With 2019 right around the corner, it’s time to gear up for one of the most important events of the year: the sales kickoff meeting.
Many companies underestimate the impact that this meeting can have on their performance. In truth, it sets the tone for the entire year. It presents a rare and powerful opportunity to sharpen your sales goals, incentivize salespeople to work harder, and give leaders a renewed sense of purpose, direction and confidence.
So how do you design a meeting that achieves those goals and more? Experience has taught me that combining relevant content with a thoughtful agenda and skillful delivery leads to a meeting that inspires action and produces tangible results. Here’s how to put that formula to work.
Part I: Developing relevant content
Establish a theme. Choose a theme for your meeting that supports a specific, strategic goal. For example, if you want to improve customer retention, create a “clients first” theme for the meeting. Then, select case studies, product-positioning guidelines, skills-development opportunities, major initiatives and recognition activities in support of that theme.
Align priorities to the strategic vision. The direction that you set for salespeople needs to align with your company’s broader strategic vision. Presentations about product roadmaps, compensation plans and growth strategies should have a clear and direct link to that vision.
Encourage ongoing learning. Don’t use the meeting to train your sales teams in one sitting; the learning won’t stick. Instead, use the time to set the stage for continual learning over the long term. Describe new products and concepts at a high level, set expectations for skill building and share details about upcoming opportunities for professional development.
Cover the nuts and bolts. Planning on changing your processes, priorities or compensation plans? Communicate those at the meeting so everyone starts the year on the same page.
Part II: Setting a thoughtful agenda
Sequence messages the right way. Begin by describing where the company is headed, and then move on to talk about products, customer positioning and competitive strategy. Use vertical breakouts to discuss how the corporate strategy connects to individual successes. Close the meeting with a dynamic speaker and offer a killer incentive for meeting Q1 goals.
Check for the three i’s. Every part of your meeting agenda should satisfy at least one of three goals: It should inform, instruct or inspire salespeople. Omit anything that doesn’t fall into one of those buckets.
Sprinkle recognition throughout. If you recognize all of your top sales people in one session, you will diminish the impact of the occasion. Instead, look for ways to recognize people throughout the meeting.
Use breakout sessions for learning. It’s much easier to teach skills to people when they’re in smaller breakout sessions versus large gatherings in the main tent. For these breakout sessions, consider bringing in product specialists or subject-matter experts to enhance the learning experience.
Create networking opportunities. Give meeting attendees the opportunity to network with people from different functions, such as finance or marketing, as well as sales people from different regions. Building these relationships will help smooth out cross-border deals and allow for knowledge-sharing around sales tactics, competitive threats and emerging opportunities.
Part III: Delivering with style
Be punctual. Every session should start and end on time. Set expectations for attendees to return from breaks on time, and train presenters to stay on schedule and on message.
Outline your objectives. Convey the meeting’s objectives upfront. Attendees need to know at the start what they will walk away with at the end.
Get customers involved. Bring in customers and ask them to offer testimonials or share their buying experiences. This will add some real-world flavor to the meeting.
Spark motivation. Offer a strong motivational message. Share stories about people who have displayed courageous leadership, overcome difficult obstacles or achieved ambitious goals. Encourage speakers to draw links between individual achievements and corporate growth so that attendees recognize the role they play in their company’s success.
Admittedly, these steps involve a fair amount of preparation, but there’s a reward at the end. The sale kickoff meeting is more than just an annual gathering. It’s an opportunity to start the new year off right.