4 min read

Three tips to deliver a value-driving sales kickoff event

Sarah Green Toews

Head of Community & Content

It’s the most wonderful time of year (if you are sales enablement)–the quiet week or two between start-of-year kickoff events and what I like to call “high conference season.” As an enablement leader, it’s important to take this time to reflect on what’s gone well in our first quarter, what we need to carry through into the next, and most importantly to me, what we are measuring.

One of our key deliverables at the beginning of the year (as is the case for many sales enablement teams) is global sales kickoff. Many times, these events are the one time the entire sales organization will be together during a fiscal year. It’s always nice to be face to face. And surely there is some intrinsic value in having your customer-facing staff step away as one year transitions to the next; we need that time to reflect, celebrate successes, and set goals for the year ahead. That said, in an environment where budgets are under constant scrutiny and enablement is challenged to do more with the same (or sometimes fewer) resources: how do you shift sales kickoff from “same old meeting” to “value-driving event?”

We set out to accomplish just that in February.

First, we did our homework, relying on recent benchmarking of sales kickoff meetings in 2014. Overwhelmingly, kickoffs are:

  • Held in-person
  • Driven by sales leadership goals
  • Leveraged to communicate strategy and vision updates

Interestingly, the report revealed sales executives wanting:

  • More selling techniques
  • More deep product expertise/knowledge
  • To “ban PowerPoint” (I laughed out loud at this)

We already had a date and venue, so it was time to get down to the details. Through an extraordinary team effort, we pulled off the largest and most successful sales kickoff in our company’s history. I say successful because in the benchmark report, 83% of respondents felt the goals of their sales kickoff were met, and in our feedback, our sales executives exceeded that benchmark by 6%.

Here are three best practices we felt made a measurable impact on an effective sales kickoff:

  • Shape your agenda around the behaviors you want to drive your account executives to use in your sales year.

Do they need to better prospect or qualify accounts? Use a specific methodology or sales process? Develop a deep understanding of who buys your product? Decide which behaviors best support your goals during the year, and use them as a litmus test for what takes center stage during sales kick-off. Any content that needed to be presented during our event, but didn’t meet those few key behaviors, went into a trade show format–so our sales executives networked with each area across the business that supports their deals (no slides allowed).

  • Tackle my number one challenge with any kickoff event and pull attendees away from their tech.

Email and meetings requests never stop. How can you compete with the allure of the ping? You can’t. But you can join it. Social media is powerful, so this year, we joined forces with it. We purchased a mobile app for our event, and gamified every session. This eliminated the cost of paper agendas and handouts (everything was stored online)–and drove engagement up 9x. The app was by far the most frequently mentioned positive comment in our feedback, helping people take notes, stay in touch, coordinate meetings, and stay engaged. We even awarded badges for the behaviors we wanted to see at the conference (visiting those optional tradeshow booths? Check! Coming to breakfast early? Yep! Meeting someone from across the globe? You got it). The team had fun, and retained exponentially more knowledge than they had in years past.

  • Remember any kick-off event is about celebrating success – and it should be.

We work hard and we often have few opportunities to recognize one another’s contributions. But the benchmarking data was clear: account executives want less cheerleading and more actionable items. They ask for follow up and continued communication on their progress. The message is clear: behind the celebration and calls to action for a great year, you must have a roadmap for the year (even if you know that roadmap will change as the year unfolds). This was perhaps the most challenging and rewarding bit of teamwork as a sales team–how does product marketing, sales operations, sales enablement, and the global sales teams all work together to meet what seems like disparate goals? It is a misstep to think a one-size-fits-all approach will work here; there is too much variation from territory to territory, and certainly in global regions. Instead, let regional leaders set their directives, let individuals set their own goals–and then follow up on those goals regularly. We gave our sales team a 30 day and 1st quarter plan, with more to come in the 2nd quarter.

What do you feel is your greatest challenge and triumph during your last sales kickoff event? Leave a comment and let me know.