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Project Aristotle and Best Practices for Sales Kick-off Meetings

The Harvard Business Review collected two decades’ worth of data on collaborative working environments. Their conclusion: “The time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more.”

Findings like this only spark more questions — namely, what does all that time together accomplish? Ask a coworker, and you’re likely to hear, “not much.”

The challenge of improving meetings and the teams within them has become a million-dollar question — literally.

Google committed millions to Project Aristotle, an initiative to study hundreds of teams within the company. Google wanted to know why some fail while others succeed. After three years of research, they learned that certain norms predict success.

One such norm was psychological safety, the ability to fluidly exchange ideas without fear of embarrassment. As a reporter for The New York Times reported: “In the best teams, members listen to one another.” Creating an environment in which team members listen requires a more thoughtful approach to planning meetings. Doing so begins by developing a set of best practices.

One such practice, fostering positivity, borrows from Project Aristotle’s finding regarding psychological safety. Sales kick-off meetings are an opportunity to align goals and build a cohesive team. Rather than resorting to a list of demands, leaders can use positivity to urge the group to reach further. Consider designing the sales kick-off meeting as a resource event in which the team can develop ideas for attaining goals.

Fostering positivity, however, requires participation. Herein lies another best practice: keep the meeting dynamic. For example, when a seller shares a story of a win or loss, others feel empowered to share their own stories. Offering these real-world examples also keeps the meeting anchored without delving too far into academic or theoretical examples that don’t resemble everyday selling. This kind of participation reminds sellers that they are part of a team with shared goals and shared challenges. It’s easy to lose this perspective moving from one sale to the next in the day-to-day routine.

As positivity and dynamic flow become established norms, leaders can work toward another best practice: brevity. Typically, planners begin by choosing a block of time. However, the first step should be to draft a list of the crucial concepts and goals driving the meeting. With this outline, leaders will have a clear sense of how much time they need. Let the scope of the content drive the scheduling, not the other way around. It’s possible to foster better team engagement without demanding much time out-of-market because it’s not the amount of time together — it’s how teams use the time.

Effective sellers encourage dialogue and openness when discussing solutions with customers. Surprisingly, however, these traits are missing from most sales kick-off meetings. Leaders can drive meaningful results from meetings by adopting a more mindful approach to the planning process. The success of the meeting begins before anyone sets foot in the room.

About the Author

Richardson Sales Performance is a global sales training and performance improvement company. Our goal is to transform every buyer experience by empowering sellers with critical skills so they can create value to buyers and drive meaningful conversations. Our methodology combines a market proven sales and coaching curriculum with an innovative and customizable approach to learning that ensures your sales teams learn, master, and apply those behaviors where and when it matters most — in front of your customers. It’s our job to anticipate change in your industry so that your sales team can focus on fostering long-term relationships, becoming indispensable partners for their buyers.

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