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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to Prepare an Awesome Sales Kick Off Meeting

How to Prepare an Awesome Sales Kick Off Meeting

Every year the sales kick off ritual takes place around the world in January. In some cases it’s at a location out of province or even country and in some cases it’s at a convention center in town, regardless of the location it’s an ideal time to get sales aligned with marketing and operations. It is also a time to celebrate success and inspire the team to a new year of successful sales
Planning this pep rally requires an awesome agenda delivered with style and leadership.

What is the purpose of the Sales Kick Off?

  • ·         Communicate the corporate vison and strategy
  • ·         Network with peers
  • ·         Announce new products
  • ·         Provide the new product and services roadmap
  • ·         Deliver high impact training
  • ·         Recognize and reward success
  • ·         Engage and align with marketing and Operations
  • ·         Inspire and motivate the attendees
  • ·         Understand failures and outline remedial plans

Get it right and there is happiness, get it wrong and the disappointment starts as the bills get paid.
Every year it’s a new theme which provides the backdrop for t-shirts, swag and slide backgrounds. I have been to these things where 1200 sales people get to hear Tony Robbins and where 62 people get a miserable slide deck and Chinese buffet. Regardless of the budget or attendee size it’s important to have the right elements for success.

The Agenda

The agenda can be broken down into 5 key areas that needs to be addressed

1.       The Corporate Vision
Now that everyone is in the room you have the ability for the C Suite to communicate the corporate vision and strategy for the year.

Marketing is next up, the product managers’ start sharing the product initiaves and road maps.
The last messaging is from the sales leadership team with growth, innovation, sales strategy, value proposition are the key buzz words.

Sales operations may also join the stage outlining the new quotas, incentives and performance expectations.
 I think every last item on the list is telling everyone where the next President Club location is.
Ok Now its lunch time and the buffet gets busy.

Depending on the length of the kick off, usually the teams break out into department tracks with more in depth workshops and sessions.
Partners and vendors usually host these sessions and the evening is usually the trade show or vendor fair.

Networking Opportunities
Attendees have the opportunity to network with their co-workers and is the most useful for those that are in other branch office locations as well as to make contacts with the partners.vendors.
This is a very important part of any kick off because it provides a chance to build relationships that will be very valuable in sales scrums later on in the year.
The sales rally should include opportunities for activities that promote networking, cross team building and old fashioned conversation. This can be wrapped into team activities.

After all those costs to gather everyone across the country in a single location it would seem natural to offer training to the sales teams. This can turn into a big waste of money because in many cases there is just too much information being transmitted and it becomes a brain overload. Everything is forgotten by the time the bar opens, and the ability to concentrate becomes difficult. It would be better to align some training tied to guest speakers or team and breakout activity. I recall attending a 5 day kick off that was held in two hotels with a back to back 8am to 6pm agenda. More time was spent running around trying to get to the sessions you chose, get your passport stamped and results in picking up another binder of information.
Competitive Insights are easy to address and more useful and can include some light training.
Key Win Sessions are also a great way to demonstrate the path to success that was followed and a chance to showcase the key differentiators or sales strategy.
Training should occur a few weeks after the kick off and aligning it to the event theme helps keep the branding and messaging consistent. This is more effective as retention is better and can be delivered virtually.

Sales Operations
The compensation team has their chance to outline and communicate the new game plan. It’s also the time to discuss any sales automation plans, process changes and how to make “ club “. Time this session carefully because if you are doubling quota and halving commissions then don’t start the event on a bad note.

Humans love social settings and making connections and they also love motivation. The kick off is a great time to celebrate the success of the previous year with the winners circle but also talk about key wins, and those that contributed to the company success (hint: celebrate the support team and other departments). Contests, draws, incentives are all ways to bring motivation and competition to incite more sales. It is very helpful to offer programs that will reward sales in new products, cross selling, bundling or service contracts in place of just making a routine sale.

