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Ep11 Sales Kickoffs - What’s the Return?
Episode 1124th July 2019 • Inside: Sales Enablement • Scott Santucci, Brian Lambert, Erich Starrett
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Welcome to the Inside Sales Enablement Podcast, Episode 11

Many sales enablement leaders are responsible for some (or all) of their company's sales kickoff. When it comes to adding the right value and ensuring a return on investment, it's important to view the kickoff from the lens of your customer -- the sales leadership team.

In this episode, Brian and Scott revisit some research Brian did while he was at Forrester, and shed color on what we've learned since then about the good, bad, and ugly of sales kickoffs and what executives are getting for their investment. The key finding of the research?  

There are 3 reasons why sales kickoffs exist. To launch, improve rep skills, or evolve the sales team. Find out more by listening to this edition of Inside Sales Enablement.

This podcast will help you rethink sales kickoffs.

  •  Does your company create an overall plan with a planning cycle starting in August, or do you do most of the work in December or January? 
  •  Can you quantify the economic value of the sales kickoff? 
  •  Do you have a 30-60-90 plan post kickoff? 

Join us at to collaborate with peers, join Insider Nation, participate in the conversation and be part of the continued elevation of the profession.


Nick Merinkers 00:02

Welcome to the inside sales enablement podcast. Where has the profession been? Where is it now? And where is it heading? What does it mean to you, your company, other functions? The market? Find out here joined the founding father of the sales enablement profession Scott Santucci and Trailblazer Brian Lambert as they take you behind the scenes of the birth of an industry, the inside sales enablement podcast starts now.

Scott Santucci 00:33

I'm Scott Santucci.

Brian Lambert 00:35

I'm Brian Lambert and we are the sales enablement insiders. Our podcast is dedicated to asking the big questions that you may be wondering about, especially if you thought something might be wrong or something might not be quite right. And I got to ask, you know, are you getting the value out of sales enablement? And are other people seeing the value of sales enablement that you would expect? In this podcast, we're going to into a specific time tangible activity that many organizations are involved in. And that's the sales kickoff. Scott, what do you have for us?

Scott Santucci 01:09

We're actually recording this. This episode. This is our episode number five. We're recording it after our first episode has been released. So, I wanted to share a little bit of feedback that we've gotten from some of the people who've listened to our first episode. And then of course, I'll let you let you share some of it too. So, one of one of the elements of feedback that I've gotten is that folks really like the color the way that we're describing it in the banter that Brian and I have and and the format. One of the requests that I got was, Hey, you know, the background and the history is really important. It's always great to know where we're coming. Can we talk about some more tangible, not tangible, that's not the way that was phrased more things that I'm dealing with in the trenches right now that will help me be successful? So those are those were two of the feedbacks, what we'd love for you to do is keep sharing feedback with us. Do you agree with that feedback? What feedback would you add to it? How can we improve to make this a better experience for you? Share your thoughts with us on LinkedIn, call Brian or I, or better Email us at engage at Brian, what what are some of the feedback that you've received?

Brian Lambert 02:31

Yeah, I shared this on one of our drives, drives home, we tend to call each other at the end of the day when we're driving. And one of the things that I was hearing was this idea of, you know, rethinking, and hey, I hadn't quite thought about that before. So, I had somebody shoot me up, you know, shoot me a message on LinkedIn and be like, Hey, that was a great way to think about it. These stories, you know, Galileo, really interesting and made me think differently. So, there was this rethinking piece What we're going to do today, you and I talked about when you got that feedback with something that that folks might be more involved in, it's this idea of, of revisiting. So that's the second thing that that I took away. And the third one is, both of you and I have developed the technique. And I was at a thought leadership conference last week at Stanford. And it has to do with this idea of reframing the problem. And somebody came up to me after the events and said, Hey, you know, the way you're framing this out, is completely different because you're actually focused on the customer. So that's the three Scott rethinking revisiting reframing, and those are basically going forward here guys, the the three that we're going to go with, so we'll have different episodes where we either reframe something today we're going to revisit sales, kickoffs and some research that we did a while back, and then the rethinking piece which we are helping folks move forward in a new way of working and the new reality that they're facing. So, let's talk a little bit about Scott moving forward here, how to revisit and let's revisit sales kickoffs.

