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4 Quick Fixes to Make Sure your Sales Kickoff Provides Enduring Impact

Posted by Sarah McDonald on 1/26/17 6:00 AM


The sales kickoff. An annual tradition where sales leaders bring together distributed teams, inspire them to achieve success in the coming year, and indoctrinate them into any new sales methodology or product information they will need to achieve that success.




Historically the sales kickoff – or SKO – has been part educational and part cultural – celebration, motivation, inspiration.  More recently with the advent of digital learning – which has allowed for digital kickoffs instead of live events – the cultural aspect has diminished and the kickoff has become predominantly informational. Sadly, all this new information has limited impact if it is not shared in the best way to ensure retention and mastery.  It is well known (and often quoted) that within 24 hours, people forget an average of 70% of new information, and within a week, the figure is as  high as 90%! Considering that almost 50% of reps do not make quota, I think we need to re-examine what and how we are preparing our sales teams to execute in the new year.

Despite its proven ineffectiveness, the “spray and pray” approach to training remains the status quo at most company SKOs. So, how do you alter the objective of the modern sales kickoff to be more focused on how well sellers can demonstrate their capabilities, instead of how much training they receive?

With the advent of new tools that streamline the process of observing sales rep behaviors, many innovative sales organizations are using SKO as the mechanism to jumpstart their sales execution strategy for the year. The potential increase in ROI on the SKO event when the content shifts from perishable product/service related information to a demonstration of capability through sales behaviors is very attractive.

Since it’s the third week in January, most of you probably have an SKO agenda locked down – or you may have already held your SKO. But here are a few quick fixes that can all be implemented in under a day and can increase the impact of any and all pre-existing SKO agendas.

  1. Make Your SKO Content Come Alive
    Assuming most of the content shared at SKO is meant to prepare for, or execute a successful sales cycle, I encourage you to have each rep try it on for size. Make a deal at the beginning of the event – give them the information they need to sell in 2017, and in return, they will show you how they use it in the field. Create a reinforcement activity leveraging a video-based observation platform like CommercialTribe, to have sellers make good on that promise immediately following the event.

  2. Focus Development Objectives and Use the Kickoff as a Kickoff 
    We all know that sellers learn best by doing. So establish a behavioral learning goal – with activities where sellers are active respondents – for the sales team that spans full year and use the completion of the entire curriculum as a goal to unite the sales enablement team for 2017. A great example I have seen work well is the commitment to ensure the entire sales organization is delivering highly impactful product demos. The product demo is often a make-it or break-it stage in the sales cycle. If your sales enablement team does nothing else in 2017 except elevate the impact the product demo, they will have a massive impact on sales results that is both measurable and trackable.

  3. Align and Join Forces with the Front Line Sales Managers
    A disengaged group of front line managers will derail any development effort that requires ongoing seller attention and participation through the year. Fortunately most sales managers are unilaterally focused on hitting the number. Brief sales managers in advance on your enablement program and connect the dots between the anticipated seller improvements and how it will positively impact their number. While the energy and excitement is high, ask sales managers to commit development time for their team on a regular cadence (2 hours a month).

  4. Show, Don't Tell
    If you create visibility into the variation in your salesforce’s ability to articulate value and deliver an engaging message, you will have the undivided attention of every C-level and sales leader at your company. This powerful insight provides a direct window into the front-line. You can access this clarity with an observation and assessment platform, like CommercialTribe, or simply record and listen to actual prospect calls.

CommercialTribe helps optimize the process of recording, observing and assessing various selling behaviors, and then prescribing appropriate coaching activities. And the setup of a basic reinforcement activity customized for your kickoff content could happen in less than a day. If you’d like to see how we do this, send me your SKO agenda at and I’ll create a basic curriculum of activities that I promise will have impact on your sales organization long after the final hurrah of the sales kickoff!


About the Author

Sarah McDonald

Sarah is a seasoned sales-execution strategist turned technology entrepreneur. With 15 years experience working with global clients to design and implement strategic sales initiatives, she is currently focused on the activation of sales coaching efforts. Sarah works with sales leaders to assess the competency of their sellers and develop innovative development programs to increase quota attainment. Her background is rounded out with extensive experience in Advertising and Technology, as well as significant understanding of Enterprise sales teams.

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Topics: Sales Enablement, Message Adoption, Sales Leadership, Development, sales coaching, Sales Kickoff

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