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One Big Mistake That Will Sabotage Any Sales Kickoff

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A Sales Kickoff (SKO) is an event typically lasting one or two one or two days at the beginning of a fiscal year or quarter. Members of the sales team get together in person and/or remotely to hear motivating insights from peers, leaders, and guest speakers; get training on new products, services, processes, and sales enablement technologies; and hear about new and existing company initiatives.

Ideally, the SKO boosts the sales team’s cohesion, morale, and motivation. Yet there’s one common mistake we see organizations make time and time again that sabotages this event … and makes those good outcomes impossible. The big mistake that will sabotage your SKO – and indeed any SKO, no matter where or when it’s held – is not having senior leadership be present.

By “present,” we don’t mean simply that senior leadership needs to show up and be visible to all attendees. That much should be obvious. What we mean is that high-profile members of the senior leadership team must be engaged, active participants in all the proceedings. 

Specifically:

  • If there’s a new product or service launch, the senior leaders in attendance need to be part of that launch – and to be at least as well-informed about the ins and outs of the new offering, and the value it delivers, as the members of the sales team are supposed to be. 
  • If there’s a major corporate culture initiative that the sales team is meant to live by, members of the senior leadership team mustn’t be seen as being immune from or somehow above that cultural requirement. The sales team needs to see senior leadership living the very same values they’re being asked to live – in real-time, and right in front of them, during the SKO.
  • And if there’s a new sales process, methodology, or tool being unveiled and/or trained at the SKO, senior leadership must understand it, must be ready to explain (at a 30,000-foot level) why it’s being adopted, and must find an appropriate way to make it clear that each member of the team is now expected to align their behaviors with this new way of doing things.

One of our favorite examples of this kind of kickoff engagement came when the Chief Revenue Officer of a major organization spotted a dozen or so salespeople relaxing and chatting in the venue’s lobby … while a major new training initiative for the organization’s entire selling team was still underway in the main hall. On his way into the men’s room, he informed these AWOL members of his sales team that if they were still in the lobby when he emerged, they could consider themselves terminated. No one was!

  • Make sure your senior leadership is present, in every sense of the word.
  • Make sure they’re engaged, active participants.
  • Make sure they send your team the clear message: This is not the flavor of the month. This is how we’re doing things now.

Do that, and you’ll be far more likely to enjoy the results your sales team delivers in the months that follow.

Michael Norton

Michael Norton

Sandler EVP of Enterprise Sales