Sales Kick-offs are the Mullets of Parties
Part of our RevOps Co-op team and President of the Revenue Operations Consultancy Central Metric, Sebastien van Heyningen, talks about the purpose of a sales kick-off, who to include and why they need to be more than just party central.
We all look forward to a good party, especially one that the company is footing the bill for, and there’s no reason not to look forward to a sales kick-off as long as you keep your expectations in check. While usually filled with a celebratory atmosphere, there is business to be done too, so think of it as the proverbial mullet: business in the front, party in the back.
Sebastien van Heyningen (known in the RevOps Co-op as Seb) is the Co-Founder & President of Central Metric, a RevOps consultancy firm that has been part of many kick-offs for growing organizations. He’s also participated and planned a few kickoffs in previous roles. The purpose of sales kick-offs depends on the individuals you talk to, but as he explains, it’s all about alignment.
“It’s a chance to get all of the reps in one place, impart some education, wisdom or process on them and set the tone for the coming months,” he explains. “For the leadership at the executive level, it’s a chance to align everybody from different departments around the same goal while also looking back to see how and why the performance over the last year was made.”
Pick your cliché: it’s about getting your ducks in a row, getting everyone on the same page, covering the bases, finding synergy…
Party Planning 101
Some people are natural party planners and while there are those that focus on tacos or cake, a few will be about the music and others will focus on party games, ways to get people talking and the overall flow. We’ve all invited that friend to a party to keep the energy high. You want your team’s version of that friend to take the lead for your kick-off.
These are the folk who can collect information about what the event should include and create the right atmosphere.
“Figure out what you want to accomplish in a set time with the whole team,” Seb says. “You’re going to need a lot of feedback from the leaders of the teams that you’re bringing in.”
Not only do you need feedback, but you also need buy-in as these leaders will be the ones to communicate specific information about new product knowledge, integration of new tech, or a territory realignment.
Perhaps you don’t really need an over-the-top event?
Smaller organizations of under 10 sales reps can probably cut back on the extravagance and length of time. It may not be the party everyone was hoping for, but it will still be time well spent.
Don’t Leave Someone Off the Guest List
Remember Suzie Barton’s birthday party in grade 2 when you were the only one in the class who didn’t get invited?
Let’s not carry that drama into adulthood.
While a sales kick-off doesn’t need to include everyone from the organization (though there are times it makes sense to), you want to lean towards being inclusive rather than exclusive. Consider what needs to be accomplished in the meeting when asking people to attend.
“Anytime a new product is coming out, the product team is good to have on-hand,” Seb notes. “Many include an element of marketing. Since we are reviewing financial data, someone from finance should probably show up as well.”
There are lots of people to consider and this is one of those times where the journey is just as important as the destination.
Everyone who is involved or affected by a new process or change in policy needs to be on-hand.
The Party is in the Details
Balloons or streamers?
Reggae or 80’s?
Cake or ice cream? (Both are always the right answer by the way.)
Start with a recap or a rah-rah?
The order of things should come fairly naturally once the necessary elements are defined. Three things Seb says are mandatory: 1) A recap of the last sales period 2) A look forward to the upcoming goals and 3) An element of team building.
“This is almost as important as the forecasting and the revenue related stuff,” he says. “One of the big purposes of a sales kick-off is to bring people closer and help them collaborate more often.”
Reviews of numbers and conversion rates that take a deep dive into data should be scheduled for the most alert times of the day - as in the morning. Holding this at 2pm will result in more than one person doing the nod. The same goes for reviews of activity required going forward, technical specs and new processes.
Save mid afternoons for team building exercises, or more interactive sessions like defining the ideal customer profile or role-playing the new value proposition..
Long before COVID became the answer to Zoom’s prayers, sales teams have been working remotely. The big change over the last 2 years is that flying everyone in to be together at the offsite has become a far less frequent occurrence..
And does anyone even remember that phone that looked oddly like a spaceship sitting in the middle of the boardroom table?
Offsite flights may become a thing of the past with a newly defined way of working. It has redefined the sales kick-off as well. While information can be, and is, communicated through virtual platforms, getting together and having fun has taken a back seat.
New options to fix this are already on the horizon.
“Companies like Assembly Kitchen are putting together meal kits that employees create at home, so it gives you the feel of being out at happy hour,” Seb says. “But there is no silver bullet and this is definitely a new and strange world for all of us. There is no right answer to how to pull this off in a remote world.”
He sees a requirement for more follow-up after a sales kick-off; where information is reinforced and re-introduced to keep people on track.
This isn’t about the people, it’s about the party faux-pas.
“Handing off the company credit card to the head of sales should not be allowed under any circumstance,” he says. “And if you’re going to be recording content, make sure it stops at the end of the working day. I cannot stress that enough.”
Additionally, while the party planner should be encouraged to plan, they need to stop short of planning every available moment and interaction. Shuttling people to restaurant A at this time, then nightclub #1 at that time and a “shutting ‘er down” stop at 2 am is going to exhaust people in two ways: too much in too little time and going too late when everyone has to be fresh and ready the next day.
Set those expectations, plan for fun and remember the mullet. Have a great Kickoff.