How To Have A Sales Kickoff That Doesn’t Suck

What makes a killer sales kickoff meeting?

  • Is the review of numbers?  Sort of…
  • Is it the announcement of a new product, service, feature set?  Perhaps…
  • Is it the Rah-Rah speech from the CEO?  Maybe…
  • Is it the announcement of new marketing initiatives to support lead generation and demand generation efforts?  Getting warmer…

What really sets the best sales kickoff meetings apart from the mediocre ones is making sure you provide your sales team with something more valuable than they had before they walked into the sales kickoff.

Often times people think a review of the numbers, new product announcements and marketing plans are good enough.

Unfortunately that is just a band-aid to the bigger issue at hand. The real issue is how do we help the sales team close more deals?

While product knowledge and marketing plans may align and influence this desired outcome, they don’t actually provide as much impact to the desired outcomes:

  • Increased closed ratios
  • Improving discovery of opportunities
  • Improving and qualification of opportunities
  • Improving forecasts

If you do not focus on improving a particular skill set through sales training and coaching while at the sales kickoff, then all you will be doing is accelerating the suck factor by increasing the likelihood of more show-up and throw-up product knowledge all over your leads, prospects, and customers.

So here are a five tips you should follow when planning your Sales Kickoff Meeting:

  1. Define the behavior you want to change.
  2. Go in-depth and get specific on those behaviors.
  3. Role play / create interactive scenarios.
  4. Consider a sales trainer.
  5. Define who owns coaching.

Tip 1: Define the Behavior You Want to Change

You can do this by filling in the blanks to the following question:

After the SKO, we expect the Sales (SDR, Customer Success) Teams to be better at ____, ____, and ____.

Most of the time VPs of Sales will say something like “We want the sales team them to be better at discovery and closing”  

Now that’s a good start. But as they say, the devil is in the details.

Tip 2: Go In-Depth and Get Specific

When someone says discovery, here’s how you uncover the gold:

“That’s great, but let me ask you something, can you provide me with your definition of discovery as it relates to your organization? Are there specific instances you are seeing over and over in your pipeline review meetings that indicate a skill gap?”

Once you answer this, then you know exactly what you want your SKO training to encompass.

With this level of detail you can now begin to build your agenda in a more targeted way. You can include this in your communications with other department heads so they can help influence training even during their presentations to the sales teams.

But wait, there is more.

Tip 3: Role Play / Create Interactive Scenarios

Today’s sales professionals are eager to learn and do not mind role playing. They crave interactive communications. They crave feedback and thrive on the attention.

This is on contrast to the old guard of sales who often times act like a lone wolf thinking they don’t need it, find it beneath them, and think that SKOs and sales training is all the same.

You have a few options for these folks:

Option #1: Ask them to participate with a good attitude in a leadership capacity for the role playing.

Option #2: Ask them to participate by providing Real Play scenarios.

Real Play is having them describe a complex deal they sold somewhere in their profession and provide real insights on how they moved it forward. 

Option #3: Ask them to help build the role plays so they make sure people are learning something.

Option #4: Ask them to leave. Let’s face it, in many sales organizations there are just folks you cannot help because they cannot get out of their own way for whatever reason. So if they are going to be a distraction to the rest of the sales team let them leave the room with their negative energy. You’d be surprised how many will decide to stay and participate.

Tip 4: Consider A Sales Trainer

Many companies love to shake it up with a sales leader to come in and assist with the sales training portion of your SKO. Many sales trainers will actually come to a SKO and deliver something very solid that will work. Imagine how much better the training would be if you shared your insights from this exercise with your sales consultant?  Their material may not change a lot, but we can assure you the deliver and the execution will be stronger, provide more value, and allow for greater coaching after the sales kickoff.

Tip 5: Define Who Owns Coaching

Here is your final tip on delivering quality sales training and your sales kickoff meeting.  

Whatever sales skills you want your sales team to learn and improve upon, someone in the organization needs to own the coaching aspect post-SKO.

You need to build in real call coaching, call debriefing, and feedback into your routine as a sales leader or sales manager. There is no report, document, white paper, or book that can do more for the success of your sales team than real live coaching.

It can be management coaching, it can be peer-to-peer coaching. There are some amazing tools that can help you with coaching and feedback. They won’t do it for you, but they can help.

Failure to define sales coaching in a specific plan after any sales kickoff or sales training is the single biggest cause for the training to become useless in the minds of your sales team.

We’d love to hear from you, what are some of your best and worst experiences with SKOs?  

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