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Sales Kickoff Success: Understand the Business and the Sales Team

Wednesday, August 26, 2020
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An annual event for thousands of companies, sales kickoffs prepare sales teams for the coming year’s goals and celebrate the previous year’s successes. “SKOs come in all shapes and sizes,” writes Kathy Koultourides in “Sales Kickoffs: Guide and Add Value.” Increasingly, that shape is in the form of a virtual event.

Whether virtual or in person, the talent development team has a key role to play in the sales kickoff. This team aligns activities with the strategic goals of the C-suite and creates events that will address the skills, knowledge, and process gaps preventing members of the sales team from achieving their desired performance.

To be successful in contributing to an SKO, the TD team must understand the organization, the sales team, who will be at the event, and—of course—the C-suite’s goals.

Organizational Factors

What particular challenges are the organization facing? Has a merger and acquisition occurred, for example? Has the business changed its focus in terms of a major service or product offering? Has a change in leadership led to an alternate vision for the company?

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Sales Team

How is the sales team structured? What is the usual buying process? What does the customer relationship management (CRM) system that the sales team uses look like? How do the most successful sales professionals sell? You’ll be able to answer these questions once you spend time with sales professionals, listen to them with customers, and ask sales team members questions.

Who Will Attend the Event?

Audience demographics will affect the types of activities you plan for the SKO. Will there be a blend of sales leaders, operations team members, and sales support folks? As to the sales professionals who will be at the event, are they seasoned, new to the company, or somewhat in between?

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C-Suite Goals

Does the leadership expect a return on investment from the SKO? Are they primarily targeting the meeting as a morale-boosting event after a challenging year? Or are they seeking to gain buy-in from the sales team about a new direction or product line?

Types of TD Events for SKOs

There are a range of possible development opportunities from which to choose for your organization’s SKO. Consider how you can adapt these activities for the virtual environment.

  • Discussion groups. Bringing SKO attendees together who share a common role gives them an opportunity to share common challenges and best practices and to problem solve an issue.
  • Customer panels. How do customers or potential customers like to be “sold” to? Bring in customers from large and small companies and listen to them share what they like and dislike about salespeople as well as what they like and dislike about your company’s products and services.
  • Scavenger hunt. Koultourides notes that a scavenger hunt is a good activity for knowledge acquisition. Do members of the sales team need to understand the CRM better? Create clues and have attendees go in search of on the CRM, things such as product information and market stats. Time the event and award a prize for the fastest team.
  • Cold-call relay. Use sales managers or other supervisors to serve as gatekeepers and decision makers whom sales professionals approach with their sales pitch. Award points for successful pitches.

Koultourides sums up with the final advice for TD professionals and the SKO: “Learn the business, speak the language, be observant, and offer sound solutions that align with the company’s goals—and you’ll be successful.”

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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