Massive amounts of energy, time and resources are invested into the event that marks the beginning of every new open season on sales deals: the annual sales kickoff, or SKO. Inevitably, the energy wanes as the year progresses and team members get so bogged down in the flurry of day-to-day tasks, proposals, and quotas that they forget the themes, insights, lessons and messages that were shared during the kickoff.
So, how can leaders harness the energy of their SKO and sustain that velocity throughout the course of the year?
Know your audience and design your SKO around it.
Many sales professionals bristle at the thought of being forced to subsume preachy mantras or inauthentic wisdom as part of their job. So, it’s important that your SKO content is closely aligned with individual success. If an individual can see, clearly, how the SKO themes and lessons will help them succeed, you’ll have a much more engaged, enthusiastic audience of team members who will want to carry the content through the year instead of fighting against it.
That’s why sustained velocity begins during the actual kickoff. Authenticity and practicality are your friends when designing your kickoff’s content. Find genuinely inspirational and motivational content to amp up the energy level, and then focus that excitement on a second wave of content that arms the team with useful, actionable insights and learnings to help them perform better.
Channel today’s excitement into the future.
Another key element in sustaining the momentum of your kickoff is to set the stage during the actual event for future events. Your team needs to know that this annual rah-rah event isn’t just a flash in the pan with everyone heading back to their cubes to continue doing what they’ve always done. Share the plan for a series of events that will carry the momentum through the year. Knowing that this is going to be a regular part of your culture can do a lot for maintaining your team’s focus on the learnings.
Keep the content flowing.
Post-kickoff, create a regular cadence of content that will bridge the gap from your kickoff to the next kickoff-related event. Radio silence in between these events can diminish any enthusiasm you’ve built as the focus shifts from kickoff mantras, lessons and insights back to the tedium of leaving voicemails, holding discovery calls and sending follow up after follow up email. Quick bursts of content like kickoff-related TED Talks, mentorship and peer coaching sessions and industry-leader lunch and learns can all help reignite the fires that were sparked during your initial SKO.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Look for opportunities to revisit key messages from your SKO on a regular basis. This could be team meetings, 1-1’s, or daily standups in a smaller setting. The key here is not, droning repetition of SKO messages but instead, to facilitate discussion around those main themes to which your SKO programming centered on. We’ve all heard the fact about how you have to do something 21 times (or is it 66?) before it becomes routine. By purposefully maintaining a consciousness about your SKO’s learnings – whether that’s a motivational mantra, data-driven insights or a sales methodology – you’ll help to keep those nuggets front and center in everyone’s minds as they go about their daily life.
Encourage leadership to set the example.
Hold regular town hall-style meetings, with leadership relating kickoff themes and learnings to decisions made at the leadership level. This imbues a ‘practice what you preach’ message that shows everyone, regardless of their position on the org chart, that taking kickoff themes and learnings to heart is something that is part of your organization’s culture.
The antidote to the dreaded SKO half-life is continuity.
Instead of looking at the SKO as a single event that opens the year’s selling season, look at instead as the first event in a series of programming designed to imbue focus, insight and professional development to your sales team. It seems like a simple concept, and it is, but developing a year-long focus on sales programming requires consideration, commitment, and grit. One last tip: planning the year’s programming in advance can help ease the tension of having to balance professional development with the day-to-day functions of selling.