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November 5, 2019

3 Tips for Planning a Successful Sales Kickoff

Think about your last sales kickoff; the session that probably generated the most energy and attention was the “successes from the field” session, in which salespeople discussed their big wins. This content is popular with other sellers because they trust their peers. In fact, research shows that salespeople prefer to get help from their peers. Our own eBook on sales learning success stresses the importance of learning in the field.

For sales leaders, facilitating and institutionalizing peer-to-peer collaboration gets a huge boost through the largest, most formal sales training event of the year: the sales kickoff (SKO) or national sales meeting (NSM).

How can you use your SKO or NSM to formalize sales knowledge sharing? There are three parts that you should consider for your plan:

  1. Allocate dedicated, mainstage time for sales-led sessions,
  2. Include and collect as much other sales content as possible, and
  3. Package and share content to reinforce learning after the big event.

1. Plan dedicated time on the main stage agenda for sales-led sessions

When planning a sales kickoff, it’s easy to fill up time with presentations. Your execs, sales leadership team, product leaders, marketers, and other subject matter experts (SMEs) could easily cover all of the time for your agenda.

When you set the agenda, carve out sessions for front-line sellers to cover key wins that support your strategy. Chances are that your strategic adjustments for 2020 are based on some learnings from the field.

A related front-line sales presentation provides credibility because salespeople trust other salespeople the most. If you need to win over your reps, a new strategy outlined by leadership combined with related rep-delivered win presentations provide a compelling case. This approach also encourages sidebar conversations as other salespeople ask the presenters about how to win similar deals.

2. Prioritize sales-led sessions for the big stage, but don’t forget about breakout sessions or lose the opportunity to record all sales insights

Even though you have prioritized sales-led sessions for the main stage based on alignment with strategy, don’t miss the opportunity to use more sales-led content in breakout sessions and record all sales insights for later use. It’s rare to get so many valuable perspectives in one place, so tap as many salespeople as possible as content contributors.

Examples of sales-led breakout sessions include objection handling, trap setting, and competitive workshops. Salespeople who lead these sessions create realistic scenarios and responses that have worked for them and their peers. Successful tools include recordings of role-playing and sales tools. Make it a competition among groups of participants and share the best content as approved sales assets.

Also, record everything: wins, losses, lessons from the field, etc. One way to make time for recording is to have a sign-up sheet for a “recording booth” – a room with a knowledgeable interviewer in sales enablement, operations, or marketing who facilitates the recordings. Enlist key participants before the event, and then circulate the sign-up sheet before everyone arrives to fill up the recording schedule.

3. Follow up by using the new sales-generated content to reinforce the event

Because you’ve recorded all of the new sales-generated content, package it for ongoing consumption. There is a lot of follow-up work from a sales kickoff, so you need to dedicate time to sales-led content clean up.

Some things to consider:

  • Review content for themes and concepts: you may find that gems in trap-setting occur in the trap-setting breakout as well as in a few sales win recordings. Use modern sales learning and readiness software to surface the best of this footage for broader consumption.
  • Break up these gems into bite-sized pieces: keep recordings short—e.g. 10 minutes or less—to make them easy to consume. You can always create a series of related recordings so you convey the complete picture, but never forget that salespeople are likely to consume content a few minutes at a time in between calls, while they travel, etc..
  • Create a calendar for release of this content to extend the reinforcement of the kickoff and align with your strategy. Your content will have greater meaning when your reinforcement is grouped by themes and the calendar is published to sales.

Remember, since SKOs and NSMs are so busy, you really need to dedicate time to and enlist leadership’s support in sales-led content. Don’t pass up the opportunity to learn as much as you can from the field and make it easy for sales to contribute: don’t make them write up their wins, for example. Finally, show sales that their ideas matter, by packaging their content and sharing the best ideas with everyone. You will have a more engaged event and ultimately better results when sales helps you with their own content.

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