Many of our clients begin each year with a conference for their sales team, in order to instill confidence, enthusiasm, and momentum towards improved results. These clients often invite our firm’s consultants to contribute, either as a featured speaker or as a training facilitator, to improve the team’s methods and skills. As a result, we’ve participated in hundreds of sales kick-off meetings, and we’ve learned some valuable lessons about what makes them a success.
Sell the Sellers: Select an Engaging Theme
Too many sales meetings are bland affairs, focused on information sharing and updates on products, marketing plans, and company operations. These can be very useful and important things for your sellers to know, but that is usually not enough of a reason to assemble the entire sales team together. If transmitting information is your only goal for the meeting, then that can be accomplished more cost-effectively via virtual web conferences.Consider the real purposes for the kick-off meeting. Is it to raise the sales team’s morale and enthusiasm? To promote teamwork and sharing of successful practices? To launch new products and capabilities? To provide an opportunity for sales team skill development? Once the meeting’s purposes have been identified and prioritized, developing a unifying theme that promotes the reasons for the meeting becomes much easier.The best theme is more than just a memorable phrase – it provides context for why they are attending. A good theme helps to filter the kind of information and experiences that the meeting will contain, or to help align how that information is transmitted. A strong theme sells the reasons for investing time in the kick-off meeting, and for applying the lessons learned in the field, long after the meeting ends.
Remember Your Audience
We’ve seen too many kick-off meetings that focus too much on the presenters, and not enough on the participants. If your meeting agenda is a parade of update presentations from various departmental and company leaders, then it is probably going to be a disappointment to the sales team. When we talk to sellers about what they want in sales kick-off meetings, they tell us they like:
- Recognition and celebration of success – one of the most motivating things for sales professionals is to be publicly recognized for their success in front of their peers, and to see others be recognized in such a fashion. The sales kick-off is the perfect time to acknowledge the contribution and value of successful sellers, in front of the entire organization.
- Equipping for success – sellers want to know how they can succeed, personally and for their organization. The sales kick-off is an opportunity to provide the sales team with new sales tools, methods, and information they can use to raise their productivity and achieve their goals. Seeing the organization invest in their success is much more motivating to sellers than a rousing pep talk from a company leader or outside speaker.
- Idea sharing and networking – many sellers operate remotely and independently, and don’t have an opportunity to “rub shoulders” with their peers. A sales kick-off that includes time and activities that encourage sellers to network and share what they’ve learned can be the most useful thing accomplished in the whole meeting.
- An element of fun – We’ve seen far too many meetings that are dry and formal. A little humor can go a long way in making a sales kick-off enjoyable, which improves the retention of key lessons learned. A good sales kick-off doesn’t have to be a comedy show, but a bit of fun definitely helps to make the meeting more memorable.
Avoid an Overloaded Agenda
Use the meeting theme to filter content, and to align how that content is presented so that it has context within the agenda. We’ve seen too many kick-offs try to cram too much information into too short a period of time, or even worse, stretch the meeting out too long to accommodate everyone who wants to say something to the sales team.
Pick a Practical Venue
The best sales kick-off meetings consider where the attendees are traveling from, and are set in a location that minimizes travel time and provides a comfortable environment. A destination meeting in a resort location can be very nice, but if it is difficult and time-consuming to get there, it may not be the optimum choice. The best venues are those that fade into the background – the worst ones compete constantly for attention with hassles and problems during the event.Try to keep the main parts of the meeting to no more than a half-dozen key segments. For example, a state-of-the-company address, sales strategy and goals, equipping and enabling the sales team, key product and competitive update, sales skill training and development, and success recognition. Additional break-out sessions that support the main segments can also be useful, but if the agenda is too voluminous, the participants won’t be able to retain all the information.
With these simple guidelines in mind, your sales kick-off meeting is assured of success. A lot is at stake – a badly organized and delivered event can alienate sellers and impact productivity significantly. A well organized and high quality event can boost morale and create accelerated momentum towards success for the entire year. It’s worth a little time to plan it well.
If you’d like help in ensuring a successful sales kick-off, download this handy checklist, or call SPI at +1 (704) 227-6500 – we can provide expert speakers and facilitators on a wide variety of sales performance improvement topics.