While revenue kickoff failures are best left behind us, there are a number of kickoff lessons to be learned by revisiting them. The experts at Mereo have shared some of the biggest kickoff pitfalls they have witnessed — so you can avoid these at your upcoming kickoff event.
KICKOFF LESSON 1: TAKE THE PROPER TIME TO REWARD AND RECOGNIZE YOUR PEOPLE (THEY DESERVE IT)
I once attended a revenue kickoff where the awards ceremony was combined with the arrival / welcome gathering. While it sounded like a great way to free-up time for other activities on the agenda, the result was a raucous gathering where colleagues were greeting and catching-up with one another for the first time in over a year — while the CRO and CMO who were trying to announce awards over the noise. To make matters worse, a few retiring sales team members who were being honored went unnoticed by the crowd too. The much-deserved celebration became overshadowed by a networking / welcome event.
KICKOFF LESSON 2: FOSTER COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE ENTIRE PLANNING COMMITTEE (OR FACE SOME HICCUPS)
I knew a sales executive of a $600 million revenue software company who had received tacit approval to plan the worldwide revenue kickoff, with responsibility for the Americas region. However, they did not realize that the CEO (who had previously been worldwide head of sales) still expected to be involved in the process. Thus, when the sales executive finalized all plans and tried to put a down payment on the venue, the CEO refused the payment since he had not been consulted. It was the CEO’s way of making a point on the importance of engaging a broader team versus making decisions in a vacuum. It was an uncomfortable week until the sales executive resolved things with the CEO — and a mistake not to be repeated.
KICKOFF LESSON 3: MAKE YOUR EVENT A REWARD FOR WORK WELL-DONE (OR A MESSAGE OF MOTIVATION)
This $50-60 million revenue software company had always held their kickoff at a resort with sun and beaches and pools. Then a new CEO came on-board mid-year and was not pleased with the sales numbers. The CEO cancelled the original kickoff plans and held the event at the headquarters in February in a very cold, snowy location. The CEO’s point came across strong: The company can share the benefits of hard work — but if expectations are not met, then kickoff plans will change and reflect the team’s performance.
KICKOFF LESSON 4: SET CLEAR BOUNDARIES AND EXPECTATIONS OF YOUR KICKOFF PARTICIPANTS (AND AVOID LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARES)
A $400 million software company was holding its kickoff event overseas. The team had painstakingly prepared an effective program — yet they failed to properly communicate whether or not the attendees could bring their significant others. If they had communicated this, the answer would have been an obvious, “no.” But since the company had welcomed partners in the past, some assumed a plus-one was fine. Numerous “extras” ended up attending the kickoff and over-burdened the venues for special events and dinners. This led to a number of awkward situations where some people could not attend because there was not enough room, turning what should have been a celebration into a gripe-fest.
KICKOFF LESSON 5: LEAVE A LASTING IMPACT ON YOUR ATTENDEES (DO NOT JUST MAKE FLASHY NOISE)
At a kickoff years ago, the sales leader decided to make a grand entrance no one would forget (and I still have not). In the hotel venue, he barreled a motorcycle through an air wall in a flash of showiness. This was not out of the ordinary either; the previous year he propelled down from the ceiling, Mission Impossible–style, to start the program. Both came with a lot of drama and sent a ripple of laughter through the crowd. These stunts cost the company a good amount of money, and the attendees were more-so laughing at the sales leader rather than getting fired up, motivated or inspired.
THE BIGGEST KICKOFF MISTAKE TO AVOID
Another big kickoff pitfall offender our experts witness time and again: planning committees not taking the proper time or steps to plan an effective program. We have your back to get started and help you through the process. Turn to the Ultimate Revenue Kickoff Planning Playbook for a step-by-step guide to planning a successful event.