How are you planning for sales kick off in the new year? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Sales kickoffs offer businesses a crucial chance to fix flaws in the sales process and start the year off right. Unfortunately, most businesses miss the opportunity.
Kickoffs usually inundate sales teams with too much information. The CEO describes new products and services. The head of marketing presents new messaging, white papers, and campaigns. Then comes product engineering, with a "tour" of new features and product road maps. After all that, the company tries to cram sales training into a time slot of just a few hours, expecting lightning to strike and magic to happen.
No one can absorb all that information so quickly. It doesn't make sense to overwhelm your employees with more than they can handle at any one time.
But the bigger problem is that in most of these cases, little to nothing is done to tackle the actual challenges holding back sales.
Diagnose the problems
To plan for a sales kickoff, companies should drill down on what the sales team needs in order to succeed. Most haven't figured this out.
When I help organize kickoffs, I start by asking the heads of different units one question: What do you want your sales reps to be better at? They know the results they want: more deals closed. But what's preventing that from happening? They don't know.
Very often closing skills aren't the problem. It's other parts of the sales pipeline, from discovery to qualifying to product knowledge. What companies need is a deep dive into their teams' actual sales skills. Digging into the experiences of sales staffers allows you to diagnose what the real problems are.
Isolate the specifics.
Treat the problems
With your diagnosis complete, use your kickoff as a chance to tackle these challenges. Build case studies that will show your sales teams where the problems lie and how to fix them.
Make clear to every speaker at the kickoff that this is the goal. From the CEO on down, everyone should keep this in mind: The event is not about shiny bells and whistles. It's about empowering sales teams with clear, concise value propositions and pragmatic lessons. Help them improve their skill sets, reduce the sales cycle, and increase the value of each deal.
A successful kickoff means the sales teams will walk away with at least five improved skills they can execute the next day on a new sales call.
And, yes, celebrate
None of this means that you have to make the event dry or leave out the celebration. Whether it's taking place at the start of the calendar year or the start of your fiscal year, it is a good time for a party.
There's a relief that the previous year is over. You either hit your goals, in which case you're celebrating, or you didn't, in which case you can get psyched about starting over with a clean slate.
Acknowledge the hard work that's been done. Express excitement and positivity, by all means. Just don't pretend that that's all your sales teams need.
And know that the kickoff is only the beginning.
Take responsibility for follow-through
While it's up to individual sales professionals to put all these lessons into action, the ultimate success or failure of a kickoff will be determined by those accountable after the kickoff: the manager and the VP of sales. It's up to these leaders to keep coaching and refining the process.
Think of it like a basketball team. You can have the best players in the world, but they still need a head coach. The first game isn't the last time the coach tells them what to do; it's the first time for the new season.
Two paths for success
If you do the kickoff and the follow through right, your sales operations will improve in one of two ways.
You may see sales improve just as you were hoping, within the first quarter. This indicates that your diagnosis and solutions were right.
Or, you may find that even when your sales team puts the new lessons into action, the results aren't there. That shows you that there are other failings you hadn't diagnosed. People don't like to see this, of course, but it's actually good news. You've filled one gap, and now you can focus on filling the next.
Take these steps, and you'll look back on your kickoff knowing you started the year in the best possible way. Otherwise, you'll look back and realize the grandiose speeches and excitement you displayed turned out to be a failed promise.
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