The word around sales kickoff planning season is uncertain. Will it be in person? Will it be all virtual? Will there be a hybrid option? What should your organization do?
There is no single right answer. Every organization has to factor many of considerations into account.
We at Mereo spoke to executive leadership from leading B2B selling organizations to learn about their plans and strategies for the 2022 sales kickoff season. Meet the experts, and read their insights below.
Nicole Briggs is the head of global sales enablement at JLL Technologies.
Kari Neidigh is the senior director of sales and tech enablement at Cloudera Inc.
Barbara Mazziotti is the senior director of regional sales enablement at Cloudera Inc.
What are the biggest considerations driving your 2022 sales kickoff planning?
Nicole: We are still in the early stages of planning at JLL Technologies. But we are sending out surveys to the broader organization and asking them to vote on what type of environment they want to be in. We’re really trying to tailor it this year for the team because we know it is a big ask for a lot of them to travel. Some of them still have kids at home that they’re trying to take care of because schools are still having issues. So we’re trying to get the most value out of this from all perspectives. And even if that value is just them getting to interact with a team, that’s important. Our focus this year is around their wellness and being grateful for what they have accomplished last year. That is our overarching goal this year, which, you know, if you asked me three years ago, that would not have been the same.
Kari: At Cloudera, our leadership has focused on providing plans and options that have people’s safety and well being at the forefront of any decision making. This is what has been discussed as we pull together various scenarios for our global, customer-facing team.
We understand the value of having some face-to-face time for our field team, but we want to ensure that we follow any legislation protocols and that people feel comfortable and safe in doing so.
What will be the format of your 2022 sales kickoff?
Barbara: Cloudera has kept its people at home; everybody has stayed remote. Our leadership is focusing on what is best for everyone in the company.
Nicole: We’re a global organization at JLL Technologies. With differing COVID restrictions around the world, we’re struggling to meet as a team in-person. So we’ve had to try to figure out how we can hold our revenue kickoff summit early next year in-person and virtually — so a hybrid kind of model. Our plan is to do three days in a single location. In the morning we will cover high-level themes, vision, strategy, motivation. That will be the typical center stage where everybody is watching and listening to people present. In the afternoons we will focus on specific tracks for marketing, commercial sales, and certain sales groups to help improve skills.
What lessons did your leadership learn from the 2021 sales kickoff?
Nicole: In 2021 JLL Technologies did everything virtually over two days. The programming was spot-on, but it was exhausting content-wise with the breakout sessions. If 250 people are taking different tracks, and we’ve broken them up into four different tracks and each of those four different tracks has 50 to 60 people in it, and we want to break it down into five- to 10-person breakout rooms so that they can work through a narrative exercise, but then bring them all back into the main room for readouts — you get the idea, it was a Zoom logistical nightmare. But we committed to having at least two to three sessions in which we did do that because we knew the value of people working one-on-one in a group. And now with 2022, we’re hoping that we have fewer individuals who are virtual and more individuals who are in-person. Then the virtual individuals will be able to join breakout sessions more easily than what we were able to accomplish in 2021.
Kari: Last year, Cloudera had a completely virtual SKO. We selected a dedicated virtual event platform that was easy to access and easy to navigate — and also had strong engagement capabilities. We encouraged people to use the social feed and held friendly competitions with it. People did enjoy that, and this was a key element that brought people together across the globe and made us feel like we were doing something together.
Barbara: If I could highlight a point that Kari shared: The fact that Cloudera invested in a specific virtual event platform that supported a high level of collaboration and engagement is unique. Additionally, their leadership was committed to making sure the event aligned with and reinforced corporate culture. I’ve heard a lot about the videos from last year where leadership helped create funny, engaging videos — and all of that helped maintain a personal connection even in a virtual environment.
Kari: Yes, engagement and inclusivity are big focuses for us. We also put a lot of thought and prep into making sure the content was easy to consume in a virtual environment. A lot of feedback shows that about the two-and-a-half-hour mark you start to lose people. We considered everything from the length of content, to timing, to prioritizing critical content. We wanted to make sure people were at their best right when they were consuming content. Overall the event was a success.
How are flexibility and adaptability fitting into your 2022 sales kickoff planning?
Nicole: Right now we are more concerned that the rest of the organization has transparency and full visibility into what we’re planning for next year. That’s why we’re trying to do a hybrid model of broadcast plus in-person — so we can catch the individuals who might be outside of sales but still need to understand these themes and our vision and what our strategy is. So our logistics is taking into account a lot of flexibility to meet our overall goals.
Barbara: We are focused on adding more case studies into the sales kickoff. In this, I bring in real people who fit customer personas. The team can then get direct feedback from the actual persona they hope to engage with the next year. So that is something we are exploring and discussing as a possible addition to the kickoff this next year.
I want to add that Cloudera went private this year, too, so that will be a big influence in our key messaging and themes.
Kari: To continue from where Barbara left off, our company had a very successful 2021 virtual sales kickoff. We plan to use the same virtual event platform, which has only improved this past year with more features and functionality for breakouts and engagement. But based on feedback from last year, we will shorten the kickoff from our 2021 cadence — which was three hours a day, three days a week, for three weeks. It is important to keep engagement high after nearly two years of remote learning.
What one piece of advice would you share with fellow B2B selling organization leaders who are in the midst of 2022 sales kickoff planning?
Nicole: Screen fatigue is a real and serious ailment. If there’s an opportunity to do something hybrid, I think that’s the best way to go, and the leadership at JLL Technologies agrees. It’s been two years since we’ve all been able to be in-person. So just taking the time to find sessions throughout the day, where we can just meet and greet and catch up, is important. But we get it that not everyone is comfortable with that, so our programming needs to remain accommodating.
Barbara: Don’t forget about application and practice. The sales kickoff can build excitement and engagement with presentations, but the learning and owning of the material will not happen until people apply it and practice it. And in doing so much with Zoom and in virtual environments, this is something leadership has to actively push and prepare for.
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