6 Ways to Produce Success at Next Year’s Sales Kick-off Meeting: Critical Factors to Motivate, Model and Manage a Surge in Sales for your Company

13 Dec
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At SocialAgenda Media we choose speakers and sales trainers for our bureau who at sales kickoff meetings and ask questions like this: “Why do the top 10 percent of your sales people produce most of the results? Why do they close more sales than the rest of your sales team? They have the same product or service to sell. They have the same presentation material. They have the same brochures. They sell to the same market. What are they doing that’s different? And even more important than the answers to these questions themselves, how do you take the information and get the rest of your sales team to understand and use it to become top performers too?” What are the best practices for the annual effort companies put together to answer these questions? We gathered a few of our speakers and corporate sales pros to share and compare sales kickoff meeting strategies:

Tom Cox, Executive Vice President of Sales, MSC , which is one of the largest distributors of Metalworking and Maintenance, Repair and Operations (“MRO”) supplies to industrial customers throughout the United States.

Mark Johns, Senior Business Development Consultant, Franchise Services. For more than 40 years, Franchise Services, Inc. has successfully supported small business owners at becoming their own boss.

Sharon Drew Morgen, Sales Trainer & Speaker represented by SocialAgenda Media speakers bureau. Sharon is a NY Times bestselling author. She has developed Buying Facilitation® so sellers can help buyers manage the buying decision. Her latest innovative work is on the power of listening.

Richard Grehalva, Sales Trainer & Speaker represented by SocialAgenda Media speakers bureau. Richard, the author of “Unleashing the Power of Consulting Selling” and “The Boomerpreneur Revolution,” combines the heart of a teacher and the head of a successful business executive to guide organizations and individuals to reach their true potential.

Julie Hansen, Sales Trainer and Speaker at Performance Sales & Training and the author of ACT Like a Sales Pro. Julie combines her sales and acting experience to help sales professionals gain a critical edge by leveraging the power of the performing arts.

Renie Cavallari, CEO and Chief Inspiration Officer of Aspire. Aspire is an international training and leadership development company known for building businesses through people, not Power Points.


SocialAgenda Media: Based on your many years of experience in Sales what 5-10 factors would you see as critical to hosting a successful sales kick off meeting?

Tom Cox:

  1. Overarching message or theme into which every presentation ties.
  2. Clear goals and objectives to rally the sales force around.
  3. Team activity to drive engagement, interaction and learning.
  4. Motivational message and speaker to energize the group.
  5. Breakout sessions for small group work where we share best practices and plan how we will meet sales targets.
  6. Professional meeting space with well-planned logistics so the event runs smoothly and the focus remains on the content.
  7. Strong wrap-up so the team is focused and can hit the ground running.

Mark Johns:

  1. Right time – When can we get the appropriate people together in one place?
  2. Right place – Where can we get them together?
  3. Right content – What new, relevant content do we have to offer them?
  4. Right audience – New hires, veterans, channel partners?
  5. New opportunities – Is there a market that just opened to us or one we have chosen to break into?
  6. New capabilities – Do we have a new product or service, maybe a unique one, with a window of opportunity or a new, faster, better delivery system?

Renie Cavallari:

1. Be clear on what your team goal is and what each individual will have to do for the team to be successful.

  • Make this inspiring, fun, interactive and create a sense of responsibility for everyone involved from sales people to the related administrative team.
  • Create a 2014 theme that you can tie into every sales meeting and can use as a tool to keep the momentum alive throughout the year

2. Open the meeting with a fun, “think differently” interactive.

  • This will get the team engaged and energized from minute one.
  • Stop doing it the way you have always done it.  Change everything from the opening to the facilitator.
  • Creating an emotional connection will get your people connecting differently and this creates alignment. Alignment is like putting premium fuel in your tank!

3. Get someone inspiring to speak to your group.

  • Hearing from someone outside of the organization is always exciting.
  • Tie their presentation into your theme.

