What Makes for a Great Sales Kick-Off? It’s Not What You Think…

During this time of year, companies are often either conducting their annual sales meetings or preparing for their upcoming sales kick-off. Either way, companies want their sales teams to feel energized, excited, and confident that the year ahead will be their best yet! Whether you have large or small sales teams, whether your sales meetings take one day or are week-long affairs – the stakes are one and the same.

After working on and attending several annual sales meetings ourselves, (commonly called a Sales Kick Off), we were able to identify a few common characteristics that set apart a great sales event from a good one. In fact, in talking with other sales enablement professionals and sales leaders alike, there’s one common key attribute that differentiates the best kick-off events from the average ones – and it’s not what you might think.

Let’s first take a look at the three most common mistakes.

Mistake #1: Focusing too much on training

For many sales leaders, the fact that the entire team is present and engaged for a few days in a common location is an excellent opportunity for some much-needed training. Leaders pack their agendas with new sales techniques, product releases, and competitive updates. Although some “information download” is a productive way of ensuring reps’ awareness of critical information, focusing too much on training and lectures is a sure-fire way to overwhelm the team.

Mistake #2: Executive speaking overload

Getting your company’s top executives onstage so that they have the opportunity to talk to the sales team and give them an update on different departments can be enticing, but while the intention is valid, spending too much time on having executives lecture the sales team can misfire and become yet another talk session. Ask yourself the tough question: how much will reps retain after all the talk?

Mistake #3: Too futuristic and blue-sky talking

Surprisingly, this mistake is far more common than most realize. The CEO/President/Chairman walks onstage and delivers an outstanding, visionary presentation about where the company will be five years from now and how everyone in the room will make tons of money. Sure, there needs to be a right amount of future/vision in a top-exec keynote and tell people that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but it needs to connect – tangibly – with specific programs or initiatives mentioned throughout the kick-off.

Here’s what makes a great SKO

The most critical element of your sales event is creating a memorable moment; sometimes called an EPIC moment. Let me explain what that means.

While it may seem obvious to create a memorable moment, it’s easy to get lost during the several planning sessions and scheduling of speakers and activities. Of course, it all depends on what you want your sales kick-off to be like, but thinking about “what do we want our reps to remember and how we want them to feel” can serve as a guiding principle when putting the agenda together.

Think of it this way, if you want to energize the team, how can you do that in a way that will capture their attention and make it memorable? Even for the critical information, you are hoping they will remember after the event, how can you make it so they truly appreciate and can use it in their jobs?

For creating these EPIC moments, the best framework we’ve seen for thinking in those terms comes from the Heath brothers in their excellent book “The Power of Moments.” In this book they describe using several examples their EPIC framework:

Elevation: Moments of elevation are experiences that rise above the routine. They make us feel engaged, joyful, surprised, motivated.

Pride: Moments of pride commemorate people’s achievements.

Insight: Moments of insight deliver realizations and transformations.

Connection: Moments of connection bond us together.

We want to highlight that creating these ‘moments’ requires some serious thought processes and honest discussions with everyone involved in the event. It also expects a re-think your SKO to be more than a series of lectures, training or team-building activities. It forces us to identify the essentials of what we want this crucial sales moment to be and how we can make it a milestone to our sales force.

So for your next annual sales meeting or kick-off, we encourage you to start with the EPIC framework (read the book, it’s much better than our brief reference here!) and use it as a lens for how you will plan and execute the event.