Too often, sales kick-off meetings are considered an obligation rather than an opportunity. Sellers, eager to engage with customers, watch the clock waiting to get back to the next call. Meanwhile, discussions of performance and goals get lost in charts and figures. We assume that sales kick-off meetings must be this way. This assumption is wrong, sales kickoffs are great opportunities to energize a sales team, ensure they are clear on the strategy and direction for the year, and cover some important operational and product updates.
They’re also opportunities to train or introduce a training initiative.
There are a few considerations for sales and learning leaders who are thinking about including a training element as part of their kickoff.
The Sales Kickoff Meeting Agenda
Let’s face it, there are times where you can be very proactive, thoughtful, and strategic in planning the launch of a training initiative and carve out dedicated time at a sales kickoff meeting for a focus on upskilling. And then, there are times where you are just trying to fill a slot of time and take advantage of the rare opportunity of having all of the salespeople in person.
In the latter, the key is to just be realistic about the outcomes you can expect. If you only have 90 minutes, it will be very difficult to expect that your teams will walk out of that session ready to change their behavior. It might be possible if you are hyper-focused on one skill or topic and be very practical and hands-on in your approach. Ensuring you break out into small groups is critical if you take this approach.
If you cannot be so focused and/or cannot break into small groups, then consider shifting the focus of your 90 minutes to either an overview of things to come or exposing your teams to new concepts. The outcomes you are aiming for here are knowledge transfer, engagement, and awareness of concepts – not behavior change. Just be clear with your stakeholders and sales team on the outcomes you are seeking either way.
If you have the time to take a proactive approach to integrating a training element into your sales meeting, then you should consider allotting a serious amount of time for the training. For example, we have seen top-performing sales organizations dedicate two full days of their kickoffs to training!
Resources & Attendees
The approach you take to injecting training into a sales kickoff is tactically tied to your audience size, and frankly, the set-up of the training location.
If you can influence the set-up early on, great. But for many large sales organizations, you are at the mercy of the location. So, consider whether you need to stick with a large audience format and adjust your strategy to be more of a speech that is intended to energize. If you have the benefit of breakout rooms (and enough facilitators!) then you have more flexibility in your approach.
Ensure that whatever topic you choose is tied to the strategic direction of the company. We have seen organizations that, in a last-minute rush to fill a time slot, pick an easy topic that isn’t aligned to the strategy or clearly tied to it. Those sessions tend to lack buy-in from the sales organization. It’s wasted time.
A review of a really important topic or a refresh of a critical skill that is tied to the strategy is better than introducing a new topic that isn’t aligned to the strategy.