Sales Leaders, Here’s How To Have A Great Sales Kickoff in 2018

December 15, 2017

I once attended a sales kickoff that was a big waste of time. This particular company whisked away our entire sales department to a tropical location without putting together any structured agenda. They thought leaving our days open to brainstorm as a group was a good plan of action. When in fact, it turned into a whole lot of kicking back, but not much kicking off.

Sales kickoff only comes once a year. As a manager, you can’t afford to miss this golden opportunity to start 2018 off right. Have a plan in place and be prepared to have it be the best kickoff yet.

So how do you make sure your sales team leaves the kickoff feeling enthusiastic, positive, and ready to exceed your goals for the year?

Here are some ways you can prepare for a great sales kickoff.

State Your Objective

Like any sales call, remember the importance of stating your objective. Set a firm goal for kickoff, and keep that in mind when planning your agenda. Then thread the objective throughout the kickoff as an overall theme.

Obviously the main goal is to get everyone in sales ready for a new year. But dig a little deeper. Is the company going in a new direction? Have your core values recently changed? Has the company undergone a big merger or change in leadership? These things can help you clarify what your objective is for the kickoff.

A few years ago, we wanted to focus on getting our reps to make more calls as we had better success rates with our customers on the phone. But reps had been relying more on emails, instead of the phone. If we could just get the reps to call, and call more often, we knew we’d close more sales. We picked a theme of “Focus on the Phone”, and then weaved it throughout all of our kickoff messaging and metrics. (By the way, we created a quick guide to help you motivate your team to make more calls, and in turn, close more deals.)*

Ask Your Reps to Prep

Don’t put all the onus on leadership to prepare for a great sales kickoff. The only way it will be a successful one is if everyone is prepared and participating.

One way to get the reps involved is by surveying them on what has been working, and what things they think could be improved upon. Incorporate their feedback into your sales process and training for the coming year.

You can also give your reps a bit of homework. Personally, I’m a big fan of having new reps role play customer calls and other challenging sales situations. Ask a few of your reps to prepare a presentation for the kickoff highlighting some difficult deals they closed.

Then, have some break-out peer to peer training sessions, where reps can learn from each other. Having a “sales’ rep’s perspective” portion of the meeting keeps them engaged and prevents management from just being a bunch of talking heads.

Allow Time for Networking

Not only is it important for reps to connect with other reps at your sales kickoff, but it’s equally important for the company to have its employees connect across levels. If your sales force is large, reps may see people at the kickoff meeting that they normally wouldn’t see. Allow them time to make those connections, because you never know who may be able to help reps achieve their goals. Plan an event where managers sit with other teams, and C-level execs sit with entry level reps.

One time I had my eyes on John Hancock Insurance as a potential customer. I just knew our services could alleviate some of their major pain points. But I just couldn’t seem to get anyone to return my calls, let alone hear my stellar pitch. I was talking about this frustration at a work event, and a coworker I didn’t know overheard me lamenting. He politely interrupted me to mention an uncle he had in the C-suite at John Hancock. A solid introduction was made, and I landed my dream client. All because of a chance mingling with a coworker I normally wouldn’t have thought to ask.

The point is, at your sales kickoff, do allow time for coworkers to mingle, share ideas, and make new connections.

Celebrate Your Successes

Not only should you reflect on your past successes, but you also have to lay out how you will celebrate future ones. Commission checks are motivating in the their own right, but don’t negate the value of smaller celebrations to get your team on the same page.

Set some smaller benchmarks and non-monetary goals for your team and discuss these at kickoff. Promise a monthly sales dinner to celebrate reaching a team phone call-setting goal. Or give reps the chance to provide their input on how they want to be appreciated for hitting their targets.

A large year-end number hanging over a reps head in January can be overwhelming and hard to digest. But breaking down your bigger goals and adding more out of the box rewards can be a positive motivator for all.

Getting Prepared for a Great Kickoff

Sales kickoff meetings are a time to consider what worked in the past, learn what you have to work with in the present, and define what your vision will be for the future. Make sure to take time to prepare yourself and your team for a great kickoff for 2018.

*Note that by downloading Spiro’s guide, you are agreeing to share your information with OpenView.