4. Make the meeting a TPM™ meeting.  Give your people time to create an effective plan that they can work every day.

  • T stands for Think.  Get people in small groups to think together about how they can develop new customers; expand current customer wallet share and grow networks and referral, including social media, systems.
  • P stands for Prepare.  Give your people time to sit and map their plan directly into Outlook so they have targets, due dates, and plan their time out proactively.  Sales can sometimes be important and not urgent which is the Achilles heel for a sales person.  If you don’t take time to work your pipeline you are preparing to fail.  Simple as that!
  • M stands for Move.  Have a competition at your meeting for new business.  Actually dial for dollars to see who can jump start their sales effort. The real move comes after the meetings so make sure each person can report out on their productivity and activity goals.  The reason we always go back to basics is because they work!

5. Discuss with the group what they need to really deliver.  What new tools?  How do we create momentum?  How can we stay in touch and keep each other inspired? You cannot motivate another person but you can inspire one another.  It takes a Village!

6. Create an incentive plan that pays out monthly for results and recognizes things you want to recognize, for example, new deals, new prospects, and the like.  Recognition goes a long way so don’t just do financial rewards.  Give them the spotlight.  Sales people like to shine so shine that light!

Sharon Drew Morgen:

Get them excited. Have the top producer speak and model how to be successful. Teach them all the ways buyers buy that they can help facilitate and offer new ways to approach helping the buyer to buy. Talk about the times during day for the most success. Help them understand dealing with rejection, why it’s not necessary and how to avoid it. Obviously some housekeeping must be dealt with (i.e. projections, commissions, product launches, etc.) but I’d do it all in terms of helping buyers buy. This year, not only will we run rings around our successes from last year, but also we’re going to add a new initiative: we’re going to help our buyers buy!

Richard Grehalva:

I have been fortunate in my career to be on both sides of the annual sales kick off meetings as the SVP of Global Sales and Marketing and as a speaker, trainer and consultant in my own business.

The annual sales kickoff meeting is without a doubt the most important event for a company. Why is it important? We can find the answer by going back to the fundamental question “why do we have them”?

We need to thank John Henry Patterson the founder of NCR. He developed and implemented many of the sales processes we use today. For example the 4 step sales model contained in a manual called the “Sales Primer, “The Book of Objections” established quotas and much more. He even created the annual sales meeting.

He attended the World’s Fair in 1893, this is not a typo it was 1893. He went into the NCR display and quizzed the salespeople. The quiz was from his “Sales Primer” and they could not answer all of his questions. He immediately took the salespeople to a hotel and retrained them. He then decided to bring in his entire national team for an annual sales meeting.

What happened at the national sales meeting? It was not sales 101. It was advanced training and coaching. It was how to listen to the prospect and modify the sales process…it was focused on communication. He even brought an educator to teach the salespeople to talk on stage!

He focused on education, creating teamwork, building confidence and momentum for closing sales. It really has not changed much since then.

These are my “7 Critical Factors” in leading a successful sales kick off meeting.

1) Takeaways – This is the single most important criterion for a successful sales meeting. Begin by thinking the sales kick off meeting has occurred. You are now getting ready for next year’s sales meeting. What did they sales team accomplish? What are the 3 to 5 specific objectives you achieved? This will be the agenda for this year’s meeting. Do not overload them with mountains of documentation and death by PowerPoint. Stay focused!

2) Education – Teaching and coaching advanced sales training skills. It should focus on advanced communication skills, presentation skills, consultative selling skills and so on. Of course this would include product and service training.

3) Knowledge – The next critical factor is understanding the current competitive environment. I’m not just talking about who the company competes with and the market. Let’s remember the focus is getting and keeping a customer. Understand the market means looking at this from the customer’s viewpoint. Understanding this is what separates the best from all the rest.

4) Pride – We all want to feel proud of where we work. We want to part of an organization. We want to feel connected to the leadership. We want to understand the vision of where the company is heading, how the organization will get there and how this will better serve customers, stakeholders and shareholders. This comes from the CEO or President who must inform, educate and inspire the sales team.

5) Commitment – There is a difference between compliance and commitment. You can tell the sales team “What to do” or they can decide “They want to do it.” Instead of telling them the theme and the objective, engage them by leading the team in a workgroup discussion of what it should be. When they become part of the process they own it. This is how you get commitment and build teamwork.

6) Morale – Make sure there is plenty of time for social events. Make room for laughter. Do not overwhelm the team with information, they cannot retain it all. Encourage all of the leadership from all departments to attend evening events. Let them know they are appreciated.

