The fourth quarter of the year is incredibly busy. End-of-year reports, closing those last-minute deals, and trying to end the year on a high note can take up the majority of your work energy. But the end of the year is also a great time to look forward and start setting intentions for the year to come.
That’s right, it’s the perfect time to start coordinating your annual sales kickoff meeting (SKO).
Thinking about your SKO now will ensure you’re ready to hit the ground running in the new year, and is an excellent opportunity to lead the next twelve months with a note of purposeful momentum. Here are 4 ways you can lead your meeting with purpose and deliver the best results.
1. SET THE TONE BEFOREHAND
It’s hard to come back into the zone after the hullabaloo of the holidays and end-of-the-year sprint. But there can be a certain celebratory quality to your SKO that can feel like something to look forward to. By setting expectations and goals ahead of time, you’ll build anticipation of a productive and worthwhile meeting that your sales force can get excited about.
If you’re holding your meeting virtually, consider sending a swag bag ahead of the meeting and scheduling an unboxing as a team activity on the agenda. If you have a new initiative or sales asset that you want to tease, send it along to pique interest.
Or, show a personal touch by sending a shareable gift for your team member to enjoy with their family, friends (or indulgently on their own.) Adding a personal, human touch ahead of the meeting shows that you’re looking forward to hosting an event with your talented, unique team.
2. CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESSES
One of the best parts of a kickoff meeting is getting excited by looking ahead. But, it’s just as important to reflect on what brought your team to that moment. Highlighting the “wins” of the previous year is tantamount to identifying opportunities.
This is a moment to show appreciation to the individuals who went above and beyond who have yet to be acknowledged. Who exceeded their sales goals? Who stepped into a project and made an impact? Which team best showcased your company values? Giving gifts or kudos to top talent —however you define it— motivates and inspires at all levels.
And, if your team faced a challenging year, it’s important to call out those who stuck with it and didn’t give up. Acknowledging perseverance is just as important and valuable! Making a concentrated effort to celebrate and recognize effort is great for the individual and for the entire team.
3. MAKE LEARNING PERSONAL (AND FUN)
The annual sales kickoff meeting is the time to realign on values, mission, and goals. Studies continually show that a workforce that is aligned on a purpose outperforms their peers and has a greater sense of wellbeing. By restating your company’s values, and how individuals contribute to that purpose, you create alignment and a feeling of the whole team looking in the same direction. Consider setting a meaningful theme that compliments your values and can serve as a “true north” mantra for the year.
Then, make time for more intimate and personalized breakout sessions that speak to different areas of your sales process. Dive deeper into sales goals, tactics, or opportunities while creating smaller networking opportunities across teams. This can be led by sales leads, or by outside sales trainers that are familiar with your industry. Talk about prospect opportunities, customer feedback, metrics, process updates, or brainstorm ideas to address a problem from the previous year. It’s also an ideal time to finesse the finer points of your selling strategy, like a sales call.
“An SKO is the perfect place to practice,” says Tom Latourette, Managing Partner of M3 Learning, “ Small role-plays in groups of three are very effective. One is a salesperson and one is a customer. You run this scenario three times, allowing everyone to play each role. Then everyone comes back and shares learning. We’ve found that this smaller format takes a ton of pressure away from the event and can be very fun while also focusing on what’s important for success!”
Your sales kickoff meeting is work, yes, but don’t miss out on the opportunity for engagement, fun, and meaningful connection. Especially for remote or dispersed teams, building trust and a genuine rapport with colleagues is well worth the time and effort. Teambuilding exercises, happy hours, and unstructured networking opportunities are worth their weight in synergy gold.
“When planning your SKOs to take place over the next few months, it would be best to over-index on fostering meaningful peer-to-peer and leader-to-peer connections,” says Sales Assembly Chief Revenue Officer, Matt Green. “If you’re a sales rep who has been in your role for less than two years, there’s a decent chance you have yet to meet your coworkers in person. The focus of [your] upcoming SKOs should skew more towards fostering human connection than in previous years.”
4. REINFORCE SUPPORT
To ride the wave of a successful SKO, make sure to have all the necessary follow-up in place to make sure your sales force feels supported after the meeting. Set a plan for continued check-ins, training opportunities, and communications to reinforce key messages, like your theme, throughout the year.
Providing a way for attendees to give feedback on the meeting will set event planners up for success for the next year, and provide the chance for your sales team to shape upcoming training opportunities and events.
Lastly, send your team back to work with tangible tools to set them up for success. Templates, one-sheets, resources for additional training, or contacts for support. Reiterate the message that this event is just the beginning and that there is a structure in place to champion their success.
END ON A HIGH NOTE
When you center your sales kickoff meeting around purpose, it sets the whole year up for success. Ending your session with memorable and powerful closing remarks that uplift the team is a great way to drive your message home and end on a high note. Sending the team home (or offline) with key resources, memorable takeaways, and useful swag will keep your messages present during the months between meet-ups. And, with frequent check-ins and encouragement throughout the year, you’ll ensure your sales team will come to the next sales kickoff meeting with enthusiasm.