Sales Kick Offs Aren’t Delivering. Here’s How Smart Companies are Reacting

We’re working with a global company whose annual sales kick-off is costing them over $20 million. When I asked how they were measuring their ROI the room fell silent.

They’re not alone. Every year companies invest in new themes and new content for their sales kick-offs. Yet, typically there is little evidence to prove the investment is justified.

Thankfully, a new type of sales kick-off is beginning to gain traction. The Sales Kick-On is anchored in measurement and focused on outcomes. It’s delivering what the sales kick-off never managed – results. With a measurable ROI that can be built upon year-on-year, it’s attracting sales, marketing, HR, and even board-level sponsorship as a result.

Motivate

If you’re setting-up your sales kick-off to unveil your company’s latest products or new messaging, you’re setting yourself up to fail. What you potentially gain with a big ‘wow’ announcement is countered by the days you’ve lost getting your team motivated and engaged with your business goals for the financial year ahead.

Instead, consider sharing in advance the major announcements that are typically delivered at the sales kick-off. Tier the information sharing so different groups understand the announcement and what it means to them. For example, leaders need to be fully aware of the strategy and approach, managers will need to be briefed on their role in getting the rest of the team on board with delivering on this announcement in the field, while ‘all others’ need to be motivated and engaged to learn more at the main event.

Video is a good way to clearly articulate messages from senior leaders around their expected outcomes from the sales kick-off. Interactive workbooks can help managers prepare for their role in the event, and themed teaser campaigns and feedback competitions for all sales staff are just some of the tactics we’ve used successfully in the past.

In this way, your whole team is prepared for the role they have to play in the financial year ahead. Plus, your event budget is invested in kicking-on that activity to a deliverables stage, rather than starting from scratch a couple of weeks into the new FY.

The sales kick-on is delivering what the sales kick-off never managed – results.

Equip

Knowing from your advance communications that this is a ‘sleeves-rolled-up’ event, your team is more likely to do the prep work, and come with the right attitude. This means the event itself can be focused on getting down to business. For sales people that boils down to knowing how to sell your new product or solution in the market. Consider smaller break out events that give teams the opportunity to practice delivering the new messaging and testing positioning against competitors. Giving teams time to provide feedback on what they’re hearing and learning is paramount, as is giving teams the space and time to build business plans. As the lynch pin between strategy and execution, managers should be placed at the heart of the activities to reinforce the prescribed behaviors. Moreover, it often gives them the added perspective and authority they need to see your plans through to completion in the field.

This doesn’t mean it has to be a normal day in the office. Put a percentage of your event budget to making your content engaging and memorable. It’s far more valuable than investing in a destination venue or novelty after dinner guest speaker. Some of our most successful sales enablement programs have been themed or competition based. Providing traditional sales learning in a less than traditional context, you engage your team and equip your sales force. If done correctly, you also give your sales managers the necessary top spin to leave the event with a sales execution plan to hit Q1 running.

Mobilize

Your team should leave a sales kick-on with more than just a warm feeling that they work for a good company. They should leave with an action plan that supports your strategy for the year. We typically suggest that this is a mix of:

Sales activity to give your strategy the immediate momentum you need to see it executed in the field.

Learning and development activity to provide managers an opportunity to check-in with their team, shape their performance, and manage their approach over the quarters to come.

A timeline and check-in points so sales teams know they are expected to sustain the momentum started during the event

A compensation plan that supports the sales behaviors you want your team to adopt

With these four critical elements in place your team is mobilized and ready to sell your strategy to the world.

Measure

The true value of your sales kick-on isn’t measured by the immediate response to the event itself. Instead measure the results over the year, and build on them year-on-year after that. Use your CRM system to track new deals delivered off the back of the account planning sessions. Use the learning and development activity to track how much closer your sales team is to achieving role competency. Use the timelines to keep the business on track and senior management engaged. Ultimately, use your business results to see whether the program has delivered upon the strategy your senior leaders identified at the start of the year.

With firm ROI metrics, our experience is that budget for future events is easier to justify, more broadly supported and quicker to be secured. So, make your next event a kick-on rather than a kick-off. Dial down the glitz and keep the surprises to the entertainment and prizes! Focus on engaging, role relevant content. Make it interactive and developmental. Ultimately, make it the measurable catalyst your sales team needs to take your strategy to revenue.

Robert Fox is a Senior Consultant at Strategy to Revenue, the award-winning sales enablement consultancy.

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