7) Transparency – The VP of Sales must close the meeting with open and complete transparency. Tell them the quarter goals and the metrics. Share your concerns and what you and the company will do specifically to help them succeed.

Julie Hansen:

  • Setting expectations:  Getting salespeople excited about the opportunity to learn tools that will help them be more competitive and more successful in coming year.
  • Keeping the audience engaged by creating a full “experience”: great content they won’t get anywhere else delivered in an entertaining format.
  • Using improvisation to get people involved and create receptivity to new ideas.
  • Deliver something of value with strategic steps that they can put into action.
  • Give attendees the opportunity to practice new techniques through interactive activities or small group breakouts followed by group discussion.

SocialAgenda Media: What are the main challenges still to be solved to have sales kick off meetings translate into the actions and attitudes the company needs from the team?

Tom Cox:

  • Keeping the team focused on the key learnings and priorities that make them better every year.
  • Ensuring engagement at the kick-off translates to learnings that can be applied comfortably after the kick-off.

In addition to our kick-off we use a host of online training programs and we have market-based training that includes senior sales leadership.  The intent of this additional training is to continue the momentum of the sales kick-off meeting and help the teams stay on top of what’s going on in their markets.  During this time we review the customer and competitor landscape and discuss what is working well and what isn’t in order to improve productivity and performance.  We also reward our top performers each year with a trip.

Richard Grehalva:

When I meet with sales leadership, I make this statement, I bet your top sales performers are 10% or less of the total team. They hesitate for a moment and do the math in their head say “you are right.”

I then ask, “Why do they close more sales than the rest of your sales team?” They have the same product or service to sell. They have the same presentation material. They have the same brochures. They sell to the same market. What are they doing different?

I ask them to think about their top performers and do they have any of these traits?

  1. Do they have a positive attitude?
  2. Are they knowledgeable about the customer, market, product and competition?
  3. Are they self-motivated with an internal desire to succeed?
  4. Do they use consultative selling skills by being able to identify customer’s needs?
  5. Do they have good work habits?

They look at me and say, “You just described my top salespeople”.

These are top traits of all top sales performers across all industries. Notice over half of these traits are so called “soft skills”. But these “soft skills” have a hard impact on top line revenue and customer satisfaction.

Find out what the top sales performers are doing and then replicate it.

Anatomy of a Win and a Failure – Here is what to do in the sales kick off meeting. Set up a panel discussion with your top sales performers. Go through an anatomy of a win. Get into the details of the type of questions they ask, how do they respond to objections, what are the keys in their presentations and so on. Walk through each step and make it interactive. Encourage the sales team to ask questions. Have an easel with a pad and write down the key takeaway steps. Next, go through the same thing for a tough sale that did not happen. What can be learned from this?

Sales is a numbers game and not every prospect will become a sale. Celebrate the tough losses as much as the win. Set up a culture that supports the sales team when they lose. Help them to get back up and into the game. Learn from it as team and you will increase your win percentage.

Take one new skill you wrote down from the panel discussion and implement one a month. Talk about how the new skill is working each week within the month. After one year they will have 12 new skills that came from your top performers. Imagine how many more sales will occur and the confidence rise in your sales force. Resist the temptation to ask them to do 12 new things in a day!

Mark Johns:

Our main challenge is follow-up after the meeting, to ensure that what was taught was learned, that what was learned was internalized and that what was internalized is practiced.

We are a franchise company. While we offer assistance to our franchisees as they hire, train and manage salespeople, we do not hire nor manage their sales people. We do provide training and tools but, especially if a franchisee did not attend the meeting with his/her rep, we are challenged to get the rep to implement.

In addition to the annual kick off sales meeting, we do a series of regional sales training meetings in several cities where we can gather smaller groups for updates, reinforcement, new tools and resources, as well as deliver core content to those who did not attend the kick off meeting.

Sharon Drew Morgen:

Too often they just give a rah-rah talk and fall back on the same old instruction to try harder. This time, give people the knowledge they need to actually make a difference in their income.

Julie Hansen:

  • Work with the trainer/speaker to create a follow-up plan that will reinforce learnings.
  • Have each salesperson select two-three techniques to commit to applying in the coming year and create accountability with a sales “buddy” and/or manager.
  • Sales management needs to create a “safe” environment for sales people to practice new techniques and skills.  When sellers are more focused on pleasing their managers than committing to new skills they are less likely to take chances, learn from the experience or achieve lasting change.
  • Sales management needs to reinforce techniques/goals at sales meetings and one-on-ones.

