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Incorporating Sales Training at a Sales Kickoff (SKO)

Sales Training

One of the most important differentiators for any sales professional is how they sell.  Given the importance of selling skills, it is natural to want to include sales training at an SKO. 

The challenge many companies face is that the agendas for SKOs are increasingly tight given the number of competing priorities.

As a starting point, it is important to realize that an annual SKO serves multiple purposes including:

  1. Getting the entire sales team together (team building)
  2. Recognizing accomplishments (team and individual) from the prior year
  3. Clearly laying out the vision, goals and strategies for this year (sales alignment)
  4. Previewing new or updated offerings and associated positioning (e.g., product training)
  5. Enhancing selling skills, especially those needed to support new offerings

Additionally, SKOs should provide an uplifting experience where the sales team can socialize, bond together, and return to their work energized and excited about the great opportunities the new year brings.

Unfortunately, too many SKOs turn into multi-day events jammed with presentations leaving participants bored and anxiously awaiting the next break or that evening’s scheduled activity.

At the heart of the problem is an agenda that consists of a series of presentations by various internal and external presenters.

The presentation format is especially problematic for sales training because it goes against the fundamental principle that adults learn best when they are engaged in the learning. While presentations can be informative and, in some cases, entertaining (i.e., great presenter, cool graphics, and good stories), these presentations rarely have a lasting impact.

Instead of the presentation format, consider incorporating selling skills as a series of interactive sessions where participants can apply the skills they are learning. Ideally, each session would be limited to a maximum of 25 participants so it may be necessary for larger sales teams to consider rotating the sessions. These sessions should also focus on a very limited number of skills with an emphasis on skills application.

As an example, companies that are transitioning from a product sale to a solution sale can offer sessions on (i) call planning, (ii) identifying needs, and (iii) presenting solutions as a series of 90-minute workshops. These workshops would incorporate “real world” scenarios so participants can easily apply the skills when they return to work.

Another option, especially if there are significant time constraints, is to use the SKO to introduce a sales skills training program that will be rolled out during the year. With this type of approach, the emphasis of the presentation should be on the benefits associated with the program so the sales team can see “what’s in it for them”. As an example, if you are introducing a sales negotiation program you could stress the benefits of higher win rates and improved margins. This format should be limited to 1-hour and, in some limited way, incorporate some form of engagement by the sales team (e.g., brainstorm top negotiating challenges).

Ultimately, it makes sense to incorporate selling skills into an SKO with the realization that “less is more” by providing the sales team with specific skills they can immediately apply or excited to participate in a more comprehensive program.

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About Norman Behar

Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.