We are almost past the first week of November, with sales kickoffs around the corner. If your sales kickoff planning and content creation is well underway, bully for you.
These are large events that involve a large number of people in your organization and, more importantly, have potential to drive your revenue growth into the next year. It is of course common sense these events would have a level of long-term planning.
But if you are among the industry majority, the sales kickoff is a nagging line-item, placed behind a slew of short-term action items. You certainly have your venue or facility. But the bulk of the work is waiting to be done — and fast.
The Staggering Common Practice in Sales Kickoff Planning
Too many teams wait until November to begin sales kickoff planning. And by this time, they start digging in, realize how much must be done and start sounding fire alarms.
You may recognize this scenario and may very well be living it now. But you may also be asking: How could it be any different?
- I do not know what my teams will look like in the new year.
- I do not know what next year’s product portfolio emphasis is yet.
- Summer was busy and no one was around for sales kickoff planning meetings anyway.
- My team and I are in the thick of the fourth quarter.
While all these are valid points, the truth is, with this common practice last-minute planning, you are already behind and will continue to be behind next year, the year after and so on, if you maintain this precedence.
In doing so, you risk a sales kickoff that not only wastes leaderships’ and employees’ times but also fails to successfully inspire and enable the teams to launch into the next year.
According to Brainshark research, almost 75% of sales kickoff attendees say their company’s meeting would not earn them an A grade, while 29% rate it at a C or below (2018). If this is the result, why have one in the first place?
Refreshing Common Sense Sales Kickoff Planning
It is imperative to start sales kickoff work in the summer at the latest (for a Q1 meeting), even with all the above concerns threatening to hold it off. Remember, you can work through the nitty gritty details later. The foundational plan and messaging will set you up for greater success down the line.
Operating under the assumption you have already locked down your venue for the event, come summer it is time to plan how to leverage that venue as a foundational pillar for your sales kickoff. How many sessions will be held? How many breakouts? How long does each piece of content and session necessitate? How many people will be invited? Will you hold a sales kickoff in more than one geography?
In the months following, you will have a guiding plan, so you and your product and marketing teams can invest necessary cycles during the fall to generate solid, effective and relevant content for the event itself.
This may seem an obvious process, but as we have already established, common sense does not mean common practice. And if you are among the masses, stick with me as I help you through the end of this year’s sales kickoff planning and execution.
Catch-up for 2020 SKO Success
While your sales kickoff may not run as seamless as it would be with months of planning, you can still make it count by immediately taking these steps:
- Allocate one day to determine the most-relevant and most-valuable content for 2020 and the time that content needs. Engage relevant leadership partners, as well as stakeholders you will be engaging to help bring the plans to life.
- In this same planning day, work with your team to establish a framework for key messages that will be the company’s driving force for sustainable revenue performance into the new year.
- Engage product and marketing teams and/or a third-party consultant to undertake the heavy lifting, working from your plan and key messaging direction. They can handle the event logistics, create the valuable content and weave the program for the event together. Develop a program plan (a simple spreadsheet can go a long ways) to track these actions, with accountability clearly spelled-out.
- Review content with a critical eye. Oversharing content at a sales kickoff is another all-too-common offender. Your salespeople do not have the capacity to take in an overly abundant amount of information over a span of a couple of days. They need to know the most essential elements and the most valuable pieces that will enable winning in 2020.
- Ensure your sales kickoff is on-goal to enable the sales team to win in 2020. While content sharing is a key piece of the event, leadership must set aside time for sales to practice engaging the customer with new messaging, new solutions and more. Role-plays and exercises are more valuable to team execution and, if structured effectively, offer an invaluable platform for team-building.
Get in gear for 2020 sales kickoff success — but be better prepared for 2021.