Accelerate Growth at Sales Kickoff (SKO) - Avoid These 5 Mistakes

Your teams have a Growth Plan but are they ready to execute? Accelerate growth at Sales Kickoff (SKO) and avoid these five mistakes.

Every year, thousands of companies spend millions of dollars on sales kickoff (SKO) events and concentrate on talking at the group rather than activating the growth plan. If you're reading this, you're likely one of them. SKO is a monumental event that can ignite the motivation of commercial teams and drive organizations to reach new heights. It can also spin the organization into a place of confusion that takes months to recover. 

The average cost per SKO attendee in 2021 we observed was $2,500-$5,500. A company expecting 100 attendees can expect to pay $270,000-$640,000 for the event alone. As leaders grapple with global uncertainty at the micro and macroeconomic levels, SKO is a massive bet.

In the hundreds of kickoffs SBI has attended, we identified five common activities that prevent revenue leaders from getting the maximum value out of this significant investment. 

Accelerate growth at SKO and avoid these five mistakes: 

  1. Keynote overload: Everyone loves a great motivational speaker. But, like anything, too much can lead to diminishing returns. To create the most effective SKO, leaders must ensure that most of the team's time is focused on understanding customer needs and gaining practical insights on how they will achieve their yearly goals. 

    Instead, opt for orchestrated sessions with heavy interaction with the Commercial teams. Focus on the 2-3 big bets outlined in the annual revenue plan and the specific individual actions from individuals required weekly and quarterly. Internal presenters listen and learn as much as they speak and teach.

  2. Product/Feature Centrism: Successful leaders avoid overcrowding keynotes with a heavy emphasis on product and feature updates. To make the most out of the time with sellers, use the time to share customer stories focused on the biggest challenge a specific product or new feature will solve. 

    Don't have the Product team overwhelm attendees with an overview of everything being launched in the coming year and risk "tuning out." Start with a clear vision to inspire what is achievable for customers and for individuals focused on helping them. Articulate the specific pain points the company is uniquely positioned to solve for customers and align them to the company's purpose, mission, and vision.

  3. Limited Customer Presence: SKO is also an incredible opportunity to showcase the value provided to customers in the previous year. Revenue leaders leveraging customer presence and stories set themselves apart by creating different opportunities for their sellers to feel the value provided to their customers. 

    Invite customers to attend and have them tell stories of how solutions generate value for them and the experience that they want to receive. Optimize the time together and keep reps engaged by holding collaborative, structured breakout sessions to share best practices across geographies and markets. Save the socializing for happy hour.

  4. Finite Interactivity: Interactivity should occur throughout the entire event and not be restricted only to breakout sessions. Every session at SKO should have a strategic point of interaction that aligns with a specific learning outcome. This applies to in-person and virtual formats. 

    Create shared spaces to build connection building between attendees and suggest topics to stimulate ideas on how to support each other. Hold a group ideation session on improving the company culture with senior executives listening and leaning in. The experience should be unforgettable, steering cultural propagation while being laser-focused on achieving customer outcomes that drive revenue growth.
  5. Data Dumping:  Learners will forget an average of 90% of what they have learned within the first seven days. Having a precise reinforcement strategy that is supported by a strong coaching culture is critical to driving outcomes post-SKO. 

    Preparing the organization for action at SKO is the best way to drive engagement. Have attendees complete assigned pre-work to make the most of their time together, so they leave with clear measures of success when they return. Limit new presentations during the summit, and begin all important announcements before it. Consider introductory sessions where every function showcases its objectives and plan for the FY, anchored around cross-functional initiatives.

Market leaders avoid these five mistakes to ensure that every piece of the agenda at SKO is intentional, driving outcomes relative to growth levers. This brief explores the key actions revenue leaders should take to prepare for a successful SKO and catalyze the organization to new dimensions of unforgettable growth.