At the beginning of every fiscal year, organizations hold their annual sales kick-off meeting, aka SKO to bring their sales professionals, sales leaders and other colleagues from marketing and customer success, on the same page. Planning such meetings is important while keeping all the minute details in mind like

  • agenda,
  • previous year performance reports,
  • awards & rewards,
  • top performers,
  • new strategies and the plan to carry out those strategies

All the aforementioned points are an integral part of every successful SKO because you need to provide the value against the time that will be spent by the attendees of this meeting.

“SKO serves as the beginning of the organization’s overall sales learning and readiness” – Jim Ninivaggi, Chief Readiness Officer, Brainshark

How difficult can that be? Why should I need to plan such an event!

Bringing together people from all over your organization at the same place for discussing something as crucial as your sales strategy is no doubt the most important part of your entire business process.

“Many sales professional don’t find kick-off meetings to be meaningful learning events”Brainshark

Industry leaders believe that with all the online learning and communication happening in this modern business era, the SKO is no longer necessary.

“We’re so reliant on technology, people are wanting an in-person experience” – Amy Franko, Founder and President, Impact Instruction Group

However, she advises that these live experiences have to be meaningful and must provide opportunities for connection and learning.

How should a sales kick-off meeting be planned?

The first step for organizing your sales kick-off meeting is to plan it around

  • bringing your entire sales team together,
  • sharing best practices, product updates and new sales strategies, and
  • getting everyone revitalized to bring in new sales.

Planning a sales kick-off meeting means you need to get your invitees free for two-three days. Many deem it as wastage of precious selling time! Even your upper management will not accept such investment as they will count it as lost opportunity cost. It is a huge investment for every sales driven organization.

To make a sales kick-off meeting successful, you must plan it in such a manner that it should make your sales department feel

  • inspired,
  • confident,
  • valued.

They must feel ready than ever to engage with new leads and close more sales in lesser amount of time.

Managing the SKO!

Starting your SKO with a flare adds to its success, also, it keeps the attendees enthusiastic and gives them something to look forward to!

  1. Educate your sales reps
  2. Engage your sales reps
  3. Energize them towards their purpose

1. Educate your sales reps

Proper knowledge of the agenda or the strategies for sale always helps in defining a path to your sales team. Your sales reps need to know your products thoroughly, if they want to experience successful sale. You must make them up-to-speed with your latest sales strategies and initiative, for making better sales. In their routine life, with the humongous amount of communication occurring at the workplace, your sales reps will miss some key information. This is where you must inculcate the practice of sharing your strategies with them either in print or digital form so that it stay fresh in the mind.

2. Engage your sales reps

Managers know if they have the best sales reps in their team or not! If you are aware of the talent that your team possesses, why waste it by not allowing them to share their thoughts, ideas, and best practices? Sales kick-off meetings empower sales people who wouldn’t normally get a platform for talking about their most common routine challenges, frustrations they face while chasing leads and customers, and the solutions they think may ease their sales process. Make your sales reps engaged with the rest of the team, the knowledge of their contribution towards the sales team goal keeps them motivated.

3. Energize them towards their purpose

Yes, you are handing out bonus to your top performers, however, there are more important things than money and commission; purpose. Sales kick-off meetings allow business owners, managers and team leads to infuse motivational energy into their team. It enables them to connect their team to a larger purpose, and let reps feel connected to the work they are doing. Bringing an electrifying keynote speaker or organizing an awards presentation will definitely keep your team pumped-up for achieving their sales goals.

Tips for ensuring a successful SKO execution

SKO’s are like an investment in your company’s future and in your sales team members. For ensuring a successful SKO event execution, we are sharing a few tips that have been divided into three phases:

  1. Before the Meeting
  2. During the Meeting
  3. After the Meeting

1. Before the Meeting

Your SKO’s success start way before the meeting itself, via proper planning and training & coaching of your sales team members. It is crucial that sales and L&D leaders determine a clear vision, theme and goals for their sales kick-offs. Having these elements provide a path that can be followed for the sales kick-off’s success.

For instance, your CEO has a key objective around revenue growth. Make it one of your kick-off pillars. Plan your content and get the relevant metrics designed to make progress toward CEO’s objective.

