When it comes to planning your sales kickoff, the first step is setting your objectives for the event. Do you want to celebrate a great year or challenge your sales team to think differently? Are you reps in need of some motivation after a challenging year, or is training your main focus at the moment? Tom Snyder, Co-founder and Managing Partner of VorsightBP suggests, “Before you begin to plan the meeting what do you want people to be thinking, to know, to be looking at. How will you define, when that meeting is over, that it was successful?”
You want to make the most of having all your salespeople together, so your goals should really define every aspect of the event, from the theme to the agenda. We know it’s easy to stay, but it is possible to do. We’re here to show you how, based on four main objectives: Celebration, Motivation, Education, and Innovation.
A celebratory sales kickoff is when you want to reward your team. As Tom Snyder, Co-founder and Managing Partner of VorsightBP puts it, “At a celebration kickoff you want people to feel appreciated. We had a great year. We’ve done a great job. We’re on top of our game. Let’s be proud of ourselves.”
Steve W Martin, Author of ‘Heavy Hitter’, says “When morale is high, you can be more creative and take bigger risks with the theme you choose.” Themes that allow the team to let loose, like a Night at the Oscars can enhance the mood and make everyone relax and have a little fun.
Speakers / Sessions
When choosing the type of sessions that you would have at a celebration kickoff, Snyder suggests, “Entertainment is the key component. So if you’re going to pick out a speaker or a group to come in make sure it’s about having a fun. If you’re going to do exercises make those about fun.”
“Take advantage of your team’s success by using it to create educational content that the whole team can use moving forward,” suggests Mohit Garg, Co-founder, and CRO of Mindtickle. “Video your award winners explaining what they did to achieve their success, and then share these best practices and success stories with the rest of the team after the event, using your online content library.”
When the celebration is your objective, Snyder suggests that “The outcomes are recognition and appreciation. It’s a transition, how do you transfer that celebration to the coming year.” Keeping this in mind, you can then build your sessions around these outcomes.
You’ve had a challenging year, perhaps a new competitor has stepped on your turf and your salespeople are feeling a bit flat. Motivation is what they need from their sales kickoff, as Snyder puts it, “You need to do something different”.
To motivate your team, your theme needs to reflect concepts that are inspirational or instill a desire to pick themselves up and get back out to battle. Snyder suggests themes that focus on heroics are great for inspiring people. Other ideas could be around building the competitive spirit of your team, Steve W Martin suggests something like. “Survivor! Outwit, Outlast, Outplay!” to get the juices flowing again.
Speakers / Sessions
If you have a heroic theme, Snyder suggests, “The keynote speakers are like the personal hero, the sports hero, the military hero. The personal assignments and themes must also reflect this theme.” If your theme is more specific you can build your thematic sessions around that objective suggests Steve W Martin with this example, “One company wanted to focus their sales team on closing bigger deals. They selected a theme centered around baseball and used the tagline, “Swing for the Fences!” Throughout the meeting, they showed movie clips of the greatest home run hitters of all time. At their awards dinner, the vice president of sales presented inscribed baseball bats to the top sales performers.”
The outcome should tie into your theme, in Steve W Martin’s example above, “meeting attendees were given different colored company baseball hats and jerseys that designated which group they were part of for team-building exercises.” It’s also alright if your objective is a challenging one, in some instances in order to motivate Snyder even suggests that you may be looking for an outcome of nervousness.
Perhaps you’ve just had a major product launch that your reps are struggling to sell, or you are scaling your team and have a lot of new hires, training them on specific sales skills (beyond the initial onboarding program) may be your primary sales kickoff objective. Snyder also notes, “You often see the rumors around, like we’re going to split up territories, these meetings are about dispensing with those rumors and announcing the new.”
The theme you choose will really be dependent on the type of training or skill development that you’re focusing on in this kickoff. For example, if your focus is on relationship building then perhaps your theme could be something like ‘Profit in Relationships’ or ‘Relationship Driven Results’. Alternatively, if your focus is on using data to improve performance, then you could use a theme that reflects like “Measure Yourself to Be the Best”.
Speakers / Sessions
To encourage and remove any unnecessary apprehension, Snyder suggests having a keynote session that, “talks about resolving the unknown. The speaker is often from the company, like the CEO or CFO. Someone who can come in and tell the truth.” This then opens the way for your reps to focus on the training without fear.
For the actual training sessions, “Make it as practical and as interactive as possible. Role play elevator pitches in front of each other, create a leaderboard and even crowdsource the best ones to be recorded and made available in their content library after the kickoff.” suggests Garg. If productivity is a big issue, Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing Inc suggests, “A best practices presentation on work efficiency (time management, email management, workflow optimization), coupled with reinforcement in the ensuing weeks and months.”
Learning and moving forward are the key outcomes of this type of kickoff. To ensure the new practices are adopted, Garg suggests “Continue to reinforce the concepts and ideas that were introduced at the kickoff in the weeks and months afterward. This may be by way of sound bites from the event, or quick quizzes that let you check how much information has been retained, or that requires some further work.” Steve W Martin also suggests providing something tangible to take away, like a book on advanced sales strategies.
In the current business environment, nothing is constant. This makes innovation an important objective for many sales kickoffs. This doesn’t mean that your sales team has to be prepared to disrupt your industry, but as Snyder puts it, the objective is to tell your salespeople “We want you to approach the job differently. We want you to turn on your imagination and be creative. We have to think differently, we have to create a world for ourselves.”
Picking a theme that really matches the kind of innovation that you’re looking for. As Steve W Martin notes, “All sales forces go through periods of high and low morale. In this situation, the theme should be more commonsensical like “Better, Stronger, Faster,” which provides a platform that meeting presenters can use to talk about changes and upcoming improvements.” Other themes that he suggests include “Disrupt to Win” or “From Challengers to Champions”.
Speakers / Sessions
When choosing sessions, Snyder emphasizes the importance of providing data on why innovation is required, “Speakers are often industry speakers who’ve done research and can provide that data.” He also highlights the need to think differently, “We want to make sure we do teamwork and assignments in these kick-offs so people get the opportunity to work with the people they don’t really see. We get a lot of cross-pollination and creativity.”
“A powerful way to demonstrate innovative thinking is by crowdsourcing ideas and using video to for storytelling and success stories. Get your reps to show their peers how they thought out of the box and the impact it had on their prospects and customers. It’s both inspirational and aspirational,” explains Garg.
The key outcome here is to ensure that the innovative and creative thoughts aren’t left at the kickoff. Garg suggests, “Use sound bites of videos and presentations from the event and push these out over the following weeks and months. You can also use online social tools to encourage your reps to continue to share ideas with the broader team, regardless of their location. Sales managers can also reinforce the new ideas in their regular team meetings.”