SalesHood - Sales Enablement Platform

Next Generation SKOs

  • by Elay Cohen
  • October 23, 2016

Creating a revenue generating, engaging and next generation sales kick off (SKO) starts by shifting our thinking. It’s about better organizational alignment. It’s about a mindset that’s transformed from “firehouse training” to thoughtful learning that’s bite-sized and spaced out across an extended period of time. It’s about extending learning beyond the actual sales kick off (SKO) event to weeks before and months after SKO.

During my time at Salesforce, my team and I were responsible for running over twenty SKO events for tens of thousands of professionals. Imagine what it was like to globally align three to five thousand sales, partner and customer facing professionals, twice a year. You can read more about it in my book (pages 86 to 93).  Marc Benioff taught me many lessons during my time at Salesforce. One of the lessons was how to think about the real purpose of a SKO event.

“Once the decision is made that you’re going to invest in an in person or virtual event, your next step is to be clear on what you’re trying to accomplish. While education may be a top goal, it is sometimes difficult and not always advisable to have learning be the top focus of a sales kick off event.”

I remember back in 2008, walking into Marc’s office and sharing our jam-packed agenda of session after session of rich SKO content. All the content was important. He looked at the agenda and then looked at me and said: “Let me align and inspire the global sales organization and you educate them before and after the event.” Powerful. What’s the implication of his suggested advice? How do we reconcile his advice with the reality of delivering training on products, competitors, customer stories and sales plays? Here are four strategies to re-imagine SKO and creating a next generation SKO experience:

Crowdsource Stories in Q4

Get ahead of the game. Start capturing top performer sales plays, deal wins and customer stories before your SKO, for SKO. Start asking reps to record video stories now. Don’t wait until your top performers are on stage to hear them sharing their stories. If you get the stories now, you’ll be in a much better position to set the tone and theme for SKO. Remember, the most valuable part of SKO is the best practice sharing, networking and hearing winning stories.

Have a Pre SKO Strategy

Front end your SKO program with pre-work. It’s a surefire way to get teams up to speed faster and accelerate goals.  Here are some proven ideas to yield more pipeline, revenue and knowledge retention:

  1. Have reps watch, practice and record a pitch before your event. Have teams score and peer review each other’s pitches too.
  2. Ask reps to record and share deal win stories
  3. Have reps record a five minute territory plan and/or account plan
  4. Roll out product training and do knowledge checks and certifications before SKO

Implement one of these pre-SKO strategies and watch your teams network and get to know each other before showing up at SKO.

Have a Post SKO Strategy

Don’t wait until after the event to think about what’s next. Be thoughtful from the beginning. Take a jam packed agenda and assume we have ninety days to cover content, not just a few days. Use an event to introduce content and topics versus thinking it’s the only channel to train. Share a post-SKO calendar at the event. Remember, people retain a very small amount of information (less than 5%) at in person events like SKO. An executive said to me last week (half jokingly) that the only thing reps remember from SKO is their hangover.

Make Space For Networking And Collaboration

Avoid death by slides. Avoid jam-packed agendas. Everyone has grandiose visions of creating a highly collaboratively rich experiences. Plan for it and do it. Leave extra time on the agenda for networking. Adjust sessions to include networking time and time for open-mic Q&A.  Give your teams the space to learn from each other and share best practices while they come together. Let us know if you want to brainstorm ways to create your own next generation SKO. Join us on November 3rd in San Francisco as sales productivity leaders come together to share best practices and discuss next generation SKOs and best practices for making SKO season a huge success for you and your teams. Click to register.

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About the Author
Elay Cohen

Elay Cohen

Elay Cohen is the author of SalesHood: How Winning Sales Managers Inspire Sales Teams to Succeed and the co-founder of SalesHood, a SaaS sales enablement platform and community for sales professionals. Elay is the former Senior Vice President of Sales Productivity at Salesforce. Recognized as the company's "2011 Top Executive", and credited for creating and executing all of Salesforce's sales productivity programs that accelerated its growth from $300M to $3B+ in revenue. The sales training and sales support innovations delivered over these years by Elay and his team to thousands of sales reps resulted in unprecedented hypergrowth. He also created the Partner Relationship Management (PRM) category.

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