Energizing and focusing your team on the goals of the year ahead has never been more important. Your sales kickoff – that annual team get-together that usually is equal parts goal-setting and pep-rally – remains supremely critical and relevant, particularly in the time of COVID-19.
In a proprietary The Brooks Group survey of sales leaders, more than 92 percent of sales execs still anticipate hosting a sales kickoff in 2021 – a reminder of the importance of resetting the team to common goals and visions. Nearly all respondents to our survey expected this kickoff to be conducted by virtual means – only 7 percent are planning to host the sales kickoff in person, and even that small minority will be postponing it until the current spike in COVID-19 cases is firmly in the rear view.
Of course, there’s no real playbook for a virtual kickoff – even our survey measured zero respondents who have ever hosted a fully virtual kickoff – so clearly, we are in uncharted waters. With so many companies forced to shift their sales kickoff to the virtual arena, according to our survey, most sales managers favor a straightforward, back-to-basics affair with a focus on selling skills, training, and the role that virtual tools play in the new sales landscape.
That said, you can still host a sales kickoff with impact – creating that sense of enthusiasm, collaboration, and connectedness that are critical elements to success. Here are some tips that you can use to reimagine your sales kickoff, while still making it meaningful and impactful…
1. Expand Your Thinking on Who and When
Remember that you cannot simply “lift and shift” your sales kickoff to cyberspace – just adding a camera to what you were already doing won’t get it done. Remember, you are taking an event that typically is given in three dimensions and delivering it in just two. So, you must rethink the way that you take advantage of the technology that you are going to use to hold your team’s attention. The virtual format will even allow you to bring in more people – even international team members – whom you haven’t been able to invite due to cost or distance considerations. Also, consider adding a customer to the mix – their perspectives offer a different, and powerful, dimension on how our sales efforts impacted their decision making. Finally, free of the constraints of a physical location, you can even consider breaking up your agenda over the course of a couple of days – so you can keep people fresh between segments and even offer a few short assignments in between. Plus, in our experiences, we’ve learned that “Zoom Fatigue” is a real thing – so breaking things up into blocks will better ensure that the information is retained.
2. Adapt Your Agenda for the Virtual Format
We always believe that sales kickoff meetings should build to some sort of emotional energy charge – a “feel good,” positive feeling that will carry forth into the sales landscape. Virtual meetings are no different. So, get any bad or neutral news out of the way early in the agenda, and work your way toward the good news. We also recommend having any sort of brainstorming early in the process, so any topics or ideas that arise can be addressed later in the sales kickoff session. Demonstrating that your sales leadership is listening and being proactive to the team’s interests can go a long way. Also, take advantage of the “breakout room” capabilities built into Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other conferencing software, as a means of helping your team participate in additional interactive sessions where they are more likely to be heard. Finally, don’t be afraid to think outside of the “virtual box.” Dial in multiple breaks and incorporate stretches, yoga positions, and other ways to get the blood flowing and to combat fatigue.
3. Answer the Need: What’s Most Important for Your Team to Know
You likely will have to less time to convey key information than in an in-person environment – so prioritizing is important. You may decide that some information can be shared prior to the sales kickoff; likewise, you can require some pre-work so your sales team comes prepared to maximize the benefits of the information shared. Also, to add impact to the presentation, you could have some members of your sales team pre-record videos so attendees can hear success stories from distant markets – it doesn’t have to be fancy; they can simply record a selfie video on their phone spotlighting a positive experience with a customer or a sales success. This will help keep the energy and engagement up – people don’t want to just see PowerPoint presentations; they want to hear stories that will motivate and inspire them. Finally, the sales kickoff would be a good time to train your team on the virtual tools that they will likely be using on a permanent basis.
4. Keep Energy and Interaction High
You want people to be able to have fun. I’m reminded of the old Julius Caesar line, “Veni vidi vici” – we came, we saw, we conquered. And that’s what we want here – we want our people to emerge from our meetings feeling a sense of optimism and success. And just because we won’t be able to have our usual fun and frolic that we would have had during the in-person meetings doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. You can have your people put on the jersey of their favorite sports team, or perhaps wear a funny hat. Maybe have a breakout segment where everybody shares one artifact from their office – something that we don’t normally get to see, but it’s going to open up and help us to understand more about that individual. You can also do quizzes. We use a tool here at The Brooks Group called Kahoot, and it gives you the chance to put up questions and have interactions and people get points based on how quick they respond and if they’re correct. You can group people into teams so you can have team competitions – salespeople do love to compete. Finally, consider using some of the money you would normally spend on travel and send everyone a really great virtual sales kickoff gift box, or even some swag – a sweater or jacket or hat; something that keeps your logo in front of people.
5. Ensure Team Leaves With 2021 Clarity
Perhaps this is most important – don’t forget the key reason we’re doing sales kickoff meetings. We want to make sure people understand what success in 2021 looks like. If you are rolling out new numbers at your sales kickoff, make sure you also roll out how you are going to measure people this year. We recommend emailing out critical information – like updated compensation plans – ahead of time, and then address this information early in the kickoff. You want people leaving the virtual kickoff fully committed to 2021, and everything you’ve got to execute. Whether 2020 was really good year for you and people are worried about how to maintain it, or if it was a really bad year, and people are worried about how the company rebounds, just make sure people understand and see the numbers, strategies, and insights you will use to be successful in 2021.