Is Your Sales Kickoff a Crash Diet or Healthy, Sustainable Sales Nutrition?

It’s hard to beat the excitement that comes from a dynamic sales kickoff, as your team coalesces around successes, innovations and improvements that will help drive results for the quarter or year ahead. And for many organizations, it’s a rite of passage. SKOs are hot: according to research from Symmetrics, 83% of organizations with large sales departments had held a kickoff meeting in the previous year.

But as most companies know, it can be challenging for the team to capture that spirit and maintain it for the long haul. It’s like the initial motivation you feel when you start a diet. Eat more kale! Let’s invest in a juicer! The enthusiasm of possibility can withstand the test of time, but unless you keep the momentum going, your plans aren’t going to last past the first week. That spendy smoothie maker? Still sitting in the box. Those veggies lovingly chosen at the farmer’s market? Languishing in your crisper.

In the same way, SKO meetings can be a giant waste of time and resources without extensive planning and solid follow-through.

While 25% cited training as a very important function of sales kickoffs, only 4% said it was also effective.

Don’t want your sales kickoff to get derailed like your last diet?  Here are four strategies for a kickoff that will pay off over the long term.

1.   Make the kickoff kick butt.

We know why it’s called a “sales kickoff.” It’s to avoid the dreaded word, “meeting.” That’s smart, but there are other ways than just semantics to truly make your sales meeting-I mean kickoff!-one the team will anticipate. Here’s how to help it succeed:

  •         A theme: This can help everyone align around the same goal. Think twice about anything that might comes across as cheesy. And by that we mean avoid adding a “!” on the end – as in: Power Up! Sell to Win! Make it Happen! You don’t create excitement merely by telling people to be excited, and they may be spending more enthusiasm rolling their eyes than focusing on the meeting itself
  •         Food: Seriously we’re not kidding. Good, healthy food can reel them in. In fact, according to a recent poll by grocery-delivery service Peapod, companies that provide free food have happier employees compared with those that don’t. Even if you don’t serve snacks all the time, they are a must at a sales kickoff-and can help with concentration as well.
  •         Breaks: People like to mock the attention span of millennials, but let’s be honest. All of us love a break to grab another cup of coffee, check our email, talk with a colleague, or just zone out. Build in frequent breaks or your team will decide to take them on their own time, which is distracting.

2.   Gather insight before to make it valuable-both now and later.

The best way to make a sales kickoff something that people want to attend and that they’ll remember is to involve them by seeking input into what they’re looking for, and then making it actionable. Could your team use a refresher on how to play up the technical specs of a particular product? Ask team members in advance what types of information might be most useful to focus on in an extended session. Providing the insight they need ensures they will remember what they learned at the kickoff long after it’s over.

3.   Focus on just-in-time training.

Sure, your SKO is a great time to introduce new programs and products that your team can rally around. But is that effective? Not according to the Symmetrics research above: While 25% cited training as a very important function of sales kickoffs, only 4% said it was also effective. We’re not surprised: You can’t expect your team to retain everything you are sharing in a brain dump.

First off, they won’t necessarily absorb all the details you are sharing. When you overload a team with information, they can’t remember the nuances and the training is wasted. Your team is looking to access the information they need, when they need it. That’s why a much more effective strategy to impart new information is to ditch the long PowerPoints, PDFs, and binders. Touch on the salient points and then make it useful by keeping the training going through a steady diet of just-in-time updates.

4.   Customize the information.

One size rarely fits all, and that’s as true in training as anything else. Not sure what content is most important to your team? Using a tool like Inkling can help you discover what content they are actually using, and what they aren’t, so you can improve it and maximize its effectiveness. With Inkling’s built-in content intelligence you can see page views, how long someone spent on the page and what interactive tools they engaged with, among other analytics.  We also help our clients customize their content so it is as much a part of their brand as their logo or advertising.

Sales kickoffs can be a big waste of time and money-or they can be the launch of something successful that carries through to real results. If you’re looking for the latter, make sure that you have organized your sales kickoff in a way that will provide lasting results by arming your sales team with the content and tools to be successful.