The Speaker Team
It’s wonderful to listen to Tony Robbins live, or have a sports star talk about their career and how they faced adversity or how the latest sales guru achieved success and this all depends on the budget. Regardless of who is chosen ensure it is relevant, inspiring and aligned to the corporate goals. I find it very powerful to include customer’s testimonials and a chance for them to get on stage and tell everyone how great you are.  The message is motivation and a chance to learn from an expert. Seek out experts within your company to also be on stage as it is a low cost option and inspires a better culture.
High impact speakers will do more for you than celebrity speakers that have weak stage presence. Again it is all about the budget, the message being reinforced and sometimes the theme.

The after party and entertainment is also a chance to spend money that the partners and vendors pay for. It could be Bruno Mars at a Salesforce event or Hootie and the Blowfish as the Nortel band. Frankly, I found the B-52s to be the most intriguing but it can be casino night, team scavenger hunts or ping pong (that is actually true). Most of the time the entertainment is part of the event theme. So a tropical event may have Jimmy Buffet up on stage. As long as it is fun, promotes engagement and has an open bar then the event team will get a top mark in the survey for this category.
I recall the value an attendee got from a 30s Al Capone themed casino party event: “Thanks for this party and for having top shelf liquor available and open for more than 2 hours. I drank a ton and will feel it tomorrow”. Most enjoyed the evening as it was a lot of fun and it was the theme that turned a boring casino night into a more engaging event. Today, the 2 drink ticket is the norm so plan accordingly.

Open Forum
Transparency and listening to our employees a mission statement line item? Regardless if it is or not I would suggest an open microphone to have the brave to ask questions of senior management.


Kick offs that are low budget but are fun and inspiring have a longer lasting stickiness than those that are blow out affairs that have too many slides and too many sessions.

Balance the sessions to have serious slides, fun slides and breaks in between with a suitable pace. Avoid the “We cannot afford 3 days so we are packing it into 2 days with 14 hours of sessions the first day and 8 hours the second”. That becomes overwhelming.

The Time Bell: To avoid the whole thing falling apart ensure that the times be adhered to. Attendance tracking is also important to ensure attendees actually attend. I have seen doors locked after 15 minutes of a start with the gatekeepers taking notes of those who are late.

Not Having a Kick off? That is a mistake and will prove costly in the long run so it will be better to have a 1 day light event. If travel costs are prohibitive the travelling kick off road show with the executives is a good idea.

Swag needs careful consideration to avoid being thrown out. How many caps, pens and T-shirts must be included in the registration bag? If the vendor partners are paying for it or the company is why not think about providing useful stuff like a cellphone battery packs, productivity tools, mobile or laptop stuff. Actually, have the attendees bring food for a local food bank in return for an “I gave T Shirt”. All those squishy balls, rulers, and tape measure flashlights are always left behind for the hotel maids to give to their kids or sell on eBay.

Mid-term metrics
I have been with a couple of companies that are very much quarter driven and have a mid-term kick off. This is done to measure the sales numbers, celebrate any contest activity, refocus the objectives and bring in training elements. This activity keeps the momentum strong and is usually done at a local level with some national broadcasting happening but training should not be included at this event. The reason for this is that if you are bringing training in mid-year then it’s too late to cause an impact in the year end numbers. Solution Selling or Advisor Skills need to be taught at the beginning of the year to get the most impact. A big prize contest will drive motivation to close harder.

Virtual Kick Offs
We have the technology to do these events in a virtual format and I doubt they offer any effectiveness. I have attended similar product kick offs that last a day and the attention span of the viewer is too short. I can log in, go enjoy a 3 hour lunch and ask some questions at 4pm to show that I was active in the session. Most people will fiddle around doing other things and not pay attention. I think a hybrid approach can be more useful with a mix of a broadcast and local activity sessions mixed in. 

In this case, the head office could have the broadcast messages pushed out to the enterprise and then local activity taking place at the branch offices. The branch manager can take his team out for dinner and tie in a team activity. The vendor sessions can also be spread out virtually with local swagging taking place during the session with local presence.

A successful Sales Kick Off requires advance planning and coordination among the sales and marketing departments. It is a chance to inform, educate and motivate the sales team while aligned to corporate objectives and have the closers hit the ground running after the event.