The last couple of years have been challenging for businesses and employees alike. The pandemic changed how businesses functioned and forced employees, especially sales teams, to rewrite what it means to be successful. They had to revamp their working methods and hunt high and low to ensure a steady pipeline. With an impending economic downturn and the last quarter around the corner, it is all the more important to ensure that sales teams start the new year fully equipped to tackle any challenges. This is where sales kick-offs come in.
While sales kick-offs have been conducted for decades now, times have changed. To help organizations adapt to the changing needs of their business, we have come up with an exclusive blog series on sales kick-offs. This is the first part of the 4-part series, where we discuss everything you need to know about sales kick-offs and share quick tips and tricks for a successful sales kick-off next year and beyond. Read along.
What Is A Sales Kick-Off?
A sales kick-off is an annual event held predominantly for the sales teams of an organization. The ultimate objective of the event is to motivate the sales reps, managers, and leaders, lay out the strategy for the upcoming year, recognize the achievements of the past year, and train the entire organization for success in the coming months.
The primary attendees of an organization's sales kick-offs are its sales team (sales, sales operations, sales enablement, sales leaders), marketing, product team, training team, and executive leadership team.
Why Should You Care About Sales Kick-Offs?
Sales kick-offs are a great way to get your entire team together for a day or two. It helps stimulate conversation, build rapport, and share ideas across the organization. Sales kick-offs also ensure your teams are on the same page and are focused on improving your sales.
The pandemic has forced organizations worldwide to adapt to the new normal. Sales kick-offs act as a fantastic collaborative event that ensures everyone on the team, old and new, is updated about the changes that have taken place. It helps train them for upcoming challenges and be ready to face them.
Needless to say, sales kick-offs help boost the energy levels and the confidence of the sales teams significantly. An enthralling speaker, an awards ceremony, or a small break to just cheer for your colleagues are all excellent ways to infuse enthusiasm into your meeting. It also helps instill positivity within teams, which would surely help in the coming months.
The New Normal Of Virtual Sales Kick-Offs
While one part of the world is gearing up for the traditional, face-to-face sales kick-offs, others have fully embraced the virtual world. Businesses worldwide are looking for cool new technology to help them conduct engaging and effective virtual sales kick-offs. Today, tons of cutting-edge technology is available to make a virtual event as engaging as an offline event. With unique VR event platforms that have high-end gamification features, data-led processes, and exclusive learning and development tools available at the click of a button, virtual sales kick-offs are set to be showstoppers this year.
Three Pillars Of A Kickass Sales Kick-off
Whether it is happening face-to-face or virtually, there are a few necessary elements to a sales kick-off. Here are the top three pillars of a successful sales kick-off.
- Networking opportunities
With remote work taking over the world in the last two years, many employees haven't had the chance to meet their teams. While they might have been collaborating for months together, they might not be able to identify each other in a crowd. Sales kick-offs allow you to network with your teams and build strong relationships. One of the core objectives of sales kick-off networking is to help people communicate openly, share ideas, and experience camaraderie. When businesses invest in developing trust and rapport among their employees, they may see significant productivity and organizational health increases.
- Success stories
One of the main agendas of sales kick-offs is to recognize successful team members and award them for their achievements in the previous year. You can go a step ahead and also recognize your clients' successes during the event. These stories act as excellent motivators for your teams to do better. They also help demonstrate what works best for your organization and can inspire others to take action. Sales teams are known to be competitive, and these recognitions can help boost their morale tremendously.
- Learning & development
While sales kick-offs are known for building strategies and looking at past performance, it is also a process that involves a tremendous amount of learning and development. Organizations take this opportunity to train all their old and new employees for what's to come in the following year. They also discuss the roadmap, new features, and more to help the teams sell more efficiently.
Things To Consider Before Planning Your Sales Kick-Off
Planning a sales kick-off that helps align, inspire, and connect your teams can seem daunting if not done considering a few key things:
In most cases, sales kick-offs take place in January or February. That way, the teams are back from their year-end vacation and ready for a fresh start. While planning for your sales kick-off, be it online, offline, or hybrid, ensure you are also mindful of your team's comfort. For example, if you are opting to have a virtual sales kick-off, it would make sense to fix a time that works for teams across geographies. Similarly, if you are going for a hybrid event with most employees physically present, ensure you engage the virtual attendees. Also, while choosing a venue for your event, select a city that isn't too far off for your employees. It isn't fair to expect employees to immediately commute long distances after the sales kick-off and work the next day.
