Ten Sales Kickoff (SKO) Insights You Can’t Afford to Miss

Now is a better time than ever for your sales team to align their goals, motivations, and strategies for the upcoming year (and beyond). And one of the best ways to do this? With a sales kickoff (SKO). 

As powerful as these meetings can be, they often lack direction or fall victim to several other SKO mistakes many organizations make. But with the guidance of David Nour, CEO of Nour Group, we will prepare you to have the most effective sales kickoffs. We’ll do this, in part, by ensuring you don’t make the ten biggest SKO mistakes we often see. Beyond that, we’ll also share some ideas to consider to make your sales kickoffs as effective as possible.

10 Biggest SKO Mistakes

To make this as digestible as possible, we’ll break down the SKO mistakes into three groups: the ones that happen before, during, and after SKOs.

SKO Mistakes: Before

Direction is far more critical and strategic than speed

Before diving into the event planning, clarify your direction for your SKO. This is far more important than rushing to organize it. It’s not about how quickly you can assemble everything; it’s about having a clear strategic purpose. A successful SKO should align with your company’s long-term objectives and set the tone for the entire year.

Lack of credibility

When selecting speakers or presenters for your SKO, they must be credible. The people who take the stage should have experience and expertise in the subject matter. They need to be individuals who:

  • Have been in the trenches
  • Faced the challenges
  • Can genuinely relate to your sales team

Hearing from those who have walked in those shoes adds authenticity and trustworthiness to the content.

Lack of pre-event engagement

One common mistake is treating the SKO as a standalone event. The engagement with your sales team should start well before the actual kickoff. Consider hosting a series of webinars or information-sharing sessions leading up to the SKO. For one thing, this provides valuable content. But simultaneously, it also sets the stage for the main event.

Remember, a successful SKO is more than just a one-time gathering—it’s alsoabout building a continuous journey toward growth and success.

Neglecting skills development

Many organizations focus on delivering information during the SKO but neglect skill development. Your sales team needs practical takeaways to improve their performance. Consider incorporating sessions on creating battle cards, enhancing business acumen, and other skills relevant to their roles. This is a missed opportunity to equip your team with the tools they need to excel.

Okay, we’ve covered the common mistakes made before a sales kickoff. Next, it’s time to get into the challenges that might pop up during the actual SKO.

We also share strategies for your next critical business relationship meeting here—don’t miss it!

SKO Mistakes: During

Overemphasis on external motivation

It’s far too easy to fall into the trap of trying to motivate your team solely from external sources during an SKO. Sure, inspiration is a must. But true motivation? It tends to be intrinsic. Instead of relying solely on external rewards or incentives, focus on inspiring your sales team to tap into their own intrinsic motivation for greatness.

Encourage them to:

  • Set personal goals
  • Find their passion
  • Connect their work to a more profound sense of purpose within the organization

Information overload and lack of connection

SKOs can sometimes become overwhelming due to the sheer amount of content presented. Trying to cram too much information into a short time frame would be a mistake. To maximize the value of your SKO, consider sharing vital information beforehand, allowing your team to digest it at their own pace.

During the SKO, prioritize meaningful interactions and discussions over lengthy presentations.

Remember, people gather for two main reasons: content and community. Creating more meaningful conversations and connections opportunities will prove more impactful than overwhelming your team with presentations.

Treating SKO as an event, not a process

Technically speaking, an SKO is an event. That said, it’s not a one-time event—rather, it’s a process. Events are often transactional and have a short-lived impact. A continuous process, on the other hand, makes a lasting impact.

Here’s one productive idea: hosting a webinar series leading up to the SKO for information sharing and pre-engagement. During the SKO, emphasize how it’s not just an event but a part of a larger journey. Post-SKO, maintain ongoing communication and support to keep the momentum going.

Lack of guidance on content utilization

Often, valuable content presented during SKOs doesn’t get fully utilized afterward. This is a missed opportunity in a few ways. 

For starters, you miss out on the chance to reinforce learning. The Rule of 7 is a well-established principle that says consumers must encounter something seven times to really stick—so take advantage of getting to repeat your most important points any chance you get. But this doesn’t just relate to consumers—the same can be said for much of the information you relay to your team.

