, where reps can move about and interact with new products or new sales tools.
If you are presenting or introducing new skill development initiatives, look for opportunities to include interactive practice, or maybe even “role play.” Have attendees pair up to practice a scenario or facilitate exercises with small groups around the concepts and tactics they’re learning.
Get your audience actively involved and you’ll get more out of the event.
Consider a Flipped-Classroom Approach
Picking up on the last section, you can alternatively employ a flipped-classroom strategy to present new knowledge or skills training. This is an easy way to naturally encourage interactivity at your event.
Applying traditional learning methods to sales kickoffs, as most companies do, entails presenting and teaching new information at the event and then providing materials and resources to reinforce it once the reps return home.
The flipped-classroom strategy initiates the learning and communication of new information and ideas ahead of your event, as self-paced activities. Then, the time together at the event can be spent applying the knowledge, conducting interactive practice sessions, and facilitating discussions to ensure understanding. Said another way, your team will be interacting and gaining more confidence in the new information during the event instead of sitting and watching a speaker.
As you can see, there are upsides to employing a flipped-classroom approach to at least some of your programming. It provides more visible application and practice, to make sure it’s getting done well, and adds interactivity to your event. On the other hand, there can be a downside in that it will take away the “make a splash” factor for any new rollouts. For this reason, it may make sense to use flipped-classroom strategies for skill development and new processes but keep the “big splash” in place for new product launches, new features, or other similar new announcements.
Support the Team as They Return Home
Whether you’re introducing new products, skills training, operating processes, compensation plans, or anything else, flipped classroom or otherwise, you’ll need to have a strong reinforcement plan in place to get the results you’re looking for. Even if you presented your content in engaging and interactive ways as discussed above, it was likely still a ton of information to absorb and the reps will be picking and choosing what they take with them.
Provide reps with reference materials – one-pagers, digital documents, tutorial videos – whatever is needed for them to apply new information on the job. Chances are, they grasped big-picture concepts and headlines, but they’ll need help with step-by-step details and nuances.
Aside from the enablement tools needed to transfer new knowledge and skills into day-to-day environments, it’s also important to provide front-line managers with the tools and resources to reinforce, support, and coach everything that is new and different coming out of the kickoff event.
Build Retention & Adoption into Your Kickoff Strategy
Sales kickoffs are no doubt fun, lively events that gather team members who often don’t get to spend much time together. They also serve as an opportunity to introduce new products, processes, and other initiatives.
If you want your event to be more than a “flash in the pan,” be strategic about your planning process. Prep managers to garner buy-in, allow for engagement and interactivity, consider pre-work in the form of flipped-classroom deployments, and be sure that your team has what they need to hit the ground running when they return home.
If you are rolling out new sales training as part of your kickoff, you’ll want to download our eBook “Sales Training That Sticks” to ensure your sales reps retain the new skills they learn.
eBook: Sales Training That Sticks
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