“84 percent of companies don’t deliver training before SKOs, and 41 percent of respondents said they wanted just that” – Brainshark survey

Another instance, Your company will soon launch a major campaign or a new product. You must approach this as an opportunity to train and certify sales managers before the SKO. Once you do this, when the SKO kick starts, your trained team can come in handy to the managers attending the event in understanding more about the initiative. To help the reps, you can share video, or some other content tied to the SKO goals before the event.

“New methodologies and skills should be learned ahead of time rather than during the SKO” – Ninivaggi

Ninivaggi adds that managers must train the sales reps to be accountable for completing the pre-work of SKO. A detailed preparation of the rep ensures that effective time is spent on the day SKO is scheduled.

2. During the Meeting

Once you start your meeting, everyone attending the meeting must be well aware of the agenda, the future plans and the strategies that will be used to carry out these sales plans! Sales reps must spend most of their hours during the SKO

  • networking and building relationships
  • learning about the company’s vision
  • how the sales goals tie to that vision
  • engaging with leaders
  • building selling skills

When the meeting commences, stick to the topics that cannot be covered if this SKO was done digitally. Make the format such that the participants do not feel that there time is being spent on some unproductive meeting. Especially, focus on the part where you provide time for networking.

“Over half of respondents wish their SKOs were more interactive” – Brainshark Survey

Plan your SKO’s in a way that can inspire your sales professionals, make them more excited about what they’re selling and start the year with high morale.

3. After the Meeting

“More than seven out of 10 organizations don’t deliver post-work or follow-up training” – Brainshark survey

Reinforcement and follow-up is key to sustaining what your team members will learn during SKOs. Share presentations or slide decks with managers and reps for references and keep using the SKO theme and messages throughout the year.

Reinforcement must include ownership by both the managers and reps for their accountability to extend their SKO learning and consistently practice it over time. Managers are the key to successful reinforcement of SKO learnings.

“The sales manager’s job is to drive mastery among reps. They should provide ongoing and tailored coaching, holding reps accountable to activity metrics, and closely monitor the sales pipeline and results for easy and early intervention.” Amy Franko

You must measure the impact of your SKO by identifying the metrics ahead of time based on your goals.

For instance, your company is going to introduce a new strategy, methodology or new products, evaluate success at these times:

Immediately after the SKO speak to your reps.

“Will the reps successfully execute this new strategy that will get implemented after the SKO?”

One or two months after the SKO.

“Are the sales reps having the type of conversations and meetings discussed during the SKO?”

Another month or so later.

“Are there enough opportunities in the pipeline for that new product we launched during the SKO?”

Finally, after about another month.

“Are we seeing the desired revenue closing?”

“It’s a myth that people don’t want live events or to meet in person,” Franko.

Sales professionals thrive on building relationships with their colleagues as well as clients. That’s how sales actually works. You make connection with your contact and treat them well before asking them to try your product as a solution to their problems.

Let’s help you plan your mega sales kick-off

Have you ever wondered that sharing your own back-story regarding your first deal, your first win, your lost deals, and how you cope under pressure will come in handy for your sales team? Yes, you hire those candidates that have previous experiences, however, everyone’s experience differs.

Sharing your story with the attendees in your SKO sparks inspiration and insights that help them fulfil their dreams of achieving success as yours!

Schedule around three panels that will comprise of your highest-performing sellers. Ask them to discuss their biggest deals –

  • How they started the sales conversation?
  • How the process went?
  • Which obstacles they encountered?
  • How they got past them?

You must include one tactical sales training session. This is because even at the peak of success, the hunger of learning more and knowing various things keep the salespeople motivated. Give your sales reps plenty of insights and new selling techniques to try for the upcoming fiscal year.

Networking is another major ingredient of a great sales kick-off. Networking is the great time for bringing all the members of your organization, including your sales team, in one place. Motivate your sales reps to forge valuable connections and ask them to turn these connections into

  • valuable mentorships,
  • informal peer training,
  • friendship, and
  • deal collaborations.

Oh yes, you must include the contents of how your sales team did last year, what were the strategies used and how many were beneficial. You have to mention the strategy and goals that have been set for the coming fiscal year.

Let’s plan an itinerary for your SKO

This is just a mock schedule and will depend on the number of days you are planning your SKO.