Renie Cavallari:

  1. With your team determine how you will follow up, by when and how will you know it has happened
  2. Have a learning topic each month and have your best sales leaders share their ideas and approaches on specific topics
  3. Create an internal chat room so people can share what they are doing, how they are winning, and find support when they lose a deal
  4. Meet quarterly – it pays to get together as it keeps people synergized, learning, accountable and allows you to keep recognizing the behaviors and results you want

SocialAgenda Media:What are 3 of the latest and greatest sales techniques/strategies your team will learn during your next sales meeting?

Julie Hansen:

  • How to leverage the power of entertainment to gain the attention of busy decision-makers.
  • How to differentiate your solution by applying the performer’s tools to sales presentations and demonstrations.
  • How to use storytelling to make your message “stick” when buying decisions are made.

Mark Johns:

  • Networking where your customers and prospects are, not your competitors
  • Setting up the sale with integrated marketing
  • Prospecting On Purpose

Sharon Drew Morgen:

Teach gatekeepers how to invite you in; teach clients how to invite you to meet with them and several others ON YOUR FIRST CALL! Ways to avoid rejection.

Tom Cox:

  • Effectively gaining access to senior-level decision makers
  • Challenging the customers to think more broadly or differently about various ways to solve problems most effectively.
  • Identifying, presenting and gaining agreement on cost savings documentation

SocialAgenda Media:Please share your company’s mission and goals and how seeking to achieve them will influence the content, activities and technologies that will be used during your kick off meeting?

Tom Cox:

Our mission is to be the best industrial distributor in the world as measured by our associates, customers, owners and suppliers.  This mission influences the content we develop for each sales kick-off meeting as well as the tools and technologies that will enable our sales team to be the best in the industry and earn a greater percentage of market share with our customers.

For example, we’ll be introducing our Metalworking Sales Certificate Program that is an exclusive co-branded certificate program with Tooling U-SME and MSC and a way to acknowledge the experts on our team who have earned an elite designation.

Mark Johns:

Our mission is to help our franchisees and employees succeed. Our number one goal is to help our franchisees grow profitable sales. Teaching, training, equipping and inspiring them to do that is the reason for our kick off meeting, regional meetings, newsletters, phone consultation, everything we do.

Richard Grehalva:

If you want to increase your sales, improve your relationships with your customers and peers and get your sales quota’s met or exceeded…you must change what you are doing today to something different! If you do not, then you will get the same results.

What changed the game for selling and marketing in the 21st century? The Internet and mobile.

The sales funnel we use today was first introduced in 1903. The 7-step sale model was introduced in the early part of the 20th century. The question we must ask is this, “Are they still effective today?”

Information was once “King.” Today it is just a commodity. Using 19th and 20th century techniques just do not work effectively in the 21st century.

Our customers can get answers, information and make buying decisions with the power of “search”. On what device? Their smartphones and tablets. In 2014 we will search more on our mobile device than our laptops. But less than 25% of companies have a mobile site.

I developed a sales methodology at the end of the 20th century because what was available was outdated and did not reflect what salespeople actually were doing. I did it again for the same reason, because it is time to rethink the sales funnel and redesign sales and marketing for the 21st century.

I speak and teach about “Selling Upside Down” because we must change our mindset from 19th century thinking to 21st century thinking. I use my current selling system, A.I.M – The Adaptability Information Method™ the next level in consultative selling. It works in concert with my Value Continuity Circle™ which is the process today’s customers use to search for solutions, find the companies they will contact and how they buy. It defines the steps salespeople and companies must take to compete in the “age of a well-informed consumer” to meet their buying requirements.

Many times the VP of Sales is looking to bring in a motivational speaker. The reality is we cannot motivate anyone, we can only motivate ourselves. I know this sounds strange coming from a motivation speaker. This is why I design and deliver my programs as a “Motivation Teacher.” My mission and goal is to teach my clients: “How to Have a Growth Mindset: To Grow Their Sales, Their Business and Themselves.”

Seeking a coaching advice for your sales team or leaders? Contatc us to schedule an introductory executive coaching session. It’s free so book it now at executive-coach.net.

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