What Makes Sense?
Your SKO initiative, whether delivered in person or virtually, can’t be treated as a one and done event. An SKO usually includes the launch of something new for your sales team, but there will be many connective tissues that continue to impact your sales activities throughout the year. If done well, the SKO will establish your team’s roadmap and define your sales team’s focus. But it’s going to be a new ballgame; so it makes sense to start your planning efforts early and keep the end goal in mind.
If you’re like most companies, the current economic climate has likely uncovered new sales challenges or amplified existing ones. It’s important to make sure your strategic directives are clear and your initiatives are aligned to drive success. Be realistic and intentional about defining what makes sense for your team.
Here are five key areas where balancing a new SKO mindset will be important:
1. Virtual Mindset – Listen More & Plan Differently
The launch of a successful virtual SKO takes careful planning and a strong team. Heavy lifting will be required from every team member to adjust for customized delivery, effective collaboration, reinforcement focus and commitment to success.
From project kickoffs to reinforcement efforts:
- How do you prepare to deliver in a way that works best for you and your team?
- How do you align cross-functional teams remotely in a way that leads to the desired outcomes for your sales initiative?
- How do you help your team continue to build proficiency after the launch, while they work remotely?
- How do you ensure a rigorous focus on results?
Leaders can’t compromise on the quality and delivery of the most important messages, interactions and activities that will anchor your virtual event. It takes careful planning and lead time to create content that aligns with both organizational goals and projected outcomes.
Setting the tone for this year’s event will be a delicate balance. Start by visualizing this year’s event and the experience you want to deliver.
- How do you deliver your messages passionately, yet add a sense of fun and a touch of humor?
- How do you show the right level of respect to employees and their families who are dealing with so many facets of change during the pandemic?
- How do you successfully navigate pre-work, presentations and activity-based breakout sessions in a way that works virtually?
Throughout the planning process, your team will need to ask a lot of questions and gather a lot of information. Make sure you solicit input, not just from your planning team, but from a representative sample of those who will attend. Remember, we’ve all been doing this for several months. We’ve got stories, perspectives, experience. Ask for examples of what works and what doesn’t. Ask for the most impactful or creative approach people have seen. Then, make sure you listen.
2. Virtual Mindset – Acknowledge the Changes, Clarify the Actions
One of the first things your team will need to align around is the event's objectives and desired outcomes. How else would you measure success?
Don’t start planning the how until you’ve defined the what. Ask yourself, “What’s important for my seller to know at this exact moment in time?” Your organization has likely made shifts to navigate a new business environment. The focus and expectations for your sales organization may have changed as well. A successful virtual launch will be critical to your revenue, your company culture and your team’s outlook for the future.
Above all, this year’s SKO is an opportunity to provide your sales organization with clarity. It’s critical to provide your team with an acknowledgment of what has changed and give them credit for all the transitions they’ve had to make. Most importantly, your sales team will need clarity about what they are expected to do next. They’ll also expect to hear what you, as a leader, are prepared to do to support their efforts. Operations have changed, company priorities have changed, customer challenges have changed. Acknowledge the changes, then clarify the needed actions.
What will be needed for success at this year’s SKO is unprecedented and will set the tone for shifting needs for years to come. Having this “what’s urgent right now” discipline and mindset will safeguard your SKO to be focused on what your sales organization needs right now. Get collective agreement on your SKO’s objectives and outcomes on the front end and you’ll help your team stay in lock-step throughout the execution.
3. Virtual Mindset – Set Realistic Expectations
Throughout your planning process, be realistic about what you can expect people to absorb. Pick two or three key takeaways, not more. It’s better to go deep on a few things, than barely scratch the surface on a bunch of things. Align the agenda and daily programming in a way that sellers can stay engaged in a virtual environment.
Get the content, communication and facilitation right and you’ll drive great engagement. A primary outcome for this event will be to ensure that your team leaves the SKO informed, encouraged, and with clarity around what’s expected of them. Keep these perspectives in mind as you plan how you will execute in each of these areas successfully.