1. Welcome speech followed with breakfast

  • The host(s) introduce themselves and welcomes everyone, thanking them for taking time out of their schedule.
  • The schedule for the next day or two is read out mentioning the fun activities that will be done to keep them entertained and excited.
  • Carry out the welcome speech with other crucial elements like thanking your sponsors if any, clients who have funded the event, if any and then proceed to the breakfast event.
  • It gets them going as they will need energy for the further proceedings, won’t they?

2. Year-in review

  • Discuss your last year’s numbers.
  • Stress upon the highlights and underline the lowlights for further discussion.
  • Mention the major industry your business saw success with.
  • Include the developments that were made to the products or services.

3. Breakout session

  • Divide reps into small groups and assign them small skills-based sales training.
  • Sending a pre-work helps smooth conduct of the training sessions as they get done on familiar information and concepts.

4. Lunch

  • Though lunch is all about food, encourage your reps to have a networking session.
  • A light chat never hurts, especially while having food.

5. Marketing updates

  • Let the chief marketing officer (CMO) or the vice president (VP) of marketing mention the initiatives their department is planning for the upcoming fiscal year.
  • Ask them to include how these initiatives will helps sales teams make more money for the organization.

6. Live call

  • This is optional. You can either have alive demo call.
  • Make attendees listen to one of the best sales call recordings of your top sales performer.
  • It is a great way to make your kick-off engaging to the attendees.

7. Fun networking opportunity

  • Mix work with fun and frolic.
  • Have your sales team perform on a funny skit that revolves around their own line of work.
  • Host a jeopardy-style quiz.
  • Ask your sales reps to decide between real customers from the fake ones.
  • Keep interesting prizes.

8. Competitive review

  • Your sales enablement team will discuss about the competition.
  • How and where they’re a true threat and where they are fall short.
  • Let your attendees play a persona of a different competitor.

9. Closing speech

  • Ask you CEO or VP of sales to take the stage and summarizing the kick-off’s highlights.
  • Ask them if they have understood the true agenda of this year’s SKO.
  • Thank your team for making this meeting possible.
  • Ask for feedback via digital media such as web-form.

10. Happy hour activity

  • Hold a happy hour (optional).
  • You can keep your meeting alcohol-free too.
  • Include some interesting games such as paintball, laser tag, a quick cooking class, scavenger hunt, escape the room, etc.

11. Group dinner

  • Let your sales reps capitalize on the connection they made during the lunch time.
  • It is also an ideal time to meet new faces and make new connections for your sales reps.
  • Keep it optional for those who want to leave and get back home (some attendees might live too far).

Concluding thoughts

  • Hosting style of the SKO depends on company’s budget, industry they serve and the nod from the upper management.
  • We are not asking you to spread your neck out of the comfort zone and organize four, or even five-day kick-offs.
  • It’s unlikely every session will turn out to be relevant to the attendees.
  • Salespeople would really want to get back to their regular responsibilities and start trying to implement what they have learnt.

Sales kick-off meeting is an opportunity that helps in

  • Reuniting your sales team
  • Building fellowship
  • Educating them about the tools and processes they need to compete in today’s cutthroat environment.

As a business owner, manager or leader, you must take advantage of such a unique opportunity. Great companies definitely will like to invest their money and resources in preparing their team for the competition. We know the task of gathering resources and people for pulling off such events seems daunting. However, if you have a smart workflow automation tool besides you, the task will become less time consuming.

Using workflow automation, managers can notify their team regarding the SKO via email, or text messages. The smart workflows will keep you updated about who has opened your email and has read the content. Assign tasks to your sales team members and assign them various duties in an automated manner and keep a track if they are working toward it or not.

Ease yourself from the shackles of manual labor and experience the power of automation with Salesmate CRM. Salesmate sales CRM, with its workflow automation functionality, takes the guesswork and busywork out of your entire business process. It also provides you with a unified view of your entire data and enables easy customization to suit your various requirements.

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A writer with an uncommon funny bone and a knack for perfection, Saptarshi loves to write about anything that can be of help to businesses, people, and dogs! A true human at heart, he likes to spend most of his time researching the internet to find ways technology is influencing our daily life (positively).