The 3 Biggest Sales Kickoff Mistakes

Businesswoman in bright office getting bored while attending presentation

This guest post comes from Bob Villaneuve, CSLP, a former sales manager with 32 years of experience running sales kickoffs, meetings and quarterly events for two very well-known Canadian companies.

Don’t give difficult news at the beginning of your sales kickoff meeting. Save it!

I once made a huge mistake. I was brand new in my role- and I announced new higher quotas and a new sales tracking method at the beginning of our two-day event. The grumbling was audible and wouldn’t go away, and it ruined the energy. The motivational speaker they had at the end of the first night had a couple hecklers who were unhappy about- you guessed it- all the changes. Never again!

You’ve got to set the tone positively and get everyone pumped up. Put your bad news or big change announcements 2/3rd of the way through, so there’s less time for them to dwell on them, and have a plan for amping them up, inspiring them and motivating everybody for that last 1/3rd of the event.

If you know you’re going to have resistance to changes coming down the pipeline, work ahead of time with the trainers or keynote speakers you’re bringing in to ensure that their messages can overcome objections to change in a positive way. Most of the speakers I’ve worked with have been really good with that.

Be careful about how much training you do, if any.

Some speakers can do light training, takeaways and still inspire, motivate and entertain in the same speech or workshop.

I’ve found that if you have salespeople at an event who may have just traveled, or may have partied together late into the night before, there’s no doubt at all that these folks are not going to want to “go to class.” You may get a lot of no-shows, or sleepers (snoring at your sales kickoff is sooooo inspiring!), or just a lot of blank faces. Which means you waste time and money on the training.

The bad news is that many training experts are dead boring. One time I brought in a SPIN selling expert, and 2 hours in, I thought my salespeople were going to lynch me.

Internal speakers are not better. A lot of the people we work with, even if they’re ok in person, are a disaster onstage. Horrible PowerPoints! Boring stories. Monotonous voices.

Put that joy-killing experience together with this: how many salespeople do you know who have incredibly bad ADHD, diagnosed or not? They just can’t sit through hours of boring training, especially with a hangover.

Go light on the training- stick to inspiration, motivation and entertainment. I always found it was better to put training elsewhere, or have a keynoter include the takeaways in their entertaining, motivational sales talk.

A lack of intentional interaction and team building.

Yeah, salespeople can be lone wolves, and in some organizations, they may not work together much day-to-day. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be inspired or motivated by hanging out together, interacting, and having fun at the sales kickoff.

Of course, they will chit chat and may party together during the event. But structured workshops and speakers who foster group interaction can add energy to your sales event and boost their motivation leaving the event and going back to work.

Just make sure you don’t get the wrong team building person. No trust falls. No improv exercises unless the trainer is actually a funny person who does comedy regularly. Someone who does it a lot and has great testimonials. Not someone who read some exercises online and is thrilled about making $2,000 (because nobody that’s good would leave home for that kind of money). Trust me, your team will want you to do a trust fall and won’t catch you!