4 uncommon ways to shake up your sales kickoff

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So — you’re looking for ways to enliven your annual sales kickoff meeting, but you’ve already checked off most of the classic tips: a great theme, a charismatic speaker, a motivational speech, and tons of team building activities . But you know deep down that this meeting deserves more than the run-of-the-mill, rah-rah treatment. After all, what happens in a sales  kickoff sets the tone for the next twelve months, and if you do it right, will positively impact more than just your salesforce. In this post, we’ll review four tips from the road less traveled so your event can be a smashing success. 

Tip 1: Have an open invite  

Virtual meetings are all the rage for obvious reasons: they fit today’s on-the-go lifestyle, save time and expenses related to travel, and content is easily captured. This is especially great for large conferences or events because it means nobody misses out, and all the content can live on— whether it inspires future meetings, helps onboard new hires, or gets repurposed into sales enablement assets. 

Another benefit? Anyone can join. While there’s a chance you’ve already thought about taking your kickoff into the cloud, consider extending the invite to other teams. There’s nothing that’s going to provide more department alignment (see ‘smarketing’) than having visibility into what’s worked over the last year, what hasn’t, and what the plans are going forward. 

And sure, you could technically just share the event materials after all is said and done, but that’s kind of like listening to your favorite album versus seeing the performer live. Real-time participation creates a connection that makes all the difference. As Bill Aston, General Manager of NALA for Cyara says, “A sales kickoff is an opportunity to reintroduce yourself to the people you work with; it’s the connections and the collaboration and getting to know non-sales people that make for a successful business.” 

Tip 2: Recognize loss

Talking about yearly wins really pumps up a crowd, but focusing on losses is just as important. Being thoughtful about why customers or prospects turned you down can help highlight knowledge gaps that are harder to identify when the spotlight is on what you did right.

Of course, this doesn’t mean someone should stand up at the podium and tell a bunch of sad stories. Sales consultant and thought leader, Richard Harris, advocates for role playing at kickoff events because it’s an approach that resonates with millennials (interactive, attention grabbing). 

One great approach is to talk to your reps and create skits based on actual conversations that led to loss. Have these short skits performed at the meeting and summarize what you think went wrong so everyone in the audience can learn. 

Tip 3: Work during the meeting

Grab their attention by making your presentation more interactive

On most sales teams there are top performers and those who see only moderate success. Teaching the latter how to be like the former should be a management-led initiative that’s done in multiple phases throughout the year. The sales kickoff, however, is the perfect environment for your A-players to be substitute teachers for a day. 

According to SiriusDecisions, 71% of leaders identify customer conversations as their biggest challenge to hitting their revenue targets. This means breakout sessions shouldn’t be scripted. If the quality of conversations your reps are having with prospects and customers is what dictates sales performance success (or lack thereof), then simply scheduling actual sales calls with your top performers during the kickoff might be all you need to do. 

Taking calls during the biggest sales meeting of the year may sound like a wacky idea, but articulating value within a conversational framework is hard to turn into a lesson plan. Moreover, adding that extra element of real dollars on the line means you’re going to get a genuine response. What better way to teach how to handle the unexpected than to just show it? 

Tip 4: Let them choose their own adventure

Reciting wins and best practices throughout a well-planned schedule can seem like a tried and true formula, but flexibility is crucial at an event like this. David Freeman, VP Corporate Sales of Nutanix, says a sales kickoff cannot be one size fits all. “Let people choose their own adventure. It’s important to let people figure out what they need at this point in their career, based on their role, their tenure, their specialization. Allow them to develop the skills they need.”

In addition to a schedule that allows for flexibility, content can be flexible too. This, of course, is where we come in. 

When a presentation is too rigidly structured, presenters are forced to wade through slide after slide before they reach the stuff that’s relevant to their audience. With a shift in approach, or what we at Prezi call conversational presenting, you can easily turn presentations into dialogues that are collaborative, dynamic, and engaging.

An engaging experience leads to more information retention, and that’s great for customers, prospects, and your sales kickoff. Especially since consultative sales guru Neil Rackham’s fundamental research concluded that 87% of sales learnings is lost within 30 days. (The findings were published in his book Managing Major Sales.)

Think of your sales kickoff like holidays with your family. It’s rare that you’re all able to get together and spend time in one place, and the most memorable years are the ones when the unexpected happens. To ensure your event is effective and remembered, extend the invite, get creative with loss, work during the meeting and let attendees choose their own adventure. A good starting place for that fourth one is our e-book on conversational presenting, which you can download below. 

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