Sales Kickoff: Four Things The Best CSOs Do Well
During the next round of sales kickoff (SKO) meetings, sellers will seek answers to probing questions. Will there be shortfalls, layoffs, and reorganizations? Better products, achievable quotas, and more support? CSOs/CROs, together with sales enablement leaders, must address these questions and emotions. They must also use their budgets to creatively plan the meeting agenda.
Forrester’s 2022 Global B2B Revenue Leadership Online Survey revealed that more than half of respondents went into the year expecting budgets to increase by at least 10%. And one-third expected increases of more than 20%. With recession-driven budget cuts expected in 2023, however, many CSOs/CROs are already reducing SKO spend and considering hybrid sales kickoff options. Whether in person or hybrid, the best sales executives do the following four things well.
Celebrate During The Sales Kickoff
No matter how the previous year went, there are always bright spots to celebrate. These accomplishments validate the combined results of the sales team and colleagues in marketing, customer success, and product. They also demonstrate how team selling success is achieved throughout the revenue engine. During the sales kickoff, celebrate:
- Customer achievements with your products.
- Attractive new logos, renewals, or growth — and the responsible sellers.
- Boomerang wins or key takeaways from named competitors.
- The completion of important product launches and support projects.
- President’s Club winners and examples of organizational culture.
Communicate Performance Expectations
Sales kickoff attendees will feel excitement, curiosity, skepticism, and anxiety all at once. They’ll wonder about the aggressiveness and achievability of the new plan, budgets, headcount, organizational changes, and the level of support they’ll receive. Address these topics. And communicate the journey of past, present, and future by sharing:
- Last year’s bookings/revenue and attributes of winning deals.
- Objectives, plan description, and goals in the coming year.
- Improvements — what you’ll start, increase, decrease, or stop.
- How improvements affect sellers (territories, quotas, compensation).
- Growth pathways (prospects, clients, products, regions, segments).
Educate Client-Facing Team Members
Education is empowering. Sellers need to know about customer preferences, buying motivators, purchasing journeys, industry and category insights, and competitive updates. They’ll combine those learnings with training, coaching, positioning, and success stories to improve selling effectiveness. Inform sellers on:
- New product launches, enhancements, and commercial updates.
- Winning plays and sales motions — with examples, scenarios, or role-plays.
- Sales support improvements (process, tech, insights, reporting, forecasting).
- Customer and client-facing resources available — and how to use them.
- Quarterly calendar with integrated, cross-functional activities (product releases, marketing campaigns, demand initiatives, events, coaching, training).
Motivate Sales Kickoff Attendees
The best CSOs/CROs first set the motivational context in the sales kickoff meeting, then rally others around the goal and the path ahead. As they do so, they build positive momentum. A successful SKO needs a lot of energy and inspiration, so include plenty of it as you motivate your sellers. Examples may include:
- An event theme that reinforces the behavior, culture, and results needed.
- Pre-meeting messaging, teasers, hype, conversational buzz, or tangible items.
- Memorable moments at key points, delivered in varied programming formats.
- Internal speakers (executive, top seller, integral team member).
- External guest speakers (client, prospect, partner, analyst, investor).
A pending recession, together with longer-term trends in B2B buying, digital selling, and technology, considerably alters the CSO/CRO approach. The sales function simply doesn’t operate the way it once did, and your 2023 sales kickoff must reflect that. Fittingly, that could even be an idea for your event theme.