Your content anchors for this year’s meeting should be based on your SKO objectives and supported with activities that align with your objectives. A big responsibility for your planning team will be to define one or two big pieces of content that are ideally suited for a virtual forum and aligned with your objectives. Plan to spend the bulk of the SKO on activities that reinforce the content and your objectives. (There’s more on content and how people learn in tip #5 - Reinforce and Make it Stick)
Whether you’re face-to-face or virtual, preparing the group for great outcomes takes good communication. Before your virtual event, make participants familiar with what’s on the docket by sharing an agenda and introducing key concepts. Pre-work assignments are usually important to give your audience foundational information, great context and the right mindset.
The quality of your facilitators and how they present your content is critical for resonating with your audience and delivering results. Great facilitators know that it’s not just content, but the tone of voice, energy and conviction of the delivery that drives the greatest impact. Strong facilitators present information in clear, digestible chunks and share real-life experiences, relevant examples and drive engagement with their audience.
A great virtual setting will focus on delivering the right combination of information and activities to drive the best success. For multiple-day events, it’s beneficial to mix it up. Use several facilitators to provide active back and forth conversations and a combination of delivery styles to break up the pace and tone. Read our entire list of virtual best practices here.
4. Virtual Mindset – Blueprints & Breakouts
In making good decisions about this year’s SKO, it’s your job to define a blueprint — or critical path. Visualize what success looks like and the outcomes you need to achieve. Make sure everyone on your planning team has the same vision as well.
It’s important to clearly define roles and responsibilities, both individually and as a team. Anyone who’s attended an SKO knows that there’s a certain choreography that happens at the event. That choreography will likely be different in a virtual setting. When the choreography isn’t right, everybody knows it.
Driving a successful launch in a virtual setting may require additional skills on your planning team that you may have never needed before. New requirements may mean a new team configuration, with new roles and responsibilities. It’s important to know who owns what and the role each person will play in planning and executing the event.
It’s your job to ensure SKO activities and the event agenda stay aligned with agreed-upon outcomes. In other words, stay on your critical path. Define early on who has decision rights. Clarify who owns a decision, who needs to be informed and who needs to provide input before decisions are made.
Plan your time and agenda wisely. Map out content and activities that are suitable for the entire group and determine which activities are best led in smaller breakout groups.
A great way to maximize participants’ time and increase engagement is to split the larger group into smaller breakout groups, where they can work simultaneously on learning modules, collaborate on activities and solicit group input. Breakout activities in a virtual setting require clear milestones and timing guidelines. The technology you use should provide facilitators with the ability to easily shift participants to smaller group breakout sessions. Each breakout session should be led by a facilitator and participants should be able to virtually “raise their hands” to submit questions. When it’s time to pull everyone back together, facilitators should be able to easily shift everyone back into the larger group to share report-outs or continue group learning modules.
The key here for your team members is to know your role and execute. Your team has the responsibility to envision the SKO unfolding and then to reverse engineer it to make sure it happens.
5. Virtual Mindset – Reinforce and Make it Stick
As you define and focus on the critical few topics and activities that are best suited for your virtual forum, you’ll want to keep in mind how people learn and how those learnings are reinforced and adopted. Although a virtual setting is different, both learning and practicing can be very effective. With the right planning and approach, role plays and small group activities can be executed successfully in a virtual delivery.
According to Harvard, active learning techniques are what keep people engaged. Make sure you set the right context for learning and provide a consistent baseline understanding of your most important topics. Think of the weeks leading up to the SKO as the time you make sellers aware of what will be covered during the virtual SKO. Consider an e-learning curriculum that’s released to sellers a few weeks ahead of the SKO. That way sellers show up ready to put into practice all that they’ve studied up on.
We like to think of this approach as layered learning, with the three layers being awareness, proficiency and mastery. The pre-work leading up to the event is how you make sellers aware of concepts and strategies that they will become proficient in at the SKO.
All training events, whether in-person or virtual, require reinforcement. Adoption of concepts increases when companies provide continued opportunities to put learning into practice. The best reinforcement comes from mobile-enabled platforms that provide on-demand digital content to help accelerate adoption. A mobile-enabled platform provides access to content, tools and resources in real time. The right enablement platform also provides reporting dashboards, so companies can assess how their teams are adopting, internalizing and applying critical skills following their virtual training event.