Sales kickoffs have a cluster of important goals: Motivational, inspirational, informational, educational and strategic to cite just a few. Little wonder then that the impact of such a complex, highly charged environment is so hard to manage effectively.
Why is it, for instance, that a typical launch meeting starts strong with the entire organization fired up and bursting to storm their targets, only for that energy to fizzle out and start to drift even though the agenda has hardly got under way?
Revitalizing your own sales kickoff is a matter of analyzing the issues at play. Once you understand what's happening, it becomes a little easier to address what’s really going on and realign your approach to enhance the benefits for everyone. So here are five common reasons why kickoffs fail, and some strategies you might use to fix the issues.
We live in an information age where, we are told, knowledge is always the key. Unfortunately, that message often gets translated as ‘data is good … so lots of data is even better’. That often means sales reps are expected to absorb and assimilate vast quantities of information during a kickoff. Worse still, document formats often fail to prioritize what is presented, making it harder to find and grasp key facts. Likewise, it is quicker to press the copy button than to extract and write a summary of the ideas any one text presents. This intimidating strategy invites your people to either ‘browse, sample and skim’ or risk burnout by attempting to read or listen to every piece of information shared.
Healthy data communication promotes better knowledge management skills by avoiding excessive length and producing well-focused texts in which the knowledge hierarchy is reinforced by the text structure. It’s also important to always employ the best mode of communication – for example, don’t forget infographics and video clips where these could be more effective.
Coaching must accommodate diversity
Sales coaching and training which uses the same content to engage poor performers and sales superstars alike is doomed from the outset. And where a diverse approach is used, too many managers target the extremes of the sales performance continuum, virtually ignoring the mid-range reps. Effective coaching targets everyone and will only succeed if adapted to the skill level of your sales operatives.
A sales kickoff workforce presents you with a mixed-ability challenge: Fresh-hired rookies need firm direction and careful monitoring; struggling reps need careful evaluation to determine areas for development together with incremental targets; and your star performers need acknowledgement of their success, encouragement to contribute their insights and take on ‘buddy’ or ‘guru’ roles, and as much help as you can give to remove any barriers which inhibit further performance.
Your average sales reps will be the most numerous, and the most difficult to reach. While some will be achieving to their ability, many others will be superstars with just a few identifiable flaws. Anything you can do to personalize your sales coaching here, such as using sales conversation intelligence to highlight collective areas of strength and improvement, will pay off with a healthy boost in performance.
Short attention spans
There’s fierce debate about the evidence for short attention spans, but the practical reality is your content can only reach people if it has impact. And just as in any live sales conversation, your reps too will respond best when the content targets their concerns, addresses their needs, solves their problems, allays their fears, and so on. In other words, they will only focus and absorb material if you are sharing something they care about.
Your presentations need to be brief and memorable – perhaps involving humor – but they must be authentic examples with recognizable benefits. In a sales kickoff context that could be achieved via role playing, or you could use sales conversation intelligence material such as sales call recordings to highlight particularly effective approaches that others can learn from.
It can be hard to find follow-up coaching time to increase knowledge retention, embed skills and build a learning culture which provides feedback and reinforcement in a continuous loop. However, just like the diversity you must address via up-front coaching, successful reinforcement relies upon gathering data about the progress achieved (we can help with that....).
Here too, reinforcement will work best if you have a clear, personalized picture of the knowledge profile of each rep. It’s only when that information is to hand that you can offer sales coaching with relevant material to help individuals who are still struggling.
It’s not uncommon to find disparate sales teams spread across a broad geographical area. That makes it a tough job sending the same messages to each, ensuring that standards of assessment and reinforcement are consistent, and providing high-quality support which is timely and equitably available.
There is undoubtedly a role for technology to play here. But the challenge for coaches and trainers will always be to bridge the distances involved without diluting the quality of the content or compromising the individuality of the response.
That's where Refract comes in. Our platform uses conversation intelligence to enable sales leaders to listen to, and analyse, sales calls at scale, to hear how reps are translating the learning from the sales kickoffs into calls with prospects. Artificial Intelligence within the platform allows leaders to do this at huge scale, without the need to listen to every call.