Sales Kickoffs: The Mistake You’re Making
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Strategizing around this year’s sales kickoff (SKO), coming out of last year’s challenges, may require a shift in your approach. Whether you’re considering a full in-person event, a virtual meeting or a combination of the two, one thing you don’t want to do is wait too long to pull your SKO plan together. Ensure you roll out something strategic that drives the critical business impacts you need.
We've helped countless sales leaders roll out transformative sales initiatives as part of their SKO. Those experiences have shown us some common mistakes that leaders often make when planning their SKOs. Here are our top four and how to avoid them.
1. Too much focus on the ‘event’.
Avoid the mistake of executing a SKO (virtual or in person) with too much focus on the event and not enough on the purpose. How are you going to use the SKO to align your sales organization around the critical outcomes you need to achieve? How are you communicating your purpose behind the event to your salespeople and how their active participation (in breakouts, activities, pre-work, etc.) will help them improve their numbers?
Solution: Align your SKO to a strategic purpose and communicate it to your team.
Channel the energy around the event towards your purpose and achieving critical outcomes, versus letting the excitement of getting people together distract from driving adoption of necessary concepts. If you’re choosing virtual, execute in a way that will mitigate video fatigue. If you’re doing an in-person event, ensure every speaker is aligned to the strategic purpose of the event. Either way, ensure your team sees the value in what you’re rolling out.
Use the SKO as your opportunity to align your entire organization around the process, behaviors, content and tools they need to use to succeed in the upcoming year. Generating alignment around the outcomes your sales organization needs to achieve is a great first step. Consider the broader initiatives of your company next year. Determine how your sales organization is set up to achieve them. Align your SKO around that goal and the behaviors and/or processes your salespeople will need to execute to achieve it. Then, communicate how the SKO and correlating activities will support your salespeople and help them compete.
2. Lack of application for every SKO participant
Leaders and their enablement teams often struggle to align their SKO training and deliverables in a way that’s meaningful to everyone participating in your SKO (field reps, supporting departments, front and mid-level managers, etc.) As you know, not every sales role is created equal. If you’re rolling out new processes and tools, consider how a BDR may use it differently than a field rep, for example.
If the event is not relevant to what each audience member does every day — participants will tune out. Your event may still be compelling but will result in varying levels of success across your organization.
Although it takes a concerted effort, aligning aspects of the SKO training, deliverables and reinforcement activities to each role participating will play a major role in your success. Don’t let the complexities of tailoring your initiative to multiple roles lead you to make a mistake you’ll regret next month, quarter or year.
Solution: Ensure your SKO is relevant to everyone in the room.
Perhaps you're launching a new product or a new sales process. Think about how you're going to present that information in a way that’s consumable for each role in your sales organization. How can you tailor pre-training to ensure sellers are equipped to practice new concepts and managers can provide effective feedback? What deliverables will you provide managers with to help drive accountability and consistent execution after the SKO? Consider how each concept and deliverable relates to your SDRs/BDRs? How does it relate to account teams? Your field reps? Second-line managers?
Your SKO initiative, content, supporting deliverables, training, etc. need to be highly relevant to each participant, which means customizing content and training to each different role in your sales organization. Then, ensure the event provides practical applications for each individual role. One option we use is to provide time during the event for breakout sessions defined by roles.
3. Taking a sales-only approach.
Without cross-functional commitment, it’s difficult to enable salespeople to execute on new concepts throughout the entire customer engagement process. A sales process naturally integrates other departments (legal, finance, product, etc.). If those contributors do not support sales in executing new behaviors, processes, and/or methodologies, sellers will quickly go back to what they were doing before the sales kickoff. Organizational alignment and cross-functional leadership support are key to lasting results, yet so many sales initiatives are implemented with a sales-only approach, leading to limited outcomes. Don’t make the same mistake.
Solution: Get executive leaders to support and reinforce your SKO initiative.
Roll out something during your SKO that is aligned to a top priority for your entire company. Align key content, processes and tools to company objectives to make it a top priority for company leaders. Articulate to your executive team how changing sales behaviors will support each department leader in meeting their specific KPIs and growth goals. Use these steps to get leaders to support your SKO and/or strategic sales initiative in a way that drives organizational transformation and lasting results.
4. Not prepping pre-SKO and post-SKO activities
Don’t pack too much into the event itself, regardless if you execute virtually or in-person. You may have a lot to accomplish with the event, but don’t burden your people with trying to absorb too much information. With too much to take in during your SKO, participants will struggle to remember every concept, comprehend the approach and execute after the fact. As a result, your SKO will never achieve what you need it to. The goal of your SKO should be to drive comprehension of critical concepts and motivation to consistently execute new or elevated front-line sales behaviors and activities.
As a sales leader, you have the opportunity to help your enablement team strategize around critical pre-SKO and post-SKO activities and deliverables that will drive long-term adoption.
Solution: Define the plan for what happens before, during and after the SKO event.
Take a concerted effort to help your enablement team ensure long-term outcomes by defining the plan for what needs to be operationalized across the sales organization before, during and after the SKO event. Here are some options to consider that will lighten the load:
- Provide pre-work opportunities to maximize comprehension and time spent practicing critical concepts during the actual SKO engagement.
- Execute an earlier manager training that ensures your front-line managers are equipped to reinforce any concepts rolled out at the SKO.
- Roll out manager-specific processes, tools and resources to support them in driving front-line adoption, accountability and results after the SKO.
- Provide follow-up virtual learning sessions to your sales teams that reinforce "the asks" made during the SKO.
- Consider integrated, virtual tools you can use to gain line-of-sight into adoption.
How Leaders Are Ensuring Their SKOs Get Results
The SKO is your opportunity to course-correct sales challenges and drive accountability around overall company growth goals. Use this time to find out what other leaders are prioritizing as they lay the foundation for an initiative that gets results. Watch our on-demand webinar, "Sales Leadership & Accountability" where John Kaplan discusses the actions sales leaders are taking to equip their teams to execute against company growth goals. Watch here.