Why You Should be Worried About Your Sales Kickoff


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Sales kickoff (“SKO”) season is under way. It’s likely you and your sales team are getting ready for yours. You’ve invested lots of money to secure your hotel, travel and events.

Perhaps you’ve done SKO every year since you assumed the role of CEO. Your sales leaders assure you it’s not a big boondoggle. You’ve been there in the past. You aren’t so sure.

For you, this feels like an opportunity to enable your sales team. Help them prepare to make the number next year. Like many CEOs, you’re asking yourself: Will this produce a result?

Today’s post is about an SKO gone wrong. A story of money spent and numbers missed. To avoid this at your SKO, download the SKO Execution Plan. It will ensure your sales leaders execute as a result of your SKO.

SKO Execution Plan

A World Class Boondoggle

Earlier this year, I was invited to attend a client’s SKO in Los Angeles. I was one of 3,000 people in attendance for a four day kickoff. When I arrived at LAX, I was picked up by a limo. I arrived at an upscale hotel and was greeted with a gift bag. The entire hotel was adorned with the company logo. Expensive, I thought to myself.

Lunch was served in the Grand Ballroom, followed by the first session. The CEO kicked off the SKO to loud music and a cheering crowd. He was joined by the mayor of LA and some major league baseball players. It was a sight to see.

Off we went to the first breakout session for sales. It was a new product review given by one of the product marketing managers. A new product the reps could sell immediately. The presenter spent 80 of the 90 minutes talking features and functionality. She lost the room after 5 minutes. Sales reps were sleeping with their eyes open. One rep asked a question about something she’d just spent 10 minutes covering. It was comical, but also embarrassing for his manager who was in the room. Time and money wasted.

After 90 minutes, we were off for cocktails, dinner and a popular local band. When I headed to bed around 11pm, the place was still jumping.

At breakfast the next morning, there were lots of long faces. Reps stayed out late and were worse for the wear as a result.

Days two through four were largely the same format. More product meetings. A presentation on new modifications to the company CRM. A new expense reporting system. All of them death by power point.

As the week went on, attendance in the meetings began to wane. Comments in the hallways were made about lack of value from the sessions. Reps started heading off for naps, golf and spa treatments. The sessions weren’t going to help them sell more. Might as well get in some R&R on the company dime.

The Impact of a Poor SKO

This company spent millions of dollars on its SKO last year. It’s 30 days from year-end. They’ve missed the number in 3 of 3 quarters and reduced their forecast for Q4. They will miss the overall number by more than 20% this year.

Money was spent. Good times were had. The company missed the number by a mile. Reps have left for other jobs. The VP of sales was fired. He was removed from his position in early September. With another miss looming on the horizon, the CEO couldn’t protect him any longer.

They made 3 critical mistakes:

  1. They focused on an “event” vs. a “result”
  2. The event was viewed as the finish line, not the starting line
  3. The SKO sessions were not focused on improving selling skills

Making Your SKO Investment Work for You

SKO is your opportunity to start your year strong. It should do what it’s intended to do: Kick off your year. Observe the behavior of your team right now. Are they talking about “planning” or “executing”? If it’s the former, your SKO will be the end, not the beginning. To learn how to get your team focused on this, read this article.

Your sessions should focus on enabling the sales force. Reps want to learn how to sell more now. They don’t care about new product features. They care about making the number quickly and easily. To improve the content of your SKO, try this.

You still have time to salvage your SKO. Use the SKO Execution Plan to help them. Avoid a Sales Kickoff letdown.

Don’t let this year’s SKO be another boondoggle. You are investing in the enablement of your sales organization. Get a return on your investment by focusing your team on execution and adoption. When you’re crushing your number this time next year, you’ll be glad you did.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ryan Tognazzini
Ryan is a recognized thought leader in business-to-business sales force effectiveness. During his time at Sales Benchmark Index, he developed many of the evidence-based best practices housed in SBI's database of 11,000 companies. Ryan has more than 15 years of experience focused on increasing sales productivity through improvements in account segmentation, lead generation and sales processes.


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