6 Themes to Make Your 2020 Sales Kickoff the Best Yet

By Eric Nitschke, Director of Product Marketing and Sales Enablement

November 14, 2019

the best sales kickoff themes

Use these sales kickoff themes in 2020 to maximize profitability throughout the entire customer relationship, not just during the initial deal.

Filling the funnel, driving pipeline, and acquiring new customers will always be the exciting, swashbuckling side of B2B sales.

Similarly, when it comes to maximizing profitability, a lot of sales kickoff themes focus only on driving profitability from customer acquisition, ignoring all the opportunities for reps to drive profitable growth from renewals and upsells.

For your 2020 sales kickoff, think deeper. Prepare your reps to capture value on both the acquisition and expansion sides of the customer lifecycle.

Here are six research-backed sales kickoff meeting themes to help your salespeople learn, remember, and actually apply their newfound skills in 2020 and beyond.

6 of the Best Sales Kickoff Themes for 2020

1. Building Your Buying Vision

Too many kickoffs get bogged down by product knowledge breakouts (information) and fail to deliver the very thing the event was supposed to drive (behavior change).

But an overreliance on product presentations often come at the expense of more customer-centric activities, like practice and coaching, that drive more energy and better performance out of the gates.

Instead of presenting hours of feature-dense presentations that focus all on your solution, what if you modeled great customer conversations?

According to Forrester research, 74 percent of executive buyers will give their business to a company that illustrates a buying vision, compared to vendors among a group of commodity suppliers.

You don’t need to walk through every nuance of the new features they need to sell. Instead, teach your sales reps the conversation skills they need to create a compelling vision for your customers. Equip your reps with the skills they need to create the urgency to change from the buyer’s status quo.

Then, you can position your value in a unique and impactful way that persuades your buyers to choose you.

2. Refocusing Your Sales Process

Many companies stare myopically at each stage of their sales process to track pipeline, gauge opportunities, and forecast sales.

As a result, their own internal process is the focus of attention, and customer conversations are reduced to simply checking off boxes for each step of the sale. Ultimately, this practice takes away the most important part of any sales opportunity: the customer’s decision-making process.

71% of sales managers agree that the ability to articulate value is the biggest difference between high and low sales performers. So, what if you enabled your team to progress opportunities based on the conversations that customers truly find valuable? What if your reps could create pipeline based on differentiation, write proposals that pass executive muster, and close opportunities profitably without losing value throughout the sale cycle?

Instead of clinging to a self-serving sales process, train your sellers on the Customer Deciding Journey—a series of key questions your buyers are asking as they look to address specific business goals.

Then, you can help your reps build skills to address those moments with situationally relevant stories and skills.

3. Promoting Science-Backed Sales Techniques

CEOs and other leaders are often lured by shiny new trends within the market. They then try and incorporate those trends into sales training. The challenge is that these so-called “best practices” are based on other peoples’ successes, and you won’t find long-term success by imitating other people.

Your competitors read the same books, and even if they work for a short time, those shiny new approaches quickly become dull and commoditized. At best, you’re frustrating your team. And at worst, your enabling mediocrity.

What if you didn’t follow the crowd to your book club’s favorite theory, and instead introduced skills that leverage how the human brain perceives value, and how buyers make decisions based on human psychology?

Equip your team with selling techniques that are proven to work, instead of what’s most popular in the moment. Understanding how customers buy versus how other salespeople sell will make a much greater impact at your sales kickoff, and beyond.

4. Telling the Right Renewal Story

If last year’s sales kickoff was all about training your salespeople to challenge and provoke your buyers, you were really only preparing them to acquire new customers.

As for keeping your current customers? Not so much.

Corporate Visions research shows that using a provocative, challenging message with existing customers—when you’re trying to renew or expand business with them—will actually backfire. In fact, you’re increasing your risk of losing them to your competitors by at least 10-16 percent.

Despite this glaring evidence, however, nearly 60 percent of companies don’t feel the need to tell a different story for customer acquisition versus customer retention/expansion.

That’s not good for your growth plans. According to Harvard Business Review, acquiring a new customer is anywhere between five to 25 times more expensive than keeping an existing one. That’s not too surprising when you consider the high cost of acquisition. You might need to keep a customer account active for months, maybe years, before they become fully profitable.

Given these findings from our research, the renewal story isn’t something companies should just leave to chance. Nor is it a message that should in any way resemble the story you tell to acquire new customers.

5. Communicating Price Increases Effectively

Renewals aren’t a conversation you want to take lightly, and the same goes for price increases. Communicating a price increase is one of the trickiest, most delicate conversations you’ll have with your customers. But for companies with aggressive growth goals, it’s also one of the most essential.

Unfortunately, many companies skimp on the messaging rigor in this vital conversation. A Corporate Visions industry survey found that four out of five say they want more direction and guidance around communicating price increases.

Like the renewals, your price increase discussions demand the kind of messaging that’s fundamentally different—even opposite—from the story you tell when prospecting. As a result, salespeople need to be trained to understand the unique buyer psychology, and how to address it, in this critical sales opportunity.

6. Persuading Customers to Expand with You

87 percent of companies say the upsell conversation is important or very important to revenue success and retention, according to our research. But, nearly 60 percent say they’re only somewhat satisfied or worse at converting customers to higher value solutions.

There’s a lot hanging in the balance in the upsell dialogue. Succeed, and you lay the groundwork for better customer experiences and longer-lasting partnerships. Stumble, and your partnerships stagnate, your revenues level off, and you could become vulnerable to getting picked off by competitors, who can disrupt you out of the equation with promises of something better.

To prepare your reps for this sales conversation, they need to understand how to reinforce the emotional aspects of the customer partnership. This helps make change seem safe to your customers—as long as they’re changing with you, not away from you.

Get Specific with Your Sales Kickoff Themes

Sales kickoffs with generic training and product certification sessions aren’t going to help your reps get better results. Product knowledge doesn’t address the wide range of selling moments they need to master. And as a result, they won’t hit their numbers next year.

To get the most out of your kickoff, hammer out your products, marketing and sales strategy for the year ahead, identifying what types of situations your reps will face. Then align your sales kickoff themes accordingly.

Looking for more tips to building a successful sales kickoff? Check out our e-books, Why Your Sales Kickoff Needs a Shake-Up and Putting Your Sales Kick-off In Context.