If you are not planning for your sales kickoff at least six months in advance, you are already behind schedule.
As the head of sales, it is your meeting – you set the agenda, theme and tone of the entire sales kickoff. While you may look to others for recommendations for what to include — “We’re rolling out this marketing campaign,” “We acquired a new company,” “We have this product launch” — as the CSO you determine the most-relevant and most-valuable content and the amount of time to spend on that content.
The tricky part that comes into play here is that virtually every company sells more in the fourth quarter than the rest of the year, often bringing in a third of their entire business in the fourth quarter – the seasonality spike. As a result, sales leadership is helping their team land sales, not plan a meeting for the next year. And an effective sales kickoff requires a lot of preparation.
Head of sales help.
When you are too busy meeting goals for the current year to plan for a sales kickoff for the next year, it is time to turn to other teams and even outside help.
Marketing and product teams can take on some heavy lifting. Alternatively, a third-party partner can be of assistance too – for example we support clients with dozens of sales kickoffs each year. The event team (often in marketing) can help with logistics and other components of the program. But the content – the strategy in particular – is the responsibility of the head of sales, as other parties can be assigned piecemeal content to support key elements in the sales kickoff agenda.
Regardless who you bring in to help, it is important to sit down with other leadership involved and provide your key thoughts and focused messaging to them before they start planning out the content and format of the event.
Establish key messages.
When you are establishing key messages with your sales kickoff team, ask yourself: What do I need to equip my sales team with in order for them to be the most successful in engaging prospects and customers?
This could be educating the sales team on a new product, getting more comfortable with buyer audiences and what matters to those audiences. It could also be that your company is in a time of transformation – undertaking an acquisition spree, for example – so the sales team must be able to communicate the CEO’s vision and instill confidence in the buyer that the organization has a plan to continue to expand its business.
Regardless the messages, the sales kickoff is a sales meeting. While many messages can be discussed during the sales meeting, they should be discussed in the context of what the sales plan is for next year.