The first quarter of the year is that magical time for sales kickoffs. For this analyst, 2016 is the first in over 20 years when I haven’t been involved in one. My sigh of relief far outweighs any twinges of nostalgia. After all that time, some things about kickoffs are clear:

  • The more about products, the less sellers remember: This is a sales, not a marketing, event – the focus should be on how to sell to, engage with, and be obsessed by buyers.
  • One good customer story is worth more than most motivational speakers: Inspiring stories of overcoming obstacles are all well and good. One good customer presentation on why they bought and how the solution has helped them succeed is better and teaches something that all your sellers can use.
  • Learning to do something is always better than learning about something: Practicing a presentation, learning a whiteboard – anything that involves doing something and receiving feedback about it will have a much longer-lasting effect than passively listening to one more speaker.

In Forrester’s case, sales management worked with Principal Analyst Mary Shea to improve sellers’ enablement and engagement for our kickoff, and we’re working with others too. It’s not too late to adjust or adapt the agenda to help your kickoff deliver measurable results:

  • Get sellers involved with success (and loss) stories: Learning the inside workings of a deal counts, even ones that were lost. A loss can teach valuable lessons about competition and what can be done better in the future.
  • Align break-out sessions by what makes sense: If you have a lot of geographies, have breakouts that mix things up to cross geographic barriers and exchange ideas. If churn is high, mix or match tenure. Maybe newer sellers do need some product knowledge, but make sure they can also participate in strategy sessions.
  • Consider some analyst input: It sounds like a shameless plug, but depending on your industry, an analyst’s view of where your market is going may be just the thing to spark new ideas, strategies, and tactics. The B2B Sales Force Digital Reboot report suggests some new ways to look at sellers' roles and how to help them.
  • Make time for listening– For marketing, sales is a key audience and consumer – listen to them in roundtable sessions, review materials, get feedback, solicit suggestions – and follow-up with a summary report at a general session near the end of the kickoff. The results can point the way to what to look at when investing in sales enablement tools.Brief: Sales Enablement Automation Needs A Platform can further inform that planning.

You can help improve your kickoff! Make sellers the focus, be clear, be honest, and be open to what they have to say. What have you learned about kickoffs? Submit your comments.

Continuously curious — Steven