Why Your Sales Kickoff Needs a Shake-Up

A sales kickoff agenda to make your next kickoff event the best yet.

The goal of every great sales kickoff event is to get your team fired up, energized, and ready to win.

Yet, year after year, most sales kickoffs get dragged down by too many informational, product-based breakouts. And all these product presentations often come at the expense of more customer-centric activities—including practice and coaching—that actually drive more energy, better performance, and lasting behavior change.

It’s time to give your sales kickoff a much-needed shake-up.

Successful sales kickoffs don’t get hung up on product enablement. Instead, they focus on better customer conversation enablement—the story and skills your sales teams need to move the buyer from status quo to interested to yes!

Planning the Perfect Event: Your Sales Kickoff Agenda

To plan the perfect sales kickoff, you need a solid agenda.

Your kickoff should start by helping sellers understand what excites buyers (based on research, not so-called “best practices”). From there, introduce new stories that match the science behind how buyers frame value and make choices. Then, pivot to the new storytelling skills required to deliver those distinctive customer conversations.

What’s with all the science? If your sales team’s goal is to build more pipeline, close more deals, and make those deals more profitable, what could be more motivating and meaningful than giving your reps research-backed selling techniques that are proven to help them achieve those goals?

When you add in observable practice and tailored coaching—along with follow-on activities for demonstrated proficiency—you’ll continue to see positive results in the field, long after your kickoff concludes.

Looking for a theme for your meeting? Check out these science-backed sales kickoff themes.

Here are nine steps to planning your sales kickoff agenda, before, during, and after the event.

1. Create scenario-based stories

Identify what unique selling scenarios your sales team will face in the coming year, based on your go-to-market, product, and growth strategies.

Create the right selling story for each of those scenarios based on the psychology of the buyer across the Customer Deciding Journey (not your sales process). Apply tested, proven messaging frameworks to the different decisions your prospect or customer is making.

2. Build the content

Develop an interactive, integrated playbook for each of the new scenario-based messaging plays, containing your marketing message and content assets, as well as short “how-to” and skills coaching videos.

Don’t rely on one-size-fits-all messaging. Your reps need to know what works best for every type of conversation they have with buyers. Each playbook should be designed to enable your sales reps for each of these distinct conversations.

3. Prepare your sales leaders

Get key sales leaders (both managers and top performers) fluent in the story. They should be able to champion it internally and deliver it with confidence, energy, and impact. These leaders should be equipped and prepared to coach the story at the event.

To prepare well, your sales leaders and table coaches need to practice the stories ahead of time. Prepare storyboards and talk tracks as guides, so they understand the key features of your story. Build coaching guides that reinforce the key points of differentiation and emphasis in the stories.

4. Strike the right keynote

A keynote sets the tone for the rest of the sales kickoff event. It inspires your sellers see why they need to change and motivates them to actually make the change happen. A keynote has to get them excited about improving their performance, while creating demand for the rest of their experience at the event.

For your new scenario-based messaging, content, and skills, your keynote must make the case for a new way of engaging prospects and customers. Reveal how your sellers’ good intentions come up short because they’re based on wrong instincts. Present the underlying decision-making science, showing clear contrast between the new and old approaches.

5. Demonstrate great delivery

It’s critical for your sellers to observe your new stories delivered flawlessly in front of their eyes. This shifts the focus from theory to practical application by bringing the new story and skills to life.

Make sure to debrief the audience after the delivery to shine light on the pivotal moments of the story. Underscore a) how it’s different; b) how it leverages the science; and c) how a new story told well can be the difference, even in markets where there’s little difference between the offerings themselves.

6. Practice the message

Now, it’s your sellers’ turn. They must try on and take ownership of the new message and new skills and deliver that story themselves.

This takes place in breakouts, where each rep takes turns practicing, standing, delivering and receiving initial coaching and feedback at a table of 6-8 peers. After each session, every rep will have had a chance to hear themselves delivering the story and watch several of their peers do the same thing.

7. Certify the message

The key to behavior change is making sure there’s a demonstrated level of proficiency on the story and the skills needed to tell that story.

After your kickoff, give each of your sales reps a challenge to record themselves delivering the message. Have them upload the recording to a system where subject matter experts can assess them using a rubric designed to define and certify fluency.

8. Activate manager coaching

An underestimated but powerful outcome from the video recording challenge and certification process is that managers can see exactly where their reps need coaching help.

Getting managers involved is essential for ongoing skills development, application, and reinforcement in the field. This approach gives them specific examples to coach from as opposed to a blank sheet.

9. Apply must-win deal coaching

One way to guarantee measurable application of your new messaging and skills is through deal coaching. With deal coaching, you can drive adoption and track impact on the most visible, must-win opportunities for your company.

Imagine each rep being required to pick one of their biggest acquisition and/or renewal opportunities. Using your new scenario-based messaging, they work with subject matter experts to craft a tailored presentation for that must-win opportunity. Then, they practice the presentation using all the new concepts and skills they’ve learned at your kickoff event.

Make Your Next Sales Kickoff the Best Yet

It’s time to make your sales kickoff what it was always meant to be—the ideal venue to spark lasting business transformation.

To make it happen, you need to stage a kickoff event that gets your sales team revved up and prepared to succeed right out of the gates. They should walk away motivated and wanting more—more messaging, more content, more skills, and more coaching; just like they got at your kickoff.

Want more tips to make your sales kickoff a success? Check out our e-books, Why Your Sales Kickoff Needs a Shake-Up and Putting Your Sales Kick-off In Context.

Tim Riesterer

Tim Riesterer

Chief Strategy Officer

Tim Riesterer has dedicated his career to improving the conversations marketers and salespeople have with prospects and customers. His books, “Customer Message Management”, “Conversations that Win the Complex Sale”, “Three Value Conversations”, and "The Expansion Sale", focus on improving market-ready messages and tools that marketers and salespeople can use to win more deals. As chief strategy and research officer for Corporate Visions, he sets the direction and develops products for this leading marketing and sales messaging, content and training company.

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