How to Keep the Glow of The Sales Kick-off Alive


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The average B2B company spends approximately $1,000 per sales rep at annual sales kick-off meetings. In a company with 200 sales reps, that’s a big investment on just one event. Given the complexities of today’s B2B selling environment, the stakes for these meetings and the expected return on investment (dollar and man hours) has never been higher.

Despite significant changes in selling approaches in recent years, the annual sales kick-off continues to be a singularly critical forum. When preparing for sales kick-offs, organizations should consider that it is not just an event, but a launch pad for company growth. And, just as a product launch would include year-long (or more) marketing, training and operations support, the sales kick-off meeting should include an integrated plan for ongoing reinforcement of key messages and selling skills that drive adoption and ensure sales reps are prepared to win throughout the year.

Businesses may consider the following tips for ensuring that sales reps will benefit from the sales kick-off during the event and long after it is over.

Beyond New Product Training: Consider putting a focus on basic selling techniques first before getting into new product training. Sales reps love nothing more than a hot, new product in their bag, and as a result, many sales kick-offs spend the bulk of their agenda focused on training reps for the “shiny new thing” being released this year. New product training is critical, but if reps are failing at the basics of good sales techniques – active listening, asking consultative questions, or assessing a business need – even a red-hot product may not be enough to help them make quota.

Coaching and Group Dynamics: With most reps in a single location, the sales kick-off is a great opportunity to highlight specific execution challenges or areas of improvement expected from the team across the board. Moreover, coaching in a large group can often allow team members to help learn from each other, bouncing ideas and best practices among the team, and sharing success stories in an open dialogue. In addition, measuring a specific individual’s understanding of key concepts and how to respond in a unique business or customer scenario, can offer tremendous value. Using real-time data, managers can get immediate feedback and analysis while the meeting is still in session, giving them the opportunity to share the team’s responses while the content is still top of mind, and offer coaching and other suggested remedial actions on the spot.

Recognition and Rewards: Sales reps are a uniquely competitive bunch, and for many, the only thing better than winning is being recognized for it. Using reinforcement solutions that include game mechanics, such as leader boards, to stimulate their tribal tendencies, as well as a creative reward structure will keep reps engaged both during and after the event, while giving management a real-time view of how well the team has absorbed the content and messaging presented. Plus, these competitions can keep rep engagement alive long after the kick-off is done.

Change Ingrained Behaviors: Sales enablement and training professionals have long suffered with the reality of “The Forgetting Curve,” the phenomenon first documented in the late 1800’s which describes the dramatic drop off in knowledge retention over time. Studies show that in as little as 30 days, 79% of knowledge is forgotten. The cure for this is to make sure reps can apply information after the event to fully encode it into memory and demonstrate new skills on the job. This transformation begins with the acknowledgement that sales reps are people, and people are complex. They possess ingrained behaviors, and changing that behavior doesn’t happen with “death by PowerPoint” approaches to knowledge transfer. 

Measurement: Sales reps will never know the material presented at the sales kick-off better than when they’re at the event itself. As the days and months go by, a downward trend occurs in sales reps’ knowledge retention. However, by putting in place a data-driven approach that continuously measures sales performance, organizations can identify and close any gaps that may exist in reps’ knowledge. This way, companies can not only ensure they’re on the right path, but that their investment in the kick-off continues to pay dividends even months down the line.  

Sales kick-offs can be a major drain on resources if the ultimate goal is not met, and companies must remember that the goal should not just be about motivating sales reps for that moment in time. To get the optimal benefit for reps, managers, and the company’s bottom-line, organizations must ensure that the information presented at the sales kick-off will stick with reps long after the event has concluded.

Lisa Clark
Lisa Clark is Vice President of Marketing at Qstream.  She has 20 years of experience building high-value software companies, brands and market share.


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