Secondly, you also can’t drive actionable results the same way. Provide guidance on how your sales team can apply the knowledge gained during the SKO, whether it’s:

  • Creating battle cards
  • Improving their business acumen
  • Implementing new strategies

Encourage them to actively use the insights from the SKO to drive results in their day-to-day work.

With these key insights into what can go wrong during your sales kickoff, it’s time to now turn to the post-SKO phase and how to ensure your efforts continue to bear fruit long after the event wraps.

SKO Mistakes: After

Neglecting post-event analysis

Don’t forget to conduct a thorough post-event analysis, or you risk losing out on many of the benefits these events offer in the first place. Begin by evaluating what worked and what didn’t. Analyze the performance of specific accounts, strategies, and initiatives discussed during the SKO. Identify gaps and areas that could use some attention.

Without this analysis, you may miss valuable insights that could shape your sales strategy for the coming year.

Ignoring the impact on individuals

A successful SKO should benefit the organization, of course. But don’t overlook the benefits to the individuals within the sales team, too. Consider how attending the SKO made people better off. Did they acquire new skills, gain valuable knowledge, or develop a different perspective on their roles? Encourage individuals to reflect on how they can lead differently based on their SKO experience. 

Lack of follow-up and accountability

Many SKOs feature extensive content presentations, but few organizations follow up to ensure the content resonates and makes a difference. Establish a system of follow-up and accountability—this will be a game-changer moving forward.

Assign action items and responsibilities to team members based on the SKO learnings. Set clear expectations for how the information and strategies discussed during the event will be applied in the field. And, of course, regular check-ins and progress assessments will make sure the SKO’s impact endures.

This all goes to show that a successful sales kickoff goes beyond the event itself. 

Rather, it’s a holistic process that encompasses:

  • Pre-event planning
  • A focused and engaging event
  • A post-event strategy for ongoing improvement

Successful SKOs: More Ideas for Your Consideration

We’ve covered the big guns, and now you know the best practices and mistakes to avoid before, during, and after SKOs. But we’re not done. We’re still overflowing with info we think you can’t afford to miss, and we want your SKOs to be as successful as possible. 

Considerations Before SKOs

  1. Tailored agenda: Keep in mind that only some attendees are the same. Customize your SKO agenda based on how people are wired. Conduct an assessment 30 days before to understand their preferences (perhaps left-brained or right-brained as it relates to sales) and adjust your content accordingly.
  2. Collaborative agenda creation: Foster engagement by sharing the SKO agenda and potential speakers with attendees, allowing them to vote or provide input. This collaborative approach ensures the content resonates with their interests and needs.
  3. Outcome-centric approach: Prioritize understanding of what outcomes are integral to your SKO attendees. Ask them how they will benefit from the event and encourage independent perspectives on which topics should be included in the agenda.

Considerations During SKOs

  1. Internal expert involvement: Consider bringing in internal experts who understand your organization’s culture and values. Their insights can bridge the gap between SKO content and company objectives, adding depth to your event.
  2. Create meaningful circles: Encourage smaller, intimate discussion circles during the SKO. Relationships are built in circles, not just rows and columns. These circles facilitate deeper connections and discussions beyond traditional presentations.

Considerations After SKOs

  1. Content presenter involvement: Content presenters should actively engage in the field. Encourage them to witness how their insights are put into practice, fostering a deeper connection between theory and real-world application.
  2. Ongoing webinars: Maintain momentum and support by hosting a series of post-SKO webinars. These implement the knowledge gained during the event. That way, it doesn’t remain theoretical but is actively applied.
  3. Diverse perspectives: Recognize the limitations of a one-size-fits-all mentality. Engage with individuals with experience across different industries, cadences, and approaches. Embrace diverse perspectives to foster innovation and adaptability within your team.

Want to dive even deeper into running your best SKOs yet? Connect with David Nour on LinkedIn today or contact the Nour Group here.

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A senior leadership/board advisor, educator, executive coach, and bestselling author, David Nour, is internationally recognized as the leading expert on applications of strategic relationships in profitable growth, sustained innovation, and lasting change.

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