Your team puts in tons of time and effort to make your SKO informative, engaging, and entertaining for all attendees. And while you’re pretty much guaranteed to have an amazing time when everyone gets together (even over the internet), sellers are happiest when they’re winning deals. And a little time spent fine-tuning your sales kickoff agenda can result in high-fives and celebrations all year long. So before putting the bow on your plans, take a look at some proven strategies for getting the optimal results from this year’s conference.


Put the Spotlight on Customer Insights

Emissary research indicates that technology buyers expect more from vendors than ever before. Meanwhile the buying process is increasingly complex. Buyers from IT and the business rely on sellers to help them understand the value of your technology and explain that value to other stakeholders. As a result, sellers need a clear understanding of who buyers are, what they need from you, and how they make technology purchases. In fact, about one third of your SKO agenda should be devoted to these insights.

If your SKO presentations are light on customer insight, take time to add explanations of how every topic relates to buyer needs.  Ask existing customers and recently lost accounts to help you understand how they view your organization and what you can do to ease the buying process for them. Then you can use their responses to drive SKO content.

And if possible, invite some current customers or Emissary Advisors (former executives in your target accounts) to participate in discussion panels. The panels offer a chance for buyers and former buyers to talk about their purchasing experience at individual companies and share their observations about target industries with the sales team.


Give Sellers the Power of Thought Leadership

Our research has also found that only 25% of buyers are spending more time with sellers even though they’re demanding more from the relationship. Sellers have to impress at every touchpoint. And the SKO can prepare them to shine by offering the tools, content, and messaging that helps them create value, ease pain points, and demonstrate market leadership.

When introducing new content around thought leadership, provide the sales context for which it’s designed. And help sellers understand how to use it to engage with prospects. For example, illustrate where technology in your industry is heading, how innovators are starting to use it, and how they’ve overcome the hurdles. Then offer some examples of how sellers can use this powerful story to ignite meaningful conversations.

It takes time and research to develop content around leading-edge tech developments. If you’re on a tight schedule before SKO, you may want to use the collaborative environment of the meeting to create these stories and commit to building new presentations or talking points around them immediately afterward.


Help Sellers Develop Skills That Make a Difference

SKO is an ideal time for development, whether in-person or online, but sellers have little patience for learning programs that don’t have a clear connection to their success. Development time should be added into the sales kickoff agenda; driven by and focused on helping sellers meet buyer needs and expectations faster and more completely.

Connect with customers, buyers from lost deals, and industry experts to learn where revenue teams often fall short. Use that input to assess your crew and build learning programs around the essential skills that make a difference in sales. These often include high-level abilities such as asking better discovery questions, driving informative conversations, and accommodating an account’s corporate culture.

Take the opportunity of having the whole team together (physically or virtually) to practice these skills in role plays and simulations. Make the experience real by basing scenarios on real-life situations. An Emissary Advisor can help by acting as the decision maker in the simulations. And most importantly, set goals for continued development and follow up throughout the year.


Build Team Strength Through Connection

Even before remote work became the norm, sales teams tended to be scattered everywhere, and SKO was one of the few opportunities for bonding, sharing, and connection. If your SKO is in “meatspace,” make sure there’s plenty of time for relaxing, telling success stories, and enjoying being part of a stellar organization.

If your meeting will be held in cyberspace, downtime conversations are no less important, but they rarely happen organically. You can help by scheduling structured conversations into the sales kickoff agenda. For example, pair newer and more experienced reps in a mentoring program. Or give sellers a private SKO social media space to share their observations, “aha” moments, crazy videos, and “shout outs” to others. And most importantly, give attendees enough down time to digest what they’ve learned, hash it over in discussion threads, and apply it to their post-SKO lives.


Lay the Groundwork for a Success-Filled Year with Your Sales Kickoff Agenda

While everyone loves the excitement and content of SKOs, sellers can easily fall back into old habits when faced with the urgencies and challenges of daily work. Lasting change takes continued attention and repetition. You can use the SKO to map out a plan for post-conference learning and development, set up support mechanisms for sellers, and set expectations for on-going focus.

For example, give managers revised presentations and content designed for short sessions during team meetings or as part of 1-on-1 discussions. Or use mentoring programs or short learning sessions to help sellers practice new skills and overcome hurdles they encounter. And with sales enablement, set up regular assessments and short learning sessions to help each seller improve regardless of their current skill set and experience.


About Emissary

Emissary is a human intelligence network. We connect enterprise sales and marketing professionals directly to our community of over 12,000 talented senior and C-level executives with recent experience in your most important accounts. We help sellers and marketers shorten sales cycles, close more deals, and build positive long-lasting relationships with clients and prospects.

Emissary Advisors help you run a highly effective sales kickoff agenda with their unique and detailed buyer insight and industry experience. They can participate as speakers, the voice of the buyer in practice scenarios, and strategy session leaders.

Contact us now to find out who in the Emissary Advisor network can help you optimize your SKO this year.