Scott Santucci 04:05

Yes. So, to put this into perspective, when we're reframing something that's giving background or asking you to take a step back, when we're revisiting something, what we're going to do is first we're going to hold ourselves accountable and break down and critique some of our past reports, to eventually critique other people's reports and other people's information and revisit some of the research that's been out there. And then the last one here is let's rethink, and today we're rethinking sales kickoffs. So, to frame this out, what was interesting is why would why would you even tackle sales kickoffs? You guys are the knock or the pro depending on how you look at it. You guys at Forrester were really strategic. Why in the world were you covering sales kickoffs? And what I want to do is let you understand a little bit of perspective, again, more than inside baseball. When you're an analyst and at at the time, it really depends, you might want to ask other analysts how many inquiries that they get ask them questions about inquiries, because that's really the one of the big driving forces of the research agenda. And at the time, when we were at Forrester, our department, our group was maxed out on inquiries. We had inquiries, when we were we had some of the highest inquiry loads of the entire company. And one of the one of the trends that that emerged was a lot of questions around sales kickoffs, interestingly enough, and I was very curious about it, because the questions that we were getting asked, were all over the place. So here we have same rolls from similar sized companies, asking about the same topic from completely different ends of the spectrum. And for me, the one that Character characterize this, make it to a research one of our research meetings to discuss what we're going to talk about was one of the inquiries we got from Novell. And that particular individual had shared with me that they had done an audit and analysis of return on investment and that they got a negative return on investment of their sales kickoffs, when they factored in all the travel time, the opportunity cost of lost sales time expense of all the glitz and glamour. And what they've decided what they decided to do is to go to a completely virtual experience. And as a researcher, I try to resist my initial reaction having been a salesperson my whole life, how in the world am I going to go and have tequila shots with my peers?

Brian Lambert 06:48

I was wondering the same thing or go karting or

Scott Santucci 06:51

Right, it, where am I going to get those interactions to build the culture, but then I just thought about it and what we what we did is we introduced this, that this topic and we assigned this topic to Brian to, to carry out. So, what we're going to do is we're going to ask Brian Tte first question, which is, how did you go about doing the research to figure out what our position might be on sales kickoffs?

Brian Lambert 07:17

So, we because we have such a high volume back then I had a, I was keeping records and, you know, as any good salesperson, you want to be able to tailor what you're doing and what you're saying and also build relationships with folks over time. So, I basically went through my records and found that indeed, I had actually talked about sales kickoffs, and, and how, brainstorm sales kickoffs and come up with ideas, etc. So, to move forward on Okay, what is perhaps the challenge that folks are facing? Or, you know, to the big question of how much of a return are we getting? What I did was I engaged through my relationships as an analyst with at least 10 companies, you know, companies like Cisco Or HP, Informatica Symantec etc. and asked about, you know, found found that the folks that were involved in planning a sales kickoff and or executing the sales kickoff, so kind of on the supply chain side, if you will. And then I also talked to the individuals that were recipients of that, that service, so sales managers and salespeople to try to get a 360-degree view of this experiences that was being created.

Scott Santucci 08:30

And to add to that experience, one of the one of the traits is as a Forrester analysts, you're often at least I was often, and I know, Brian, you, you went to several yourself, asked to participate and hired to speak at at sales kickoff. So, we have the experience of being immersed in the situation as well. Now, just so you're following, I still have a little bit about the researcher in me. I hope you notice that there's a bias at the point in time at Forrester, our research group was focused specifically on the tech industry. So, we didn't do a lot of research in other industries and other groups. So, this is information that has a bias to the tech industry. But Brian, what were some of the things? What were some three level? One of the one of the findings in that analysis that you had is there's really basically three types of goals of what a sales kickoff is about, is that right?

Brian Lambert 09:31

Yeah, that's right. And to get to those three goals, you know, wading through at all, you know, different expectations, different needs, different objectives for sales kickoff, there's different time horizons. Some folks would plan for a year other people would plan for 30 days. And but where all came together was basically three outcomes or three key objectives. The first one was as a sales organization or in support at a sales organization. We're going to help our sales team take a different tack or go in a different direction. That was one big area of focus. The second key outcome or objective of a sales kickoff was, we need to get started. So, we're going to initiate something new, such as a new product, the new focus from the executive team, etc. And then the third area was we need to fine tune, we were doing well. But there's some things that we want to tweak things that we need to adjust as we get in tune with our customers. So, we're going to go in a completely different direction we're going to work is one. The second one was we're going to take it first step and get people started on a path. And then the third one is we need to elevate or transform or fine tune, either the skills, the processes, the models, approaches, etc, of our existing team.

Scott Santucci 10:46

But let me add some color to that because I got after this report, I was I started paying very attention, very close attention to the sales kickoffs that I was involved at and what my role was as a keynote speaker, so let me add some stuff. Learn what Brian said. So, the first example was what Brian?

Brian Lambert 11:05

The first one is, hey, we're calling an audible, we're making a hard right turn, we're going in a different direction.

Scott Santucci 11:13

So, the way that I've interpreted that is basically the business has a new strategy. So, take for example, net app. In, you know, the 2013 timeframe is, oh my gosh, we got to move to cloud, or a lot of a lot of tech companies move into to a cloud-based business. So, CEO comes in talks about their business strategy, aligns it etc. And that's one element. Brian, what's number two?

Brian Lambert 11:46

The second one is we're going to help our sales team kind of get started on something. So, in other words, we're going to ask them to start doing something new.

