As many Chief Sales Officers (CSOs) make the difficult decision to host their annual sales kickoffs, Gartner, Inc. has identified three actions to run a successful virtual sales kickoff event.
“Given the disruption and changes that sales organizations are going through right now, CSOs are looking at contingency plans for sales kickoffs, usually held in Q4 and Q1, and how to leverage those events to accelerate their renewed go to market strategies,” said Doug Bushée, senior director analyst in the Gartner Sales practice. “Instead of cancelling plans for their kickoff, they are changing the venue to a virtual environment that can serve as a platform to inform, inspire and connect their teams to prepare them for the year ahead.”
“Ensuring seller engagement in virtual kickoffs is proving to be a challenge for enablement leaders. Without proper planning, virtual kickoffs reduce learning and networking opportunities for the sales teams, major benefits traditionally derived from sales kickoff meetings,” said Shayne Jackson, senior director analyst in the Gartner Sales practice.
Gartner recommends sales leaders consider the following actions when planning a virtual sales kickoff event:
Divide the Kickoff Into Multiple Mini Sessions: “You can’t just take an agenda from a multi-day face-to-face sales kickoff event and deliver it virtually,” said Mr. Bushée. To avoid “presenter fatigue,” increase the effectiveness of these meetings and include geographically dispersed sales teams. Sales leaders should consider dividing the entire kickoff event into shorter sessions that take place over several consecutive days.
Reinforcement is Key: With more concise messaging required for virtual kickoffs, building in activities to help sellers apply what they’ve heard is critical to long term behavior change. Knowledge checks, expert-led small group discussions and guided manager-led activities will help sellers process what they see and hear as it relates to their accounts.
“A well-planned virtual sales kickoff will drive home the most critical sessions by giving managers guides for team-based exercises where sellers apply lessons from important sessions to their accounts, planning for the quarters ahead,” added Mr. Jackson.
Inspire and Build Morale with Diverse Programming: One of the biggest challenges of virtual sales kickoffs is inspiring sellers and building morale. Complement large group sessions with small group meetings, taking advantage of the immediate access technology can provide. Plan executive drop-ins, customer Q&A and top performer best practice sharing as ways to celebrate the success of the team and motivate them for the coming year.
All sales kickoffs should have an element of fun as well. Some leading sales organizations have had success with virtual happy hours, trivia competitions and mailing packages to sellers to be opened together during a point in the event.