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Approach Sales Kickoff with a Goal in Mind

Posted by Gavin Matthews on 10/13/15 2:42 PM

We recently surveyed a number of our enterprise clients on a topic familiar to every sales leader in the last quarter: Sales Kickoff. The question was simple – what is the value of your Sales Kickoff? The responses fell into three buckets: 

  1. Culture – the event drives enthusiasm, cohesion, and employee retention
  2. Recognition – an opportunity to acknowledge those that are contributing to the organization’s success
  3. Learning – ability to create alignment on the commercial plan from communicating go-to-market strategy to what the team needs to know to win

It’s the last bucket that has proven the most elusive. We often look back and take full stock of what Sales Kickoff costs, but rarely question what actually comes out of the experience. What did reps learn? What was actually adopted and used in the marketplace? What was forgotten?

Are you scoring success?

These questions take a process to answer, one that should be pursued after any Sales Kickoff. While the results of Sales Kickoff are in no way the sum of the direct costs, keeping the magnitude of these investments in mind first can help frame the goals that you want to track before and after the event. Some typical costs are:



The average Sales Kickoff will require all reps of all levels to attend. With an organization of 1000 salespeople, flights can easily pass $400,000.


Location and Lodging

Renting everything from space to hotel rooms make up the largest expense. 1000 hotels rooms, plus space to host it all over three days will come close to $700,000 for that same group. Food, drinks, and other location expenses can double this.


Everyone from speakers to bands will have a cost, and they can add up very quickly. Even just getting one keynote from outside of the company can reach $20,000.


Messaging, Training, and Product

Sales Kickoff for most companies represents the time when new products, messaging, or skills are introduced to the team. The event is the time to ensure that the introduction is fruitful and effective – the Last Mile. With this in mind, factoring in investments made separately in product, messaging, skills, training, or L&D is reasonable, giving a full picture of what value needs to be delivered.


In this basic example, the event alone costs nearly $1,000,000, plus a share of the investment in messaging, training, and product. How does this number fit into a goal? Simply comparing the cost to the expected improvements to pipeline value or deals closed is not the right way to quantify the “value” of Sales Kickoff. Instead, we suggest that you apply a KPI-based framework to the event – and Certify to Fly.

The first task is to pick 1 or more KPIs that will be measured before, during, and after the event: what are you quantifiably seeking to improve with Sales Kickoff? Keep them crisp and simple – pipeline value, quota attainment per rep, percent of team certified – and have current state data to reference.

Next, apply some framework to the event, based upon the KPIs set before. We recommend the Certify to Fly framework because it not only applies consistency, measurability, and visibility to Sales Kickoff, but also guarantees that your direct costs – flights and lodging – are not in vain. Regardless, having structure at the event that both presents content and gives reps a chance to actually engage with it can be transformative.

To then get at the cost of Sales Kickoff, you have to get at the value. Take your KPIs, and 90-120 days after the event, see how they change. Any improvement above average is due to your new content and how it is introduced – a result of Sales Kickoff. Other direct costs are sunk, making it easier to know exactly how much was spent. Put these to the side – while they may help “sell” your investment internally, exact costs really only matter when Sales Kickoff fails to deliver value.

The idea of a post-certification and survey can help shed some light on the value of loftier metrics like learning and attitude. Rep attitude, sense of teamwork, and engagement can be monitored just by asking. What was actually learned and retained can be tested in a behavioral certification, showing actual percentage adoption rates of the new content.

The value of Sales Kickoff is a function of what you get out of it. If the event is not being approached with a clear goal, a strong framework, it will simply fail to deliver value. What is created is a data-driven approach to an event that historically has been simply executed, not necessarily designed.


Both surveys and certifications will show you the cost that you actually should be worried about after Sales Kickoff. If, 120 days after the event, reps have forgotten 90% of your new product messaging and sales strategy, there is a critical problem. If the opposite is true – behaviors have changed, reps are remembering content and articulating value in the marketplace – growth can be unexpectedly great. The choice is yours.

About the Author

Gavin Matthews

Gavin Matthews is a CommercialTribe Product Owner and Director of Enterprise Integration. Previously, he worked in sales and marketing across leading startups, including Tidal Labs and Genius. Gavin is an avid fan of Colorado and can most often be found in the mountains.

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Topics: Sales Leadership, Upskilling

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