It’s Sales Kick-Off Season: Five Success Criteria

It’s that time of year: Most sales organizations have their annual sales kick-off (SKO) events within the next few weeks. In parallel, the debate about the value of those SKOs is discussed as well.

Asking sales leaders about the relevance of an SKO, there are three categories of answers: One is, they need to communicate their vision and our strategy for the year and how to implement it. And the “how to “ part is becoming increasingly important. Two is to focus the SKO on seller engagement: “We need it to get the sales force engaged to implement our strategy.” And three is the group that simply says: “We’ve always done it like this; it’s important for networking purposes.” Let’s look at a few data points regarding these points of views.

  • Only 32.6% of our 2018-2019 Sales Performance Study participants reported that sales leaders have defined a clear go-to-market strategy (or even better, a go-to-customer strategy) that is actionable enough to be implemented successfully.
  • Only a few organizations agree that their sellers are actually engaged, based on our 2018 Sales Talent Study.
  • Sales training services, especially those that have to be designed backwards from the customer’s path, as well as articulating the business value of offerings, are still ranked as ineffective. For details, check out our 4th Annual Sales Enablement Study.

Now, we can also see that these three areas are closely connected to each other. A clear vision and a comprehensive go-to-customer strategy that is ready to be implemented are key to any sales success.

Top sales performance also requires your sales force to be engaged. Seller engagement in this context means the emotional commitment of sellers to their organizations, its vision and strategy. So a comprehensive go-to-customer strategy is a prerequisite to engage sellers, and you need an engaged sales force to make sure that they can actually implement the strategy.

However, seller engagement is only one side of the coin. Sellers also need to be equipped and empowered to be valuable, relevant and differentiating in every buyer interaction. And that is precisely the reason why the sub-title of our sales enablement book is “engaging equipping and empowering the sales force.”

There is value in having an SKO, if you ensure that you cover all these three areas: the vision and a comprehensive go-to-customer industry to drive seller engagement, and tailored sessions that equip sellers with the content and the skills they need to be successful.

Five success criteria for SKOs to achieve these goals:

  1. Communicate effectively, keep main stage presentations to a minimum, design interactive experiences
    Such an approach is important for two reasons. One is to make sure that your strategies are well understood. And two is to make sure that your sellers can actively explain and share your strategy with others. Only if they get it, and absorb it can your strategy be brought to life and implemented. Dead strategies, which nobody can remember or explain, can’t be implemented. So, clarity, simplicity and focus are keys to success.
  2. Less is more:
    SKOs communicate a ton of content to their sales forces, only to find a few months later that things were either not fully understood or not applied as expected. I know it’s hard to do, but less is more. Don’t announce five campaigns and another ten actions to boost sales. Instead, focus on what matters most. Mastering the “less is more” idea should lead to communicating a list of things you will stop doing because they have no impact on performance. To make this decision what matters most, our research throughout the year can help you to distinguish between nice-to-have practices and those that really matter.
  3. Ensure that people have time to share, reflect and digest:
    People have different learning styles and different ways to remember new things. However, what’s usually underrepresented in SKOs (because we do too many things in a few days) are discussions, round tables, or panels that allow people to ask questions, to get different viewpoints, understand other perspectives and to develop a deeper understanding of, for instance, your go-to-customer strategy. This criterion is especially imported if you have a fast-growing sales force with many new people.
  4. Make sure that people have time to practice:
    As the “how to” aspect is key when it comes to engage, equip and empower sellers, make sure that your salespeople can practice with peers and their managers what they learned. As an example, if you launch a new value messaging approach, a new methodology, etc., make sure that people have the time to try things out.
  5. Networking, face-to-face, is a value in itself, especially if you have lots of new hires:
    Yes, we can do a lot online. We can chat, we can talk, we can do even video calls and sessions. However, the actual f2f experience cannot be replaced by any remote experience. You don’t hang out with others via video call. You hang out with others in a real restaurant or bar. Enjoying meals together, celebrating awards, etc.

I wish you a successful SKO that allows you to engage, equip and empower your sales force effectively. And make sure that it happens in a joyful way!

If you haven’t already, have a look at our new book Sales Enablement – A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force. Lots of “how to” information to address the challenges mentioned here.

Questions for you:

  • How do you run your SKOs?
  • What worked for your organization and what didn’t?
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