Learning Cycles and Certify to Fly for Sales Kickoff

In Part 1, I reviewed the idea of efficiency vs. efficacy in sales training, and many of the situations that challenging rep performance and ability. In Part 2, I covered the idea of the Learning Cycles approach to sales training, and Certify to Fly – a model for ensuring learning sticks before, during, and after your sales kickoff.

If you ask sales leaders what is on their minds in Q4, the answer is nearly universal: “How will we close the quarter?” If you ask them what else is on the horizon, the answer is again ubiquitous: “What’s the plan for sales kickoff?”

For sales leaders, sales kickoff represents the start of the new selling year and the launch of new messaging, skills, and behaviors. For reps, it is often seen as a vacation or a distraction. You can guess how CFOs feel about the cost and results. It seems that no matter how much we prepare and create excitement around the event, reps forget the new content as soon as they fly home, and very little changes.

Chances are, your kickoff today looks something like this:

Before sales kickoff, planning goes into logistics, booking flights and entertainment, and finding a venue. Sales Enablement and Marketing craft the new message and create great content. Sales Leaders prepare to introduce the message and shepherd reps toward adopting the new approach. Team development and sales skills practice are scheduled throughout the sessions. The team receives content to review before kickoff, and we assume they all will study it prior to their arrival.

When the reps arrive, we realize that very few people studied the assigned content. Throughout the kickoff, most reps are busy jumping in and out of sessions based on what they feel is important, while a small group of top performers pay close attention. Three days later, they all leave. Just a week or two after the event, reps forget what they “learned,” and little changes.

As you finalize planning for this year’s sales kickoff, take a minute to reflect on last year’s gathering and how to change the equation. While kickoffs can provide valuable interpersonal development for global teams, they often lack the structure to help reps retain information after the event.

This is where the Learning Cycles structure offers significant benefits over the normal approach.

A New Approach

Combining the Learning Cycles structure and the concept of Certify to Fly, we can progressively change our approach to kickoff and deliver better results, all without large changes to the planning process. The goal is to establish three key points across the Cycle:

  • Visibility into who interacts with the core content presented before, during, and after kickoff, and into what sticks.
  • Accountability to ensure that reps and managers actually review materials before kickoff.
  • Measurability of the progress and results of the kickoff investment.

The Learning Cycles framework already creates a structure to any event, but when applied to kickoff, it allows the Certify to Fly framework to be executed across the organization.


In the new approach, sales leadership sets a standard that all kickoff attendees must Certify to Fly. Every person has to undergo a pre-certification, attend the event, and then follow-up with formal certification and SpotCheck reinforcement exercises.

Combining this arrangement with the power of CommercialTribe’s bi-directional video platform and the Curriculum Blocks that power it allows for a new degree of engagement before, during, and after kickoff.

Instead of receiving content to read or getting on an all-hands call before kickoff, now reps can complete a light learning activity inside a video platform. This ensures that they view highly engaging content, but more importantly gives us a way to track who actually logs in before kickoff, and who does not. For the first time, sales leadership can ensure reps review the core messages, skills, and behaviors before the event.

Over the three-day event, reps and managers engage in practice, review, and role-play, building confidence in the new message by continuously using it in selling scenarios. Reps may be given notecards with a job title and challenge, and are tasked with acting out the message across real scenarios, each demanding adoption of the core principles. Whichever way you apply active learning, the process works.

This time around, reps have already reviewed the core themes of the kickoff messaging and come prepared to ask questions, interact with their peers, and stand and deliver. The key with this framework is that reps are able to participate in a “flipped classroom” model of learning, where they come together with subject matter experts to ask questions and practice. The result is more learning, tailored to each rep’s learning style.

After sales kickoff, reps fly home with an invite already in their inbox to log back into CommercialTribe for a behavioral certification. Like before, reps view, practice, and submit for feedback, but this time they have to deliver the new message or skill at a set standard. Those who pass are certified on the message, and those who struggle are offered additional chances to review and practice.

90-120 days later, reps complete SpotCheck exercises designed to determine who can still execute on the content and who needs help. Now we can push poor performers back into the learning cycle and help them regain their footing before they fail to reach quota.

The Results

By injecting visibility, accountability, and measurability into the process, leadership can see how well the team learns and executes. Visibility into practice across individual videos allows subject matter experts to quickly and easily adjust lessons. Identification of sub-standard rep learning prevents high churn rates and poor organizational performance.

In the real world, executing the Certify to Fly framework across kickoff delivers results in line with these expectations. Here are a few real examples of the principle in action at Corporate Visions and Veritas:

Corporate Visions, Inc.

When Corporate Visions needed to align reps from 4 acquisitions on 6 key Point of View messages, they used CommercialTribe and Certify to Fly for their global kickoff. In the pre-event, reps had to watch best practice examples of the whiteboarding exercise and practice their take. At the event, reps received situational battle cards to practice execution and ask questions instead of practicing on prospects. Afterward, reps entered a formal certification and had to pass on their ability to deliver the right message. Today, nearly 90% of the organization has one of each of Corporate Visions’ products in an advanced sales cycle, and pipeline value has doubled.


At Veritas, the organization that devised the Certify to Fly model, the enablement team needed to rapidly scale a new message to the global team before kickoff. Rather than hand instructors a binder of content, they used CommercialTribe to serve up a pre-certification exercise. 135 instructors had to log into the platform, review the Gold Standard execution of the new messages and skills, and certify on it to get their plane ticket. At the event, these instructors taught their reps and practiced, allowing for questions and enhanced learning. After kickoff, the global rep team entered CommercialTribe in waves, practicing and certifying on the right execution. For the first time, the organization was able to scale a new approach to their market-facing message across the global team, and did it in just a two months.

Whether you are just starting to plan your kickoff or have already booked the venue and tickets, I’d welcome the opportunity to further share our approach to sales kickoff with you.