The thought of your entire team attending an event can sound expensive, but it doesn't have to be. With proper pre-planning, you can be mindful of all the expenses that might occur and set your budget accordingly. Whether in-person, virtual, or hybrid, sales kick-offs require the same amount of pre-planning of 6 to 8 months. Since most sales kick-offs happen in January or February, ensure you set a date and book your venue at least 4-6 months in advance. These events also have keynote speakers and other panelists. You can either choose to have an internal speaker or go for an external one. For external speakers, there may be a bureau fee that can range from a few thousand dollars for lesser-known speakers to hundreds of thousands for prominent individuals. Determine the theme for your sales kick-off and book your speakers in advance.
Also, be mindful of the travel expenses of your speakers and attendees. In case of in-person events, be prepared to consider the food and beverage charges. Swag bags also need to be taken into account when planning the budget. If you are opting for a virtual sales kick-off, be sure to start looking at demos on virtual event platforms, content management tools, virtual engagement tools, etc. With many options available in the market today, identifying the one that fits your requirements and the budget will require time.
These are just a few of the things to consider. Make sure to know your budget and key objectives in advance to avoid scope creep. This will help prioritize must-haves over the nice-to-haves.
If you've ever been a part of sales kick-off, you know how content-rich it can be. The schedule for sales kick-offs needs to be planned meticulously so as not to bore the attendees. As scandalous as it sounds, having hour-long speaking sessions and presentations is not a great way to ensure your teams are focused. Include networking breaks, fun activities, and internal meetings in your agenda. Today, many organizations even hire stand-up comedians, dancers, musicians, and more to entertain their teams in between the speaker sessions. You can also include some team-building activities to encourage networking among new hires and current employees.
8 Tips For A Successful Sales Kick-Off
- Have a dedicated team to plan and execute the sales kick-off. Reach out to people who have attended/organized sales kick-offs in your organization previously and learn what worked for them and what didn't. If needed, leverage the help of event organizers who specialize in conducting such business events.
- Know the "why" behind your sales kick-off and spread awareness. Sure, sales kick-offs are great for an organization, but what is the WHY behind the SKO for your organization? Determine the answer to this question and plan the entire event around this theme. Be it 'to build internal trust and improve morale' or 'to improve the sales pipeline and grow revenue,' knowing the main objective of your sales kick-off is key to a successful event.
- Get the right speakers who know sales. Often, organizations get tempted by fads and influencers and end up spending $$$$$ on speakers whose area of expertise is far from the company's vision. Do your research and rope in speakers who are experts in your domain. One good way to do this would be to check out LinkedIn and Twitter for industry experts, review their previous event videos, and determine if they would be the right speaker for your theme.
- Leverage technology. Be it a face-to-face event or an online event, leveraging technology can only escalate the experience. For example, conduct in-meeting surveys, share content via your sales enablement platform, have trivia contests, and more with the ocean of options available today.
- Remember, sales kick-offs are not a once-and-done thing. Be sure to record your sessions and share the content with your teams after the event. That way, they can access the sessions any time after the event. If you have a creative team, you can also create recap videos or 'Year in review' videos that highlight the top achievements, fun activities, and more that occurred in the past year. It not only refreshes everyone's memories but also acts as a catalyst in motivating the teams to do better.
- Invite some of your current customers to the event. Ultimately, your sales teams are trying to provide solutions for your customers, and what better way to understand the customers' needs than by interacting with them? Their stories provide a narrative that sales can leverage after the SKO - the pain points, why they selected your solution, and the benefits to date.
- Communicate important information throughout the event. The tendency may be to share all the important information on the first day. However, this will overload your team and lower overall retention. Rather, determine how to trickle the information throughout a 2-3 day event, so sales remains focused on the content. Use post-event training to further reinforce the information.
- Promote two-way engagement. Often, sales kick-offs end up being a linear event where the sales teams are hardly asked to share their opinion. Ensure you have a plan for a healthy feedback process. Understand what the sales teams feel about the event, what challenges they face while out in the field, what they think can help them achieve better results, and more by proactively asking for feedback.
Conclusion: Turbocharge Your Year
Sales kick-offs can be a game-changer for your organization. When planned right, it is an excellent enabler for your sales teams and helps accelerate revenue growth multifold. By the end of this blog series, you will know everything you need to about planning a killer sales kick-off for the upcoming year. Do you have any other tips from your previous sales kick-offs? Let us know in the comments below.
Download the Essential Guide to a Successful Sales Kick Off for tips and best practices.