Salesforce on Salesforce: Tips on How Marketers Can Make Sales Kickoffs Even Better

Sales kickoff season is just around the corner for us here at Salesforce.

Like many companies, the marketing team owns a significant portion of the agenda for our sales kickoff events. They own the product messaging, launch strategies, product enablement and big bets for the coming fiscal year. So naturally, marketing needs a strong presence at a sales kickoffs.

The challenging part of executing a top-notch sales kickoff is meeting the expectations of sales teams to deliver an engaging, effective training that motivates reps. These expectations are oftentimes very high and sometimes missed.

Over the years, we (the Salesforce Marketing team) have learned a lot when it comes to running a sales kickoff.

Here is a compilation on some best practices on how marketing teams can make sales kickoffs even better this year:

1. Begin with the end in mind

Habit #2 in Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” is: “Begin with the end in mind.”

When marketers get the undivided attention of sales (such as at a kickoff), our first inclination is to go content-crazy with everything that we want them to know:

“Don’t forget, webinars are our top-performing asset and you need to drive attendance this year!”
“Here are Marketing’s big bets for the year!”
“Here are eight new customer stories you have probably never heard of!”

A common issue for marketers, when it comes to creating sales kickoff content, is that we tend to deliver content with our own present priorities in mind. The issue here is that the takeaways and learnings do not scale or last throughout the year, nor does it meet the expectations of sales leaders.

Consider the most important aspect of a sales kickoff: Sales want to learn how they will close more deals this year and hit their numbers.

While marketing big bets and product knowledge may be important, it won’t mean anything in the forum of a sales kickoff if sales does not believe it will help them close more deals throughout the year.

Consider creating an agenda or content by working from backwards with the mindset of, how will we help sales close more deals this year and how do we get them to know this?

2. Think beyond PowerPoint

PowerPoint is a marketer’s greatest friend and foe. It’s a platform to unleash our creativity with beautiful slides and stories.

The problem with PowerPoint? It’s exhausting to the recipient, especially if they are looking at slides all day. It naturally becomes a blur.

Some of our weakest kickoffs consisted of 80% slides and 20% interactive. Consider flipping the model to be 20% slides and 80% interactive.

Here are some ideas of interactive sessions that we have used in the past:

  • Role Play: One of our most successful kickoffs included a role play game centered around the beloved Hasbro game, Clue. The concept was to break out into teams and discover who was the best buyer during a particular scenario.
  • Competitions that have nothing to do with the kickoff: Taking long breaks may seem like a waste of time, but it is absolutely critical. During one of our kickoffs, the theme was ‘March Madness / Alma Mater’ so we had a basketball shooting competition during the breaks. It was a blast. It kept the energy up and people engaged.
  • Pitch Contest: Kickoffs can be a time for sales reps to flex their selling muscles or learn from each other. Consider teaching them a new product then having them compete for the best sales pitch.

3. Bring in customers

Some people may frown upon this tip. After all, sales kickoffs typically involve sharing sensitive revenue targets, product announcements and strategies on beating the competition.

However, nothing is more compelling or authentic than a customer getting up in front of a sales team and explaining how they use your product or service to better their business.

  • Fireside Chats: It’s extremely impactful for sales to understand their buyer’s needs and wants. Some of our sales kickoffs consist of ‘Fireside Chats’ where a marketing or sales leader interviews a customer about their buying behaviors, pain points and how our product helps their business.
  • “Off-the-Grids”: Put together a panel of customers that switched from a competitor to your product or service and have them explain what went into their decision making.
  • Pilot Groups: If your company is launching a new product in the coming year, consider bringing in a (happy) customer that is in the pilot group and can talk to some of the value points.

If you do decide to bring in a customer, consider bringing them on stage only when you need to as to avoid exposing sensitive internal material to them.

4. Get Sales involved with the content and delivery

Nobody loves stage time more than a marketer and if you’re at a company where marketing typically builds the agenda for a sales kickoff, you may notice that marketers have a tough time relinquishing that stage time.

The trouble is that we as professionals – and even humans – are far more likely to listen to our peers.

That is why it’s important to not only get sales involved with the content but also with the delivery. If you’re a marketer in charge of your sales kickoff this year, try giving up the reins to sales this year and take on a content managerial role.

Here are some ways that we have incorporated sales into the content and delivery:

  • Win Stories: Sales loves hearing the secrets of the trade. Nothing captures that more than teams sharing their own success stories.
  • Selling Tips: Pull up some of the top sales reps and have them share their secrets of the trade. Don’t make it all positive. Have them share reasons why they lose or “landmines” when they’re in a competitive situation.

Regardless of how you construct your sales kickoff this year, make sure sales and marketing are in lockstep. When Sales Leaders get involved with the content creation and have a say in the agenda, they become invested in its success. They will make sure their teams are engaged.

Looking to learn more about ways to rethink your 2020 marketing strategy? Register for our upcoming webinar: 10 Ways to Shift Your Marketing Mindset in 2020.