The #1 Thing Most People Get Wrong With Sales Kickoff

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Sales-Kickoff-Reinforcement

Create a behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement program that will keep the kickoff energy alive all year.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—when sales kickoff planning shifts into high gear. New products are rolled out. New messaging. New training. And while everyone is concerned with what to do during the event, sales kickoff reinforcement is always treated as an afterthought.

Everyone gets together, the energy is high, emotions are elevated, you’re at the center of a grand ‘ol party and you get to roll out your latest and greatest initiative that is going to change the world…

…And one week later, it’s all but forgotten. Noses are back to the grindstone and salespeople are back to operating exactly the way they were before. Their behavior has not changed.

Don’t get me wrong, I know as much as anybody how important it is to have the right theme, get a great keynote, and create valuable breakout sessions. But if you want your sales team to leave kickoff with more than just a hangover—and have the energy last all year—you also have to be prepared with a behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement plan.

Planning for Sales Kickoff Reinforcement

sales-kickoff-reinforcement-calendarReinforcement is defined as the process of encouraging or establishing a belief or pattern of behavior, especially by encouragement or reward.

Driving some kind of change, whether it is a new product or message, skills development, or a sales organization transformation is likely at the center of your sales kickoff. You and your team are going to put a ton of work into making it happen, so don’t let all that hard work go to waste. This is your time to shine—use it!

Help your sales force actually retain and use all your great content by putting a post-event reinforcement plan into place. There is no one-size-fits-all sales kickoff reinforcement program, the length and details will vary broadly depending on the size of your sales transformation. At a minimum, it should include three elements:

1. Sales Leader and/or CEO Communications

The more involved the authority figures are in communicating and driving post sales kickoff reinforcement, the better. Plan out and draft communications to come directly from the sales leader, using personalization tags to make the emails look one-to-one as often as possible.

Take a secret from marketing’s playbook and use automated workflows to tag those people who have not completed their work with a note from the boss. Give compliance emails that “I know you’re not doing what you’ve been told” vibe, rather than “If you haven’t done so already…”

Also, include sales managers in your reinforcement initiative early on. They can be your daily and weekly enforcers, as they already meet with their teams consistently. Consider running a contest with sales managers—the team with the highest participation rate each quarter gets a happy hour party or special outing.

2. Make It Relevant

Relevance is so simple in theory, yet surprisingly difficult for many enablement teams to pull off. With so much energy going into planning and creating content for the actual sales kickoff event, it’s easy to overlook post-event reinforcement content. But the basics are simple: don’t make the sales team do something that is not going to directly improve their ability to make money.

If you’ve done the important work of making sure your sales kickoff theme and content are relevant to the sales organization and business objectives, you’re halfway there. Make sure the information in your sales kickoff reinforcement curriculum is relevant to what everyone learned during the event, and what you expect them to apply in the field.

What do they absolutely need to know in order to make them as productive as possible? The magnitude of change that your initiative represents impacts how much post-kickoff reinforcement needs to be done. Don’t make people do any more work (or spend any more valuable time) than is absolutely necessary.

3. Make It Interactive

sales-kickoff-reinforcement-interactiveIt’s pretty rare to find a company that has created a comprehensive, behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement program. There are some real gems that I can think of, but most of the time post-event communications look something like this:

  1. A “required attendance” webinar provides a “PowerPoint Parade” overview of information and highlights from sales kickoff
  2. A pretty boring email campaign, maybe three emails deep, to “remind” people about the new messaging and/or process unveiled during the event

These are good things, but when it comes to working with sales teams, they just don’t stand up on their own. There is nothing here that lets them try the content on for size. They can watch the presentations, go through the eLearning and perhaps answer a few questions on the quiz, but they don’t have the ability to practice and respond in a sales context.

Transformation happens when you can not only deploy your content across your sales team, but also encourage them to practice that content themselves, view and score their peers, and receive feedback. Take it one step further and build this into your event by telling them there will be a highlight reel of the best performers and watch the interaction unfold.

Behavior-Based Sales Kickoff Reinforcement

Prior to and during sales kickoff, your sales force is being presented with information and, hopefully, are practicing new skills while you are all together. But how do you know if they are actually going to take new information and skills back to the field?

This is what I mean by behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement. The Kirkpatrick Model defines behavior as “The degree to which participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job.”

To keep the initiative launched during sales kickoff going throughout the year, you need a behavior-based sales kickoff reinforcement program that actively encourages and measures actual behavior change. In sales teams, the best way to do this is to implement a process and the tools to observe and assess the behaviors salespeople are exhibiting when they are “back on the job” and coach them on how to improve those behaviors based on consistent, relevant observable attributes.

Only through a structured, behavior-based and enabled reinforcement plan will your sales kickoff become a continuing success for your business stakeholders.

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