Scott Santucci 11:56

So, the way that I've interpreted that I think a lot of us can appreciate reshape this that's introducing challenger sale or some new new sales technique or based on some of my experiences at the Alexander group in management consulting, rolling out a new coverage plan or source or something like that. So, we're going to go about getting started. So, you can kind of imagine what the flavor is there. And what questions and the attitude of the Salesforce is in both of those buckets. Brian, what was number three?

Brian Lambert 12:29

The third one was this idea of a sales team. You guys are doing some great things. However, comma, pause, we need to fine tune. So, we need you to start doing some things specifically. We need you to stop doing some things specifically, and we need you to fill these gaps.

Scott Santucci 12:49

What resonates with me there is having participated in a few sales kickoffs on that one. Immediately, I'm drawn to the readout the head of sales, who is sharing data about pipeline and forecasting, and talking about how many, how much of the multiple do we have in the forecast and how much of how much behind we are and what we need to do to accomplish that, etc. So, it's basically a call to arms, we're behind on missing a number, or we're behind on some of our clarity, or we're not doing these particular things pretty well. And it's a rallying of the troops and a very clear message is delivered about what we want to do to improve those, that would be my color of those three buckets. So, Brian, my next question to you is if we think about the goal for each one of those three things, what is the structure of a sales kickoff? So how do people structure these things? Are they all going to wear Novell did and Experiment with delivering this all online? Or how do they use their time and, you know, are their breakout sessions curriculum? What's the what's your what does it look like?

Brian Lambert 14:12

Well, what I've what I found back then, and I, and I believe it's still true today, given the conversations that I've had recently is, first, there's this choice of how much in person time do we want to have with the salespeople? So, in other words, when are the tequila shots at hand? When do we need to have everybody show up? And how much you know, team building and how much quote unquote fun Are we going to have? And how much time will that be allocated? If the question comes back that we don't need to get together and we're not going to do that fun stuff. It tends to go pretty quickly into something that's a little bit more remote because I think the bias has been that these kickoffs are about knowledge transfer, or quote, unquote, you know, telling the troops and so that's the first thing is how much face to face. Do we really think needs to happen if it goes on the other side where we need to have the face to face, we want to look people in the eye, we want them to pause their activities for a minute, take a step back and get re engaged, then it comes down to what's the best way to manage that in person experience? And there's some there's some, I think some cookie cutters there which has to do with you know, a group session at first and then some breakouts either by region or product, some knowledge transfer that needs to happen along the way and then you know, that kind of a lining up of different internal groups who want to you don't have access to the sales team.

Scott Santucci 15:38

So, to add color to that, so my involvement in sales, kickoffs has been, you know, sort of all over the place. In some cases, I've been asked to be the whole facilitator of the whole thing to keep everything together. other cases just show up and be pretty and deliver the message

Brian Lambert 15:57

Thats hard for you I know

Scott Santucci 15:59

Yeah, very hard, requires a lot of makeup and in some props deliver the message that we want you to do in this box and go away and shut up. So, air, it tends to be all over the place. What I what I do notice is that the composition of a, I asked a lot of questions about the agenda. Maybe it's because of the background of a researcher. But I see a, you know, a lot of breakouts that don't necessarily make sense. They don't, they don't map to the flow. So, give you an example. I was doing one kickoff, and I'm going to not name the names of the companies because I don't want to embarrass anybody. But the CEO was very insistent, and very, very clear that we're entering into a brand-new business model. We're selling to completely different buyers. And what was interesting was after the CEO left and everybody said, Yep, we understand it. The conversations were all about how do you get better at targeting the existing people that they're selling to More or less the whole agenda from from Eric ranging from, how do we have better? How do we prospect better to our current patch? How do we let's roll out new playbooks that we're going to do and let's certify the salespeople on what those playbooks are? Let's introduce the new analytic program that we're rolling out. Let's have it let's hear from marketing about the new lead generation process and how we're going to go and fill those things. And I'm listening, and I'm participating in each one of those and taking notes. And at no point in time, did any of those acknowledge the fact that the CEO is asking them to sell to a completely new buyer completely new. And so essentially, what the result of that sales training program was, people thought they were doing the right thing, you know, checking the box, but all of it was in direct opposition of what the CEOs goals were. And I see that time and time and time again, because how our sales how our sales agenda is put together. So, Brian, what based on your research, how did you find sales agendas were put together? Is there structure to it? Is there one person who has say in it? How do they get set up to be focused on a business objective?

Brian Lambert 18:17

Yes, that's a great question. And in the two-tier story, Scott, this is interesting, right? Because it pans out or plays out almost every single time. You know, if you believe a sales kickoff is for communication purposes, that's going to set up a whole bias for the whole entire experience. However, if you look at a sales kickoff as a way in which to equip sellers to be successful against...