The annual Sales Kickoff is an event that exists to celebrate last year’s achievements, announce this year’s goals, and more broadly, set the stage for the year to come. If done well, reps leave not only highly motivated, but also with a clearer line of sight on how to reach their objectives. For some, it’s the peak of rep motivation, when excited reps travel back to the office, ready to sell. To others, Kickoff can seem to be a difficult, generally unsuccessful event, expensive and spent away from the phone.
But for as much time and effort that goes into planning a Kickoff, there’s a debate over whether it’s actually worth it. Here are five myths you should be aware of but shouldn’t deter you if you’re planning a Kickoff this year.
1. Reps are only there to have a good time
The stereotype of a Kickoff gone wrong is well known: a group of half-asleep, hungover, and unfocused reps make up the majority of attendees. Meanwhile, an engaged group takes the event seriously, but loses interest over time. When the first group dominates the second, you’ve got a problem - the stereotype of a Sales KIckoff gone wrong.
Demonstrating value and driving success with reps is based almost entirely on how you set the stage. Leveraging good communications and driving an exciting lead up to the event, as well as setting a clear path to success, can steer reps and managers to excitement and learning before Kickoff. Pick a compelling theme and generate buzz before the event by creating mystery and intrigue. Take it one step further by asking reps to practice a short message or specific skill in advance, with the topic covered on day 1. When reps have thought about Kickoff, or dare we say, even prepared before showing up, you’re much more likely to have their attention from the word, "go."
2. It’s a waste of time
Another common thought on Sales Kickoff is that the entire event is a waste of time, with reps taking home little more than a temporary boost in motivation.
The reality has little to do with the event itself, however, and far more to do with how you plan and measure success. Creating a firm, progressive plan that builds expectations, drives toward success, and keeps reps motivated and engaged is a main part of seeing a value return to the event. Likewise, setting up clear benchmark metrics that demonstrate value can help you drive toward a cost-effective, yet still phenomenal event. Focus on learning and cohesive planning, not just pushing content on reps.
3. It’s going to cost you
The costs involved with Sales Kickoff can quickly spiral out of control, weighing heavily on a sales budget. Think of the normal costs associated with the program – plane tickets, hotel rooms, food, events, speakers, and even time away from selling. One expert analysis by Sales Benchmark Index calculates the cost of an average enterprise kickoff at 2% of revenue goals! Your mileage will vary, but the costs are still very real. This creates the standard that Kickoff has to be expensive to be successful.
In reality, what makes Kickoff successful has less to do with the spend than you may think. While big events and resort travel can certainly get everyone excited to attend, success itself is drawn from what you do before, during, and after the event. It needs to not only inspire reps and teams, but serve as the launching point for a new year of success. Start looking at the Kickoff as less a moment in time and more as a year in the life for your sales team. If you decide to downgrade on the event itself, you may consider letting reps know that you’re plowing dollars back into other incentives or events throughout the year.
4. You need to go all out on entertainment
Keeping the team engaged during Kickoff is a big factor in the success of the event. Yet, many of the classic ways of driving excitement are overdone in the eyes of reps – motivational speakers, rock bands, and other flashy sessions may not be effective.
Solving the entertainment gap can be as simple as leveraging the bench of talent that already exists at the company. Look to your executive leadership team for motivational speaking - the same programs they bring to top conferences can work internally. And let your reps entertain each other! Most reps adhere to the philosophy that, “all the world’s a stage and we are merely players.” Whether it’s stand-up comedy, a song or dance competition, or some other unique talent, your reps will enjoy being the show if you let them. The best part is that it reinforces team bonding and start group formation, a core part of a solid peer mentoring.
5. Tracking success is difficult
One of the historical issues with Sales Kickoff is that its success is hard to track. While sales leaders know what metrics they want to drive toward, the specific data from Kickoff that leads to these goals is not as clear. Likewise, creating a specific plan that tracks the right metrics can be daunting.
In planning your Sales Kickoff, take the time to determine the data that shows success in the event alone. Things like rep participation rate, knowledge absorption, number of reps certified, or manager engagement can help build a framework of success. After the event, benchmark and score the Kickoff year-over-year, and begin to determine how the results of the event drive toward specific Sales Objectives and Business Results. Even if you’re not sure, try to put a frame around the event itself – you’